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President to President
Molly Corbett Broad's weekly email newsletter to higher education leaders.

President to President: Student Loan Bills Fail to Move in Senate; Interest Rate Set to Double on July 1

June 3-7, 2013 ~ Vol. 14, No. 17

  • Student Loan Bills Fail to Move in Senate
  • ACE Files Amicus Brief in Digital Copyright Case
  • ACE Requests U.S. Supreme Court Review of OSU Student Alliance v. Ray¬†
  • IN BRIEF: Education Department Releases Interim Guidance on Violence Against Women Act; ACE Launches CAO Survey; ACE-NACUBO Sponsors CAO-CBO Workshop

With interest rates on federally backed subsidized student loans set to double in less than a month, the Senate yesterday failed to move forward on either of two competing bills that would address the problem. If Congress does not act, the interest rate on subsidized Stafford Loans will rise from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent on July 1.

The House late last month passed a Republican bill (H.R. 1911) that would base interest rates on the 10-year Treasury note. The Senate is considering two very different proposals. A bill (S. 1003) authored by Republican Sens. Richard M. Burr of North Carolina, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma would, like the House GOP bill, move to a variable rate loan and create a permanent solution to the ongoing uncertainty. A competing bill from Senate Democrats (S. 953), by contrast, features a two-year fix that would simply keep the interest rate on subsidized loans at the current level of 3.4 percent. Neither Senate bill received the 60 votes required to cut off debate and move forward to a final vote. (See our letters to both the House and Senate sent last month, along with our community statement outlining principles for student loan interest rate reform.)

The White House issued a Statement of Administration Policy (SAP) yesterday supporting S. 953, following its May 22nd SAP threatening to veto the House bill. The Senate votes might spur negotiations, though Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said earlier this week that he was not interested in compromise. There also is a timing issue in the Senate, as that body is planning to take up the immigration bill starting next week, which will absorb most of the available Senate floor time through the remainder of June.

So the state of play is that while the House has passed an interest rate bill, the Senate has taken no action. The view of higher education organizations is that both the House and the Senate need to pass legislation in order to get to a House-Senate conference committee where they can work out a compromise. Stay tuned.

We filed a brief this week to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in the case Authors Guild v. HathiTrust Digital Library, in which the Authors Guild is charging that the digital repository is violating copyright by making some of its members' work freely available.

HathiTrust is a partnership of more than 60 major research institutions and libraries that have collaborated to digitize their collections to build a comprehensive online archive. In addition to creating an unprecedented resource for scholarly research, one of the goals is to enable the digital archive to be accessible to persons who have print disabilities. The university libraries (University of Michigan, University of Wisconsin System, Indiana University, University of California and Cornell University are the HathiTrust institutions involved) have digitized their collections for preservation, searching and use by the visually impaired.

The HathiTrust institutions were successful in the lower court, and the Authors Guild has appealed. The consensus of higher education copyright experts is that this is also a crucial case for the future of distance learning and the digital age in education. A reversal would be a serious defeat for the doctrine of "fair use" and the advancement of technology in higher education.

Also signing the brief were the Association of American Universities, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, the American Association of Community Colleges, the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, and EDUCAUSE.

We also submitted an amicus brief last week to the U.S. Supreme Court to request a hearing in OSU Student Alliance v. Ray, a case that centers on the question of whether a public university president can be held legally responsible for actions performed by other administrators without the president's knowledge.

Last October, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit overturned a lower court ruling dismissing a complaint brought by a group of Oregon State University (OSU) students after their newspaper distribution bins were removed by the director of facilities, who had determined they violated the institution's bin location policy. The suit against OSU President Edward J. Ray and Vice President Mark McCambridge alleges violations of the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Our brief supports OSU's petition of certiorari seeking Supreme Court review of the appeals court ruling as contrary to precedent. (For details and background on the case, click here and here.)

Along with ACE, associations signing this brief include the American Association of Community Colleges, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, the Association of American Universities, the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities.

IN BRIEF

The Education Department (ED) this week released preliminary guidance on implementing the amendments to the Clery Act included in the March 2013 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. ED announced a negotiated rulemaking process on April 16, but until final rules are released, the agency expects institutions to make a good faith effort to comply with the statutory requirements in accordance with the statutory effective date of March 7, 2014. Specifically, institutions are expected to use their best efforts to include statistics for the new crime categories included in the amendments (domestic violence, dating violence and stalking) for calendar year 2013 in institutional Annual Security Reports due October 2014.

ACE is now collecting data for Chief Academic Officer Survey 2013. Given an impending wave of presidential retirements, it is vital that we understand the makeup of the senior leadership roles that form the pipeline to the presidency, in particular chief academic officers (CAOs). Please help us obtain this important information by asking your CAOs to participate.

Finally this week, please let your CAO and chief business officer (CBO) know about an upcoming two-day workshop that brings together teams of CAOs and CBOs to learn how to build more effective partnerships. Sponsored by ACE and the National Association of College and University Business Officers, the program is scheduled for Aug. 5-6 in Washington, DC. Pay full price for one registrant and each additional registrant from the same institution or organization will receive a $200.00 discount off their registration. For additional information, please email ExecutiveLeadership@acenet.edu or call (202) 939-9728.

Molly Corbett Broad
President of ACE