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

President to President, January 3-7, 2011

Vol. 12, No. 1

  • 112th Congress Convenes
  • Pell Grant Program Funding Update
  • ACE, Research Groups Submit Supreme Court Brief Supporting Stanford in Patent Case
  • Spaces Remain for Tuesday's Incentive Compensation Webinar

The 112th Congress began on Wednesday of this week. Of the 535 members of Congress, 107 were not in office two years ago.

The biggest change from the previous Congress is in the House of Representatives, where Republicans have 242 seats and Democrats now control 193. (In the last Congress, Democrats had 255 seats and Republicans had 179.) John Boehner (R-OH) was elected speaker, replacing Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who is now the minority leader.

House Republicans quickly adopted a number of changes to the budget process designed to make it harder to increase spending and easier to cut taxes. For example, the new rules prevent the House from taking up any legislation that would increase entitlement spending within the next 10 years without an accompanying cut in entitlement spending elsewhere. However, under the new rules, the cost of extending the Bush tax cuts or indeed any tax cut would not be considered, nor would the costs associated with eliminating the health care reform legislation enacted last year.

After a ceremonial reading of the Constitution on Thursday, the House has begun to debate legislation that would repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the health care provisions of the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act approved in March 2010. (The student aid provisions are not included in the repeal bill.) While the House is expected to approve the measure next week on a party line vote, it is unlikely to make any progress in the Senate. In any event, the measure is vigorously opposed by the administration and would certainly be vetoed by the president if that became necessary.

House committee chairs and members are almost all in place. As I mentioned before the break, House Education and the Workforce Chairman John Kline (R-MN) has named Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) chair of the Subcommittee on Higher Education, Lifelong Learning, and Competitiveness. House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers (R-KY) today announced the Republican members of that panel's 12 subcommittees. The Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies will be chaired by Rep. Dennis Rehberg (R-MT).

In the Senate, 13 new members officially took office. No legislative activity is expected in that body until after the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

The Pell Grant Program is currently in an interesting position with the passage in late December of a short-term spending bill known as a continuing resolution (CR).

FY 2011 started on Oct. 1, 2010. However, Congress has not passed any of the 12 spending bills needed to fund government activities, instead using a series of temporary, short-term spending bills to fund the government. The current CR expires on March 14, nearly halfway through fiscal 2011.

The current CR should ensure that Pell recipients in 2011-12 will receive a maximum grant of $5,550. Obviously, this is good news. There is some concern about the coming year, though. The importance of deficit reduction as an electoral issue has led members of both parties to look everywhere for significant funding cuts for FY 2011.

The Pell Grant Program is the largest program in the Department of Education in terms of funding, and costs have skyrocketed over the last four years as award levels have been increased and the number of eligible students has jumped. As such, it is reasonable to expect that Pell will attract attention as a target for deficit reduction. As a possible indication of this, Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee called Pell funding "a bailout" during consideration of the current CR.

The Department of Education is required to release the Pell award schedules by Feb. 1, and we assume they will do so at the $5,550 award level. However, it is not certain Congress will choose to maintain that level when they move to finalize FY 2011 spending in March. We will keep you posted as the situation progresses.

ACE joined with a coalition of higher education and research organizations and more than 40 colleges and universities on Dec. 23 to submit an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in support of Stanford University (CA) in a case that could have serious ramifications for university ownership of patents stemming from federally funded research.

The case, Stanford University v. Roche Molecular Systems, involves several patents used to quantify HIV in blood samples developed by scientists conducting National Institutes of Health-funded research at Stanford. The primary focus of the case is the interpretation of the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980, also known as the University and Small Business Patent Procedures Act. Among other things, the Bayh-Dole Act gives U.S. universities, small businesses and nonprofits rights to their inventions and other intellectual property resulting from federal government-funded research. We are very encouraged that the solicitor general of the United States and former Sen. Birch Bayh also filed amicus briefs supporting the positions we included in our brief.

The Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case this spring.

In October, the Department of Education issued regulations banning any form of bonus, commission or incentive payment to any individual even remotely involved in admissions and financial aid. The intent of the regulation is crystal clear but its reach–how many offices on campus will be affected–is unknown. Careful implementation on every campus is essential, which is why ACE is offering a webinar Jan. 11 on the incentive compensation regulations, which take effect on July 1, 2011.

The webinar will cover how colleges and universities will need to change their policies and contractual agreements to comply with the new regulations, which prohibit institutions from offering compensation based in any part upon the success of securing enrollments or financial aid. These changes will potentially impact admissions and financial aid personnel, coaches, human resources officers and even presidents.

The event will be moderated by ACE Senior Vice President Terry Hartle, and he will be joined by attorney Stephanie Gold of Hogan Lovells US LLP; financial aid executive Joyce Hall of Purdue University; and nonprofit compensation consultant Heidi Toppel of Towers Watson, a professional services firm.

If you are unable to attend, please pass the invitation to your campus counsel, human resources professionals, athletic directors, or other senior staff. The cost is $149 for ACE members and $199 for non-members.

For more information, contact Phil Muehlenbeck at philip_muehlenbeck@ace.nche.edu.

Molly Corbett Broad
President of ACE