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

President to President: Budget Sequester Goes Into Effect Today

Vol. 14, No. 7

  • ​Budget Sequester Goes Into Effect Today
  • Congress to Consider Student Right to Know Before You Go Bill
  • IN BRIEF: Violence Against Women Reauthorization Bill Sent to President; Senate Gun Safety Bill Includes Training for Campus Police; ACE Supports University of Oregon in Graduate Student Discrimination Lawsuit; HHS Releases Final Health Insurance Market Rate Rule

As I write this on Thursday evening, it appears inevitable that sequestration will take effect March 1, as scheduled. As a result, some $85 billion will be cut from the federal budget for the current fiscal year, split evenly between defense and discretionary domestic spending.

For most of the past week, Republicans and Democrats traded blame about this sad state of affairs and what its impact will be. Democrats predict serious human and economic consequences, and Republicans claim the Democrats are overstating what will happen.

In fact, we don't really have a good picture of the exact impact of sequestration because federal agencies have not released detailed plans for how they will implement the cuts. The Education Department estimates that 33,000 students will lose campus work-study jobs, but we do not know how cuts will be distributed among the 3,400 institutions that receive work-study funding. Similarly, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) predicts some $1.6 billion in cuts, much of which will come from university grant-funded research. But NIH has not yet said what grants will be trimmed or by how much.

I suspect we are now in a waiting game to see if the impact of the cuts will force the White House and congressional Republicans to negotiate a settlement. Typically, when the government shuts down the impact is severe and felt immediately. In the unprecedented case of a sequester, however, the cuts will be felt gradually as changes in federal policy are slowly implemented.

One significant worry is that once we go over one fiscal cliff, it may make it easier to go over another. The next scheduled cliff is the March 27 expiration of the temporary spending bill that has kept the federal government operating since Oct. 1, 2012. There have been some initial talks about finding a way to avoid falling over this cliff, which would likely result in an immediate shuttering of all federal agencies.

Indeed, the House is likely to vote on such a plan next week. But it's not clear what that plan will be or whether it has any chance of being approved by the Senate. Whether we will be able to avoid this potentially dangerous step in today's hyperpartisan environment remains to be seen.

I want to call your attention to a bill that would calculate earnings for students who graduate from a postsecondary institution.

The Student Right to Know Before You Go Act (note: updated link), introduced by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Marco Rubio (R-FL), would enhance state-based data collection efforts to link information on college costs, graduation rates and major area of study with data on employment and earnings. While we support the goal of arming students with as much good information as possible to help them make better educational decisions, we think this bill overreaches and is ultimately unworkable. We are working with congressional staff to address our concerns as the measure moves through both chambers.


The House yesterday approved the Senate bill (S. 47) reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, sending the measure to President Obama for his expected signature. The bill contains several provisions targeted at reducing sexual assault at colleges and universities. While this legislation has goals that we support, it layers new requirements on top of existing Clery Act definitions and expands crime categories in ways that will pose compliance challenges on campuses. We will be monitoring implementation plans to help ensure the measure works as effectively as possible for both students and campuses.

The Senate Judiciary Committee debated four separate gun control bills this week, one of which contains an amendment that would consolidate existing federal campus safety programs into a single National Center for Campus Public Safety. Sponsored by Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), the amendment to the School Safety Enhancements Act of 2013 (S. 146) seeks to strengthen training and research initiatives and improve collaboration—a measure developed in consultation with and supported by the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators.

ACE and six other higher education associations have filed an amicus brief in support of the University of Oregon, urging the U.S. Supreme Court to hear a case arising out of a dispute with a former doctoral student who filed a discrimination lawsuit after her advisor stepped down and her dissertation committee fell apart. The university is asking the Supreme Court to review an appellate court's ruling that allowed the student's lawsuit to go forward, arguing that the advisor's decision was based on academic judgment unaffected by discrimination. Click here for more details.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) this week released final health insurance market regulations under the Affordable Care Act. We sent a letter to HHS in December expressing our concern about a requirement in the proposed regulations that student health insurance coverage be rated and priced as part of each state's individual market single risk pool, which we believed would have resulted in higher premiums and undermined the ability of institutions to continue to offer the coverage. We asked HHS to revise the rule to permit separate risk pooling and experience rating for student coverage based on the eligible campus population of students and their dependents. The final rule reflects our request.

I look forward to seeing you all this weekend at ACE's 95th Annual Meeting!

Molly Corbett Broad
President of ACE