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

President to President: Senate Approves FY 2013 Spending Bill; Both Chambers Turn to FY 2014 Budget

Vol. 14, No. 10

  • ​Senate Approves FY 2013 Spending Bill; Both Chambers Turn to FY 2014 Budget
  • Federal Court Denies ED Motion to Restore Vacated Gainful Employment Provisions
  • NILOA Advance Alert: National Survey of Learning Outcomes Assessment
  • IN BRIEF: Higher Education Associations Comment on Provisions of Affordable Care Act; Select Sessions From ACE's 95th Annual Meeting Now Available Online

This week in Washington saw major budget and appropriations work in the House and Senate, with passage of a funding bill finalizing appropriations for the current fiscal year and both chambers poised to pass their respective budget plans for FY 2014. If the Senate is successful, it will be the first budget resolution it has passed in four years.

FY 2013

The Senate voted 73-26 Wednesday to pass its version of the FY 2013 spending package (H.R. 933) needed to fund the federal government through Sept. 30. The House swiftly approved the $984 billion measure yesterday after little debate. It now heads to President Obama, who is expected to sign it quickly so as to avert a government shutdown on March 28, when the current continuing resolution (CR) runs out. ACE sent a letter to the House yesterday, noting our support for the CR and urging quick passage.

We reluctantly supported the bill as approved by the Senate since it does not address the budget sequester and includes few items we are genuinely excited about (along with several we oppose, like the new restriction on political science research). However, at this point, there were three possible scenarios: the House-passed bill, the Senate-approved measure, or a government shutdown.

The Senate bill is better than the House measure—it increases funds for the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health, it restores education benefits for active duty military personnel, and provides more money for more Education Department programs than the House measure did. Supporting the Senate bill was the only option.

FY 2014

Enactment of the FY 2013 CR paves the way for both chambers to consider their respective versions of the budget resolution for FY 2014, which begins Oct. 1. The House debated its measure beginning on Tuesday, and it passed Thursday by a vote of 221-207. The Senate began debating its bill on Thursday; however, a vote is not expected until Saturday afternoon at the earliest.

Along with 13 other higher education associations, we wrote to House members Tuesday, outlining our objections to their budget resolution. We strongly oppose the proposal's Pell Grant provisions, which would reduce funding for the program by $86 billion over the next 10 years, and severely limit eligibility. We also object to plans to eliminate the federal student loan in-school interest exemption, curtail income-based repayment options and slash research funding, which has already been reduced by sequestration.

We will send a letter to the Senate today in support of its budget proposal, which offers advantages for programs of interest to higher education. In particular, the Senate budget would fully fund Pell Grants and eliminate future shortfalls from the program; make the subsidized Stafford Loan interest rate permanent; and provide increased funding levels for the other aid programs as well as scientific research and institutional support.

The next step, theoretically, is for the House and Senate to hold a conference to resolve the differences between their budget resolutions. Given the magnitude of these differences (i.e., the Senate resolution increases taxes almost $1 trillion while the House resolution cuts them), it is unlikely that they will find common ground. However, passage of competing budget resolutions will at least allow both chambers to begin working on actual spending bills for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. There are many conflicts to come, but the process has started.

Meanwhile, President Obama is now expected to send his FY 2014 budget proposal to Congress on Monday, April 8. The proposal is more than two months late, which the administration attributes to the congressional delay in completing work on FY 2013 appropriations as well as sequestration.

After the Senate finishes work on its budget resolution, both houses of Congress will be on recess until April 8.

A federal judge this week denied the Education Department's (ED) motion to amend the court's judgment on its gainful employment regulation in a lawsuit brought by the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities.

The ED's gainful employment regulation took effect in July 2011. The regulation had three basic parts: (1) reporting requirements imposed on schools; (2) debt measures, calculated by ED based on the data reported, and (3) requirements that schools disclose information to students, including information on the debt measures. In July 2012, a federal district court struck down both the debt measures and the reporting requirements, finding the department lacked a "rational basis" for establishing the debt measures and had no legal authority to collect the information called for in the reporting requirements.

The department asked the court to reconsider its decision and reinstate the reporting requirements, thus permitting ED to calculate the debt measures and provide that information to schools for disclosure purposes. On Tuesday, the court ruled that because Congress enacted a ban on a federal unit record system in the 2008 Higher Education Act reauthorization, the agency lacked legal authority to require institutions to report the data necessary to make the gainful employment calculations. In short, the department's request was denied and the gainful employment regulation remains sharply limited.

The department would appear to have three choices: to move forward with this dramatically truncated regulation, to file a formal appeal of the decision, or to begin another round of negotiated rulemaking in an effort to construct a regulation that will withstand judicial review.

Within the next week or so your chief academic officer will be invited to participate in a survey conducted by the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA).

With help from several higher education organizations, the survey will be sent to every accredited two- and four-year college and university in the United States. A response from your institution will be important.

The aim of the survey is to gain a clearer picture of the current state of the assessment of student learning in the United States. It builds on and updates the first national survey conducted in 2009. The survey should take only 10 to 15 minutes to complete. Obviously participation by your institution in the survey is voluntary. Responses will remain confidential, but the results will be useful to all of us.

As a gesture of appreciation for your participation, George Kuh and former ACE President Stan Ikenberry, co-principal investigators, will send your institution an advance report of the survey results prior to any public release of the data.

IN BRIEF

ACE, with the support of nine other higher education associations, submitted comments to the Internal Revenue Service March 18 regarding a proposed rule on implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The comments address health insurance coverage of adjunct faculty and student campus employees. We also submitted comments to the Department of Health and Human Services regarding self-funded student health insurance plans under the ACA.

For the first time ever, ACE hosted live webcasts of two sessions at our 95th Annual Meeting: "Higher Education and the Nation's Employers: Charting Paths to Meet Workforce Needs of the 21st Century" and "Learning Without Boundaries: MOOCs and the Future of Higher Education." These sessions focused on how technology and changing workforce needs are impacting the way our nation's colleges and universities prepare their students. Recordings of those sessions are now available for ACE members to view. To access the recordings, please visit https://www2.acenet.edu/am2013 and enter the password "ACEAMR."

President to President will return when Congress returns from its two-week spring recess.

Molly Corbett Broad
President of ACE