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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, June 13-17, 2011

Vol. 12, No. 22

  • ​House Committee Passes H.R. 2117 to Block ED's Credit Hour, State Authorization Regulations
  • Presidents Lobby for Perkins Loans
  • American College President Survey Now Open
  • House Patent Reform Bill Postponed

I have very good news to report on the House of Representatives' effort to rescind the credit hour and state authorization regulations set to go into effect in just a few short weeks.

The House Committee on Education and the Workforce voted 27-11 Wednesday to approve the Protecting Academic Freedom in Higher Education Act (H.R. 2117), which was introduced June 3 by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), chair of the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training. The bill, which we strongly support, has three main provisions:

1. A repeal of the so-called state authorization regulation which significantly expands and complicates existing federal requirements for an institution to legally operate within a state. This regulation threatens to upset recognition and complaint resolution procedures that have functioned effectively for decades and could lead to greater state authority over private colleges and universities. In addition, the regulation forces institutions to meet any state requirements necessary to offer distance education in the state where the student is located while receiving instruction.

2. A repeal of the new federal definition of a credit hour. Establishing a federal definition of a credit hour opens the door to inappropriate federal interference in core academic decisions that must be left to individual institutions. Secondarily, the definition at issue is ambiguous, and we believe the lack of effective guidance on implementation will pose serious challenges as campuses begin to review curricula to ensure compliance.

3. A ban prohibiting the education secretary from promulgating a rule to establish a federal definition of a credit hour in the future.

Five of 17 Democrats on the committee joined with all but one of the Republican members to pass the measure. Several Democrats voting in favor seemed to have read our community letters (click here and here) in support of the measure—Rep. Robert Andrews (D-NJ) quoted substantial sections in his remarks. Our arguments also have been taken up by the Republican majority, which excerpted and linked to one of the letters in its news release announcing the vote.

Given that our advocacy is having an effect and is being heard by members on both sides of the aisle, I encourage you to continue the outreach to your representatives as this legislation moves to the House floor. We do not yet have a timeline for full House consideration, but we need to keep up the momentum in order to see the bill move forward successfully. On a related note, we received a copy this week of an April 26 letter from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The letter, which was addressed to Secretary Duncan, states the rules "may make higher education more expensive and erect other hurdles to graduation for many of the same students the Administration and the philanthropic community aim to serve." The fact that criticism is coming from a wide range of representatives of the higher education community hopefully will give the legislation a substantial boost in the House and perhaps also in the Senate.

Please let us know if you need any further information about this legislation or the regulations under examination or would like to discuss how best to approach your House members.

I would like to give my great thanks and appreciation to Joseph E. Aoun, president of Northeastern University (MA), for leading a meeting this week at the Department of Education on the Perkins Loan Program, which is slated for elimination in 2014.

President Aoun and a group of higher education leaders sat down with Department of Education Under Secretary Martha Kanter at Tuesday's open forum, which built on a letter sent by a coalition of college presidents to Education Secretary Arne Duncan in February asking to work with the department to find a way to preserve the program.

ACE Senior Vice President Terry Hartle summed up the three possibilities for the future of Perkins Loans for meeting participants: 1) the program could survive in its current form; 2) Congress could adopt the overhaul of the program designed by the Obama administration, which would bring the program to more campuses, change its terms and save money; or 3) the program could be eliminated. He said in reality, option two was the only one that made sense for colleges, universities and students.

Nine college and university presidents attended the session, and all spoke of the important role Perkins Loans play in filling the gap between college costs and other financial aid. Department officials were receptive, noting that federal financial aid is a critical part of President Obama's goal to increase the number of high school students going to college from the current 39 percent to 60 percent by 2020. Under Secretary Kanter urged us all to show Congress and the public evidence of how Perkins Loans benefit students, not just anecdotes of students who have been helped.

ACE is currently conducting the 2012 edition of our national survey on U.S. college and university presidents, the seventh over the past 25 years. To this end, I would like to encourage you to fill out the survey you were sent last month, the results of which will be disseminated through the report, The American College President.

This study is designed to reveal the characteristics and changing roles of presidents and presidencies and bring enduring trends to the surface. All college and university presidents were sent an email with a link to the survey on Tuesday, May 31. If you have not received this email and want to join your colleagues in participating in this study, please contact Young Kim or Sarena Robertson at policy@acenet.edu or (202) 939-9569. Those participating will receive a complimentary copy of the 2012 edition of The American College President.

As your involvement in this important study is essential to its success, please note all responses to the survey will remain completely confidential.

ACE is grateful to the TIAA-CREF Institute for its generous support of this project.

We learned this week consideration of the patent reform bill currently in the House has been postponed due to disagreements over several provisions, including one to allow the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to keep all of the fees it collects.

ACE and the patent reform coalition with which we have been working sent a letter on Wednesday to House members urging their support for the America Invents Act (H.R. 1249). We also sent a letter to House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) last week requesting that the fee retention provision be retained. If you need a refresher on this very complex issue, we have released another memo outlining what the bill does and its importance to the research and higher education communities.

We urge you to take advantage of the delay to contact your representative to request he or she support the America Invents Act when it comes up for a vote.

Molly Corbett Broad
President of ACE