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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.

President to President, October 10-14, 2011

Vol. 12, No. 37

  • ​Senate Declines to Consider President's Jobs Measure
  • Higher Education Groups Ask Congress to Reject Funding Cuts to Minority-Serving Institutions
  • Associations Convene Commission on Educational Attainment
  • IN BRIEF: Access and Diversity Workshop to Be Held at Rice

The Senate on Tuesday blocked consideration of President Obama's $447 billion jobs bill, forcing the White House and congressional Democrats to weigh breaking it down into smaller measures that might succeed in both the House and Senate.

The vote in favor of advancing the bill was 50-49, 10 votes short of the 60 needed to overcome procedural hurdles in the Senate.

The legislation proposed $175 billion in new spending on highways and other public works, an extension of jobless benefits, and aid to states to prevent teacher layoffs. It would have also provided $272 billion in tax relief for individuals and businesses and imposed a surtax of 5.6 percent on adjusted gross incomes in excess of $1 million starting in 2013.

At the center of the package was a proposal to expand and extend the temporary reduction in the employee share of the Social Security payroll tax enacted in 2010 and also cut in half the employer's share of the tax for 2012 for the first $5 million in payrolls. In addition, companies—including both public and private colleges and universities—hiring new workers or increasing the wages of existing workers would have received a tax break.

The bill included substantial funding for postsecondary institutions, the largest of which was $5 billion to "modernize, upgrade or repair" existing facilities on community college campuses. As in previous infrastructure bills, these funds would have been awarded as grants to the states by the secretary of education. The measure also included $1.5 billion in funding for training programs organized by local work force investment boards. Community colleges and other postsecondary institutions were identified as possible partners in these programs.

Votes on pieces of the bill could begin this month, perhaps as early as next week. Party leaders are consulting their caucuses before deciding on the timeline and the provisions to be considered. We support the inclusion of community college funding and will be watching developments closely in the coming weeks.

We sent a community letter to Congress today, asking members to reject the massive cuts to Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs) proposed in the House Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee draft FY 2012 funding bill.

In total, the House proposal would eliminate 41 percent of all federal funding for MSIs, including an 83 percent reduction for Hispanic-Serving Institutions and a 36 percent reduction for Historically Black Colleges and Universities. It would totally eliminate funding for institutions serving Native Americans, Native Hawaiians, Alaskans and Pacific Islanders. As we wrote in our letter, cuts of this magnitude would devastate the campuses that receive the aid and the students who depend on it.

As I said last week, neither the House nor Senate bill is expected to receive floor consideration in its respective chamber but rather are starting points for eventual negotiations between Senate Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Tom Harkin (D-IA) and House Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Denny Rehberg (R-MT). However, it is vital to protest this particular cut in the House bill now so Congress can better understand what an important role MSI funding plays for our students and campuses.

We're also continuing to look closely at the Pell Grant provisions in both the House and Senate FY 2012 education spending bills. Both measures assume the maximum Pell Grant will remain at $5,550 for the 2012-13 academic year. However, to help finance this level of Pell funding, the House bill—which in total contains $5 billion less than the Senate measure—includes eligibility changes that would eliminate Pell Grants for hundreds of thousands of students. As Bryan Cook, director of ACE's Center for Policy Analysis, told Inside Higher Ed this week, the biggest change would be the reduction in the income protection allowance. More of the money students and their parents earn would be expected to go directly to cover college costs, rather than set aside for basic living expenses. Nearly 600,000 students could lose eligibility for Pell Grants if the allowance is changed and many other students would see their grants reduced.

I am very pleased to announce that ACE will convene a panel of higher education leaders to chart a course to significantly boost educational attainment. President Obama's call for the United States to have the highest level of postsecondary educational attainment in the world by 2020 highlights the importance of higher education to our nation's future. We believe achieving this important objective will not be possible without clear and decisive leadership by colleges and universities, which drove the decision to launch this effort.

The Higher Education Attainment Commission is comprised of members nominated by each of the six presidential higher education associations and will be chaired by E. Gordon Gee, president of The Ohio State University. While the commission participants will define their precise scope of work, the initial topics will include:

  • The changing nature of students seeking a degree or credential, particularly in terms of racial/ethnic background and socio-economic status, as well as academic preparation
  • The ability of higher education to attract, retain and graduate the increasing number of adults seeking a degree or credential;
  • The current capacity of higher education to accommodate the large number of students that will need to enroll if we are to increase the number of graduates; and
  • The opportunities to increase efficiency and enhance productivity in meaningful ways.

The first commission meeting will take place on Oct. 31 at ACE's Washington, DC, offices and the commission is expected to complete its work by fall 2012.

IN BRIEF

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is pleased to announce the second two-day workshop in Phase 2 of a multi-year National Science Foundation-funded Law & Diversity project. The workshop, scheduled for Dec. 6-7, 2011, at Rice University (TX), will focus on both faculty and student access and diversity issues in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. Information on registration and lodging is available at www.cvent.com/d/hcqmc1. Please direct questions to project co-directors Jamie Lewis Keith, vice president and general counsel at the University of Florida; Daryl E. Chubin, director, AAAS Capacity Center; or Art Coleman, managing partner of EducationCounsel, LLC.

Molly Corbett Broad
President of ACE