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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, July 18-22, 2011

Vol. 12, No. 29

  • Debt Ceiling Negotiations Continue; Presidents and Students Rally for Pell Grants
  • ACE Files Amicus Brief in University of Illinois FERPA Case
  • Senate HELP Committee Roundtable on Career Colleges; APSCU Sues to Block Gainful Employment Regulations
  • IN BRIEF: Save the Date for ACE's 94th Annual Meeting; ACE Webinar on Fostering Innovation Sept. 22; John Toll, Maryland's First State University Chancellor, Dies

With less than two weeks until the Aug. 2 deadline, it's unclear how much progress is being made in negotiations to raise the debt ceiling. At this point, discussions are playing out along several different lines. However, we are uncertain whether and how any of the plans on the table will affect student aid and other education funding.

President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) are again discussing a so-called grand package, which reportedly calls for as much as $3 trillion in savings from spending cuts and future revenue produced by overhauling the tax code. The plan sounds very much like the one scuttled last week when details leaked and conservative Republicans, led by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), revolted over the revenue raisers. Democrats have been more vocal this week, claiming the president is making too many concessions.

Also revived this week was the "Gang of Six," a group of senators who have been working for months on a strategy to reduce the federal budget deficit. They offered a plan Tuesday calling for $3.7 trillion in spending cuts and revenue increases over the next decade, including $70 billion in cuts from health, education and labor programs. President Obama praised the effort, although Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) expressed concern that the Gang was stepping on their alternative, a plan which few support.

For its part, the House voted Tuesday to pass the Cut, Cap, and Balance Act of 2011 (H.R. 2560), which conditions a $2.4 trillion increase in the debt ceiling on $111 billion in immediate cuts, an annual cap on spending and congressional passage of a balanced budget amendment. The measure was approved by a mostly party-line vote of 234-190. Sen. Reid called it the weakest bill he'd ever brought to the floor, and the Senate promptly voted it down this morning 51-46.

While student aid is not specifically on the chopping block in these debt ceiling talks, cuts remain a possibility. With this in mind, Pell Grant recipients and their supporters in Congress held a rally Tuesday, and I would like to thank the eight presidents who joined them. When the debt ceiling package is concluded—assuming it is concluded successfully—we should have at least a general idea about the direction the FY 2012 appropriations process will take.

ACE, on behalf of nine other higher education associations, on Wednesday filed an amicus brief to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in support of the University of Illinois's (UI) effort to keep information about student applicants private.

The case, Chicago Tribune Company v. University of Illinois Board of Trustees, is part of the ongoing dispute over student records stemming from The Chicago Tribune's 2009 series of articles, "Clout Goes to College," which looked into a list of applicants kept by the university. The Chicago Tribune Company submitted a request under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act seeking to inspect these applicant records, but the university denied the request based on the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). However, a district court judge ruled that FERPA does not actually prohibit the release of the student records because the school has the option of rejecting federal funding in order not to be bound by the law.Amicus Brief Chicago Tribune Company v. UI.pdfAmicus Brief Chicago Tribune Company v. UI.pdf

The Department of Justice, which also filed a brief to the appeals court, believes this ruling offers a fundamental misreading of FERPA. For our part, we believe that the "choice" the court presents—institutions can say no to more than $193 billion in federal funding in order to release personal information about their students—is no choice at all.

For the Justice Department brief as well as background material on the case, see the UI website.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee and Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) yesterday hosted a roundtable on for-profit institutions, a more informal discussion than the series of hearings it has held over the past months on the sector, but one that covered similar ground. As with the last hearing, Republicans boycotted the event.

The wide-ranging discussion included debates over accreditation, completion, quality, marketing, disclosures to students and 90/10 reform. (The 90/10 rule requires for-profit colleges to receive at least 10 percent of their revenue from nonfederal sources to be eligible for student aid programs.) There was more focus than usual on practical solutions to these problems, which may signal some kind of legislation is being developed. Sen. Harkin said he was working with the Armed Services Committee to include military aid in the federal share of the 90/10 rule. He also said he might seek to limit the share of federal aid the colleges can use to market to prospective students.

In other for-profit sector news, the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities (APSCU) filed suit this week against the Department of Education over the new gainful employment regulations. APSCU, which mounted an aggressive lobbying campaign against the rule during the comment period last year, said it represents "regulatory overreach," conflicts with the intent of Congress, was developed through a "flawed process," and was created "without adequately exploring the impact on minorities, women, and jobs."

IN BRIEF

Mark your calendars now for ACE's 94th Annual Meeting, scheduled for March 10-13, 2012, in Los Angeles, CA. I hope to see you there for what promises to be another productive gathering of senior leaders from all sectors in higher education. Registration opens Aug. 15.

Hard copies of the American College President survey have been mailed to all of you and should be arriving next week. We would be extremely grateful if you would complete and return the survey, or fill it out online. The information gathered through this survey provides us with data for The American College President. For more information, please email policy@acenet.edu or call (202) 939-9381.

ACE will host a webinar Sept. 22 to examine ideas put forth in a recent book by Henry J. Eyring and Clayton M. Christensen, The Innovative University: Changing the DNA of Higher Education from the Inside Out. The webinar, scheduled for 2:30-4:00 p.m. EDT, costs $149 for ACE members and $225 for non-members. All registrants will receive a complimentary copy of The Innovative University. Register by Sept. 9, to ensure you receive your copy before the webinar.

Lastly this week, I would like to remember John S. Toll, Maryland's first state university chancellor, who died July 15 after a long illness. He was one of the true innovators in higher education, overseeing a remarkable period of growth both at Maryland and during his tenure as president of SUNY-Stony Brook (now Stony Brook University). For more about his contributions to both institutions, see The Washington Post and The New York Times.

Molly Corbett Broad
President of ACE