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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, February 28-March 4, 2011

Vol. 12, No. 9

  • President Signs Short-Term Spending Bill That Kills LEAP Program
  • ACE, Other Groups Ask ED to Rescind State Authorization Rule; Webinar Scheduled for March 17
  • First in Series of House Hearings Examines Regulatory Burden on Education
  • Supreme Court Hears Patent Arguments
  • Senate Considers Patent Reform Measure
  • IN BRIEF: ACE Sends Comments on Municipal Advisors to SEC; ACE Fellows in Search of Mentor Campuses; GI Bill Webinar Archive Now Available

We're only a day away from seeing many of you in Washington for ACE's 93rd Annual Meeting, which begins this weekend and runs through March 8. For those of you unable to attend, we post daily reports on our Higher Education and National Affairs web page throughout the meeting and on Twitter (@ACEducation). I'll give you all the details in next Friday's President to President.

The wrangling over federal spending for the remainder of the current fiscal year (2011) will continue for at least two more weeks: The president on Wednesday signed into law another short-term spending measure while Congress continued to try to find a compromise to take us through the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30.

The Senate passed the measure, known as a continuing resolution (CR), on Wednesday in a 91-9 vote, after the House passed it Tuesday.

The two-week plan averts a threatened government shutdown but implements $4 billion in cuts, including $64 million for the Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnership (LEAP) Program which provides federal matching funds to states that give need-based aid to students. We are extremely concerned about the elimination of funds for LEAP (see our letter to the Senate here) and the ease with which Congress stopped funding a program that has helped millions of students. The program remains authorized; however, in the absence of federal matching funds, states may begin terminating their LEAP Programs.

As I have reported previously, in H.R. 1, the House proposed cutting the maximum Pell Grant award for the 2011-12 academic year by $845. However, the Senate has not yet taken up this measure and the CR assumes there will be no cut to the maximum award. The rapid increase in Pell spending in the last few years, however, means cuts are certainly possible.

The CR funds the government through March 18, after which there are three possible scenarios. The first is that lawmakers take no action and the government shuts down. The second is that lawmakers pass another short-term CR while they keep working on a longer-term deal. The third option is passage of a full-year CR that would set funding levels through the end of the current fiscal year. Right now, option two seems most likely, but this is a very fluid environment. I will keep you posted.

ACE and 59 higher education and accrediting organizations sent a letter Wednesday to the Department of Education asking Sec. Arne Duncan to rescind the so-called state authorization regulation released in October as part of the final package of program integrity rules.

The state authorization rule has caused considerable concern in the higher education community since it was first released in draft form in June 2010. As most of you know, the state authorization procedure as it exists now is a very straightforward administrative requirement which will get very complicated when the new regulations take effect.

There are two major sources of concern: First, the regulations raise the specter of state bureaucrats interfering in curricular matters at private colleges and universities, a particular worry for religious institutions. The second area of concern pertains to distance education programs. The new rule would dramatically expand regulatory requirements for these programs, dampening the inclination of institutions to initiate or expand such efforts.

To help institutions better understand the implications of the new rule on state authorization, ACE and the National Association of College and University Attorneys (NACUA) are offering a webinar on March 17. I hope you will encourage your institution's counsel and other senior leaders to register. For more information, see the NACUA website.

The House Committee on Education and the Workforce held a hearing Tuesday to examine the impact of federal regulations on educational institutions.

My thanks to President Christopher Nelson of St. John's College (MD) for so ably representing the higher education community at the hearing. If you have a chance, you might want to read his testimony, which gives an excellent summary of how federal regulations resulting from the Higher Education Act, those imposed by agencies other than the Department of Education, and Title IV financial aid program requirements can all significantly impact college and university autonomy. For more details, see reports from The Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed.

The hearing was the first in a series. The next hearing, "Education Regulations: Federal Overreach Into Academic Affairs," has been scheduled for Friday, March 11, and will address the regulatory impact of pending program integrity rules.

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments on Monday in the case Stanford University v. Roche Molecular Systems, which deals with the question of who owns the rights to patents stemming from federally funded research.

The primary focus of the case is the interpretation of the University and Small Business Patent Procedures Act, also known as the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980. Among other things, the law gives U.S. universities, small businesses and nonprofits rights to their inventions and other intellectual property resulting from federally funded research. In January, ACE joined a coalition of universities and education associations in submitting an amicus brief in support of Stanford.

The court gave no real indication of which direction it might take. A transcript of the argument can be found here, and The Chronicle of Higher Education gives a good overview of the proceedings in a story posted Monday afternoon. A ruling is expected by July.

In other patent news, the Senate is in the final stages of considering the Patent Reform Act of 2011 (S. 23). The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 15-0 to approve the measure on Feb. 3.

ACE and a group of higher education organizations sent a letter Monday to senators expressing strong support for the measure as the most effective way to streamline and update the patent system. A final vote is expected next week.

IN BRIEF

ACE sent comments Feb. 22 to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on its draft regulations on so-called "municipal advisors" as part of implementation of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. The proposed rules may impact some college and university employees and trustees or regents, who could be required to register as a "municipal advisor" with the SEC if they provide "advice" regarding municipal financial products or the issuance of municipal securities such as tax exempt bonds. The comments request that college and university employees be excluded from the definition of municipal advisor in the final rule.

The ACE Fellows Program is close to officially announcing the 2011-12 class, and each Fellow will begin the search for a host/mentor institution within two to three weeks of that announcement. If your institution is open to the possibility of hosting a Fellow, we would like to add you to a list we are compiling. Please submit a one-page profile of your institution and your interest in hosting, including the potential primary mentor and, if that person is not the president, details about what kind of access the Fellow might have to that individual. We will post this information on our password-protected Blackboard site. Statements of interest should be sent to Brian Madden.

Lastly this week, we hosted a webinar Feb. 23 to discuss recently approved legislation that makes major changes to the Post-9/11 GI Bill and how these changes will affect colleges and universities. The archive of the webinar is now available for purchase.

Molly Corbett Broad
President of ACE