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

Government Shutdown Continues

October 7-11, 2013 ~ Vol. 14, No. 32

  • Government Shutdown Continues; Higher Education Leaders Release Statement 
  • Higher Education Groups Support College Affordability Act of 2013 
  • IN BRIEF: Supreme Court Will Not Hear OSU Student Alliance v. Ray​ 

Our second week with much of the federal government shuttered is coming to a close, and higher education—along with the rest of the country—is beginning to feel the effects in both large and small ways. 

The Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed have been reporting regularly on the impact of the shutdown on a range of programs and areas, including new research grants, the military’s Tuition Assistance program for active-duty service members, job-training programs (many with ties to community colleges), and the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights investigations.

Worse news is on the horizon if Congress fails to increase the country’s borrowing limit. Although reports on Thursday indicated House Republicans might acquiesce to a short-term increase, nothing is certain at this point, and the deadline for raising the debt ceiling is Thursday, Oct. 17. 

I released a statement yesterday, along with five of my higher education association colleagues, expressing concern over the ongoing political paralysis embodied in the government shutdown and what it says about the state of our democracy. We also called on colleges and universities to engage in a vigorous debate about the problem and to work on renewing our students’ commitment to understanding and participating in a better way to govern. 

In the meantime, we are continuing to communicate with Congress on legislation in the pipeline that hopefully will move ahead quickly when a federal budget is in place. We sent a letter this week to Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-PA) to endorse the College Affordability Act of 2013, which would make important enhancements to the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC) if passed.

As we wrote, the bill would significantly improve the AOTC by front-loading the effect of the credit so students and their families will be able to offset the costs of college more quickly. It increases the refundability component of the AOTC, replaces the limits on the number of years a student can utilize the credit with a $10,000 lifetime cap, and ensures that the credit will maintain its value over time by indexing it to inflation. In addition, it better coordinates the interaction of the AOTC with the Pell Grant, which will help low- and middle-income students benefit from both.

IN BRIEF

The U.S. Supreme Court has turned down a case we had requested it hear: OSU Student Alliance v. Ray, which posed the question of whether a public university president can be held legally responsible for actions performed by other administrators without the president’s knowledge. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit overturned a lower court ruling and reinstated a complaint brought by a group of Oregon State University (OSU) students after their newspaper distribution bins were removed by director of facilities, who had determined they violated the institution’s bin location policy. The suit against OSU President Edward J. Ray and Vice President Mark McCambridge, which alleges violations of the First and 14th Amendments, will now return to the lower court for further proceedings. 

Molly Corbett Broad
President of ACE