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

House Passes FY 2016 Budget Resolution

March 23-27, 2015 ~ Vol. 16, No. 11

  • House Passes FY 2016 Budget Resolution; Senate Poised to Vote on Its Version
  • Sen. Alexander's Policy Papers Outline Higher Education Act Reauthorization Priorities
  • Remembering Former ACE President Jack Peltason
  • Call for Nominations for ACE Commission on Leadership

Congress continued its work on the FY 2016 budget this week, with the House approving an amended version of the budget resolutions we discussed in the last President to President and the Senate poised to vote late Thursday. 

Although the plans differ, they would both balance the federal budget over the coming decade through a combination of cuts to several entitlement and mandatory programs and to nondefense discretionary spending. Both would substantially increase defense spending and promise no tax hikes, and both call for an overhaul of the tax code.

The budget resolutions themselves are non-binding and do not require a presidential signature. Their significance is best understood as an indication of preferred policy choices.

The House voted 228-199 on Wednesday to pass its budget resolution (H. Con. Res. 27), which Republicans say will eliminate $5.4 trillion in deficits over the next decade. The plan itself provides few details of the spending cuts envisioned, although about $2 trillion in savings is estimated to come from the proposed repeal of the Affordable Care Act—which, like many of the provisions in this measure, has no chance of surviving President Obama’s veto if it were to get that far.

On the higher education front, the House plan would reduce the total pool of domestic funding by $759 billion over 10 years. The proposed cuts to student aid programs alone total roughly $150 billion. The plan would abolish the in-school interest subsidy on Stafford loans, freeze Pell grants for 10 years, reverse a recent expansion of income-based repayment and end public-sector loan forgiveness. Again, there are no details about when or how these cuts would be made, and the president would have to approve them if Congress passes legislation to make the aforementioned changes.

The Senate followed on its budget resolution Thursday, and, as of this writing, was working through a number of amendments (S. Con. Res. 11) before a final vote.

By late Thursday afternoon, the Senate had approved adding language related to higher education and was set to consider more amendments. For example, a proposal by Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) expressed support for simplifying the student loan repayment system with income-based repayment options. Among the amendments still on the table were several dealing with increased funding for research and the National Institutes of Health. Of particular note is one offered by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) that would prevent the use of federal funds for a federal college ratings system. Again, such amendments indicate policy preferences and accomplish nothing by themselves.

The chamber rejected an amendment by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) that would have expressed support for allowing student borrowers to refinance their loans at lower rates. It also voted down an amendment to endorse the president’s free community college plan offered by Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI).

After the final Senate vote, the next step is for the two chambers to conference and develop a joint budget resolution, which, like the versions from this week, will not require the president’s signature.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, as chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, released three policy papers this week outlining ideas that could find their way into an eventual Higher Education Act (HEA) reauthorization bill.

The papers focus on: 1) making colleges share in the financial risk of the federal loans provided to students; 2) overhauling accreditation; and 3) changing how the federal government collects data from colleges. They offer the most expansive look yet at the chairman’s priorities for rewriting the HEA, which he has said he wants the full Senate to consider by the end of 2015.

Alexander is seeking public comment on the papers. We are currently reviewing them and will be providing feedback. I encourage your campus to review them as well. All comments are due by April 24.

It was with great sadness that I learned last Sunday that Jack W. Peltason had passed away in California at the age of 91. Jack, a beloved former president of ACE, served as chancellor of the University of California, Irvine from 1984-92 and, later on, president of the UC system.

Jack became ACE president in 1977 and served the higher education community here in Washington until 1984. Jack was a distinguished political scientist before becoming an academic administrator. All who knew him well will recall his gentle humor, collaborative style and passionate commitment to higher education.

As UC Irvine's chancellor, Jack guided the institution through a period of remarkable growth that established the national presence of the institution, including construction of more than three dozen major campus projects. Enrollment jumped 34 percent to nearly 17,000 during his tenure, and the university became known for its formidable research capabilities.

From 1992-95, Jack led the UC System through a very turbulent period, helping it navigate through an extremely difficult financial situation and vigorously defending challenges to the institution’s race-conscious admissions policies.

Jack began his academic career on the faculty of Smith College (MA) before teaching at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. From 1967-77, he was chancellor at Illinois.

ACE conferred its Distinguished Service Award to Jack in 2010 for a “lifetime of achievement and service to higher education.” He is survived by Suzanne, his wife of 68 years; children Nancy, Timothy and Jill; seven grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.

He was one-of-a-kind, and I will miss him.

ACE is now accepting nominations from interested presidents, chancellors and chief academic officers for appointments to our Commission on Leadership. The commission advises ACE on various mission-related issues and guides the Council in initiating new programs and policies.

Commission members are selected based on many factors, including ACE’s desire to represent the full range of our membership, involve member presidents who have not previously participated in ACE activities, and appoint members with specialized knowledge or interests. Terms will be for three years. Nominations are due by April 24 and can be submitted to Jim Sirianni via email at jsirianni@acenet.edu.

Molly Corbett Broad
President of ACE