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President to President

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

ACE’s 97th Annual Meeting Concludes in Washington

March 16-20, 2015 ~ Vol. 16, No. 10

  • ACE’s 97th Annual Meeting Concludes in Washington 
  • House, Senate Budget Resolutions Have Potential Higher Education Impacts
  • IN BRIEF: House Holds HEA Hearing

It was great to see all of you who traveled to Washington earlier this week to participate in ACE's 97th Annual Meeting, which concluded Tuesday.

This year’s theme, “Promises to Keep,” focused on the new or renewed promises we and our partners should be making as we commemorate this academic year the 50th anniversaries of the Civil Rights Act, the Higher Education Act and the Voting Rights Act. This is my seventh Annual Meeting as ACE president, and the ideas I take away from our gathering are more inspiring every year.

On Saturday evening, Irshad Manji, founder and director of the Moral Courage Project, gave a moving speech at the ACE Women’s Leadership Dinner about how groups of people from different ethnic, racial and religious backgrounds can transcend labels while “grappling with diversity of thought, different opinions and viewpoints.”

Sunday afternoon, as part of a full day of sessions exclusively for presidents, chancellors, and chief academic officers, Andrew McAfee, principal research scientist at MIT, spoke about his book The Second Machine Age, with implications for how technology can improve teaching, learning and the business of higher education.

On Sunday evening, Stanford University (CA) President John L. Hennessy kicked off the public portion of the meeting with the Robert H. Atwell Lecture. His topic, "Information Technology and the Future of Teaching and Learning," focused on the many ways technology is being leveraged to create access to higher education and improve the quality of teaching and learning. Also on Sunday, the Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, C.M., president of DePaul University (IL), was presented with the 2015 Council of Fellows/Fidelity Investments Mentor Award that is bestowed annually to recognize the substantial role of mentors in the success of ACE Fellows Program participants.

Monday morning’s plenary session was a big draw, featuring a conversation between outgoing ACE Board Chair James H. Mullen Jr., president of Allegheny College (PA), and Michael R. Beschloss, NBC News presidential historian and PBS NewsHour contributor. The discussion revolved around Beschloss’ education and career as an author and historian and what inspired him to study great leaders. It also was a pleasure and an honor to present the ACE Lifetime Achievement Award to Norman C. Francis, president of Xavier University of Louisiana, who charged the audience with “insisting that we educate every American child from cradle to grave.” Finally, Monday’s luncheon plenary featured a provocative conversation with Paul Krugman, Nobel Prize-winning economist, and Catharine Bond Hill, president of Vassar College (NY), about income inequality and the challenges it presents to college and university presidents.

A panel discussion Tuesday morning featured Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), who urged attendees to help gather support for the Task Force on Federal Regulation of Higher Education’s work to streamline federal regulations affecting higher education institutions. ACE staffed the work of the task force, and we were fortunate to have its co-chairs, Chancellors William E. Kirwan of the University System of Maryland and Nicholas S. Zeppos of Vanderbilt University (TN) on hand to moderate and contribute to the conversation about the importance of lessening burdensome regulations on colleges and universities, while recognizing the need to be accountable for responsible stewardship of federal funds and maintain relevant protections for our students.

The closing plenary featured an engaging panel focused on a topic that is forefront in the minds of higher education leaders—how innovation in higher education can be approached in ways that ensure equality of opportunity for all students. Kenneth J. Cooper, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, moderated the discussion between Waded Cruzado, president of Montana State University, Cathy N. Davidson, a distinguished professor at The City University of New York and Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell. It also was a privilege during this session to present the 2015 Reginald Wilson Diversity Leadership Award to University of Pennsylvania President Amy Gutmann. Amy could not be with us for the ceremony and the award was accepted on her behalf by colleague John L. Jackson Jr., dean of the School of Social Policy & Practice at Penn.

Of special note during the meeting was the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the ACE Fellows Program this academic year, beginning with a sold-out dinner and dance that reunited Fellows from classes dating back to the inaugural 1964-65 group, represented by Dr. Paul Magelli, senior director of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Renu Khator, University of Houston president and system chancellor, was elected chair of the ACE Board of Directors at Monday’s lunchtime plenary and business meeting. ACE's membership also elected Georgetown University (DC) President John J. DeGioia as vice chair and Nancy J. McCallin, president of the Colorado Community College System as secretary. My deepest appreciation goes to outgoing Board Chair Jim Mullen.

For those of you who were unable to make it, I wish I had the space to talk about the breakout sessions, which always provide a great platform for audience participation and discussion. I hope you will take a look at this year's schedule and consider joining us for next year's meeting in San Francisco.

Congress took the first major step toward a FY 2016 budget this week with the introduction of budget resolutions in the House and the Senate. Such resolutions are more policy statements than strict fiscal measures, but they outline broad policy goals that are supposed to guide specific funding decisions. Actual funding decisions—and any specific policy changes—will require the passage of additional legislation and the signature of the president.

The House resolution was released on Tuesday, and approved by the Budget Committee on a party-line vote on Thursday. The House plan would reduce the total pool of funding used for student aid programs, institutional support and scientific research, among other programs, by $759 billion over ten years. The plan’s proposed cuts to student aid programs alone total roughly $150 billion.

The Senate introduced its budget resolution on Wednesday, and, as of this writing, was expected to pass it through committee with a vote by Thursday evening. The plan would be very similar to the House: it would greatly restrict available funding for research and student aid, and also proposes nearly identical cuts to student aid and loans. Both chambers provide reconciliation instructions, a special, expedited legislative process, intended to allow the repeal of, or substantially modify, the Affordable Care Act.

Controversy will surround the budget resolutions when they are brought to the floor next week. One specific point of contention is the disagreement within the Republican caucus over how to handle defense spending. The House plan provides substantial additional funding for defense by putting it in the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) fund, an emergency fund for military operations. This amount is still less defense spending than some members wanted, and an effort pushed by party leadership to further increase this spending almost derailed the House Budget Committee markup. Fiscal conservatives in both chambers have also opposed the OCO fund as a “gimmick,” and fear it sets a bad precedent that could be applied to domestic spending.

The Senate had originally planned to finance additional defense spending by making cuts to other spending or by raising new revenue. This would have required challenging negotiations to identify and actually make those spending and revenue changes. Late on Thursday afternoon, the Budget Committee amended their resolution to add $38 billion in additional defense spending in the OCO fund, aligning their approach with the House, and raising concern among fiscal conservatives. With tight margins and almost all Democrats expected to vote in opposition, the Republican leadership will need to secure the vast majority of its caucus in order to pass the measure.

We expect both chambers will amend their budget plans when they are considered on the floor next Wednesday and Thursday. After the upcoming spring recess the chambers will conference their proposals and seek a concurrent budget resolution. If the final resolution includes reconciliation instructions, the action will then move to the authorizing committees who will attempt to prepare legislation under the budget’s guidelines. Any reconciliation legislation would then be subject to additional votes and ultimately presidential approval, however, making enactment uncertain at best. We will keep you posted as things develop.


As Congress moves toward reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, the House held a hearing this week on higher education. On Tuesday, the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training of the House Education and the Workforce Committee held a hearing on Strengthening America’s Higher Education System. Among the witnesses addressing ways to reform and improve higher education, Gov. Mitch Daniels referenced the recent Senate task force report on regulation of colleges and universities.

Molly Corbett Broad
President of ACE