- ACE's 95th Annual Meeting Draws to a Close
- House Passes Continuing Resolution to Fund Government Through September; Sequestration Remains in Effect
It was great to see all of you who traveled to Washington earlier this week to participate in ACE's 95th Annual Meeting, which concluded Tuesday. This is my fifth Annual Meeting as ACE president, and the ideas I take away from our gathering are more innovative and valuable every year.
After a day of presidents-only sessions, University System of Maryland Chancellor Brit Kirwan kicked off the public meeting Sunday evening with the Robert H. Atwell Lecture. His topic, "The Completion Imperative: Harnessing Change to Meet Our Responsibilities," challenged us all to prioritize social equity as the most urgent and compelling element of the college completion agenda. You can see his full speech here.
David Brooks' Monday morning talk was a big attraction. Always entertaining and provocative, he drew from his recent book The Social Animal to discuss human behavior and moral character in 21st century culture and education. Tuesday morning's panel discussion on massive open online courses (MOOC) offered great first-hand information from the front lines of the MOOC movement. The session featured Anant Agarwal, president of edX; Daphne Koller, co-founder of Coursera; Peter Lange, provost at Duke University (NC); and Kevin Reilly, president of the University of Wisconsin System. My thanks to Inside Higher Ed's Doug Lederman for moderating. I would also like to thank our closing plenary speaker, Rehema Ellis, NBC News' chief education correspondent.
Another highlight from the meeting was the release of On the Pathways to the Presidency, which also was the focus of a well-received breakout session on Monday. The Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed both ran good pieces on the study, which found slight increases in the age and gender diversity of senior administrators holding positions that often lead to the presidency, but no change in the share of racial and ethnic minorities in these roles.
Diana Natalicio, president of The University of Texas at El Paso, was elected chair of the ACE Board of Directors at Monday's lunchtime plenary and business meeting. My deepest appreciation goes to outgoing Board Chair Joseph E. Aoun, president of Northeastern University (MA), for his dedication and hard work this past year. We also elected a slate of other board members and officers, listed here.
For those of you unable to attend, I wish I had the space to talk about all of the breakout sessions, which always provide a good platform for audience participation and discussion. Some of these events, such as Tuesday's "They Said It Couldn't Be Done: Partnerships and Initiatives That Foster Academic Success for Minority Males," were standing room only. I hope you will take a look at this year's schedule and consider joining us for next year's meeting, slated for March 8-11, 2014, in San Diego.
Also in Washington this week, the House voted 267-151 on Wednesday to keep the federal government funded through the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30, seeking to avert a potential government shutdown when the current continuing resolution expires March 27.
The $982 billion stopgap measure locks in post-sequestration spending levels but includes spending flexibility for defense and veterans programs, enabling an adjustment of the sequestration cuts that went into effect March 1. However, there is no broad solution for the domestic side of the sequestration cuts, which will be a problem for both Senate Democrats and the White House.
A brief reminder of the importance to higher education of finding a solution to sequestration: The Education Department issued guidance on Monday on what the automatic budget cuts would mean for federal financial aid programs. Funding will be reduced for the Federal Work-Study Program and for the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant Program beginning in the fall if sequestration remains in effect.
On the research side, 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 which grants will be trimmed or by how much. We also learned this week that if sequestration remains in effect, the U.S. Marine Corps will no longer enroll Marines in the Defense Department's Tuition Assistance program, a benefit that provides service members with funding for college credit and degrees.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has said he is "cautiously optimistic" that both sides could reach an agreement before the upcoming spring recess. The Senate is likely to move its own government funding bill next week, which could include additional funding flexibility for domestic programs. There has been some discussion of restoring cuts to other programs, but it is unlikely that new funding would be provided. Both chambers appear intent on reaching some accommodation and avoiding a government shutdown, though the specifics are still to be determined.
Looking forward to next fiscal year, the House Budget Committee—chaired by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI)—is expected to consider its FY 2014 proposal next week, in advance of President Obama's new budget, the date for which is still uncertain. One Capitol Hill news publication reported late Thursday that the administration's target date is now early April, roughly 2 months later than usual.
Molly Corbett Broad
President of ACE