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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 20-24, 2011

Vol. 12, No. 23

  • House Passes Patent Reform Bill
  • Funding for Libyan Students Secured
  • Reminder on ED Regulations
  • IN BRIEF: Appeals Court Won't Rehear UT Admissions Case; NLRB Office Issues Decision on Unionization of NYU Teaching Assistants; American College President Survey Deadline Extended

In an otherwise slow week for higher education in Washington, the House of Representatives voted Thursday 304-117 to pass the America Invents Act (H.R. 1249), clearing the way for the first overhaul of the U.S. patent system since 1952.

We strongly backed this bill along with our colleagues in the Higher Education Patent Reform Coalition and applaud its passage. H.R. 1249 will move the U.S. patent system from a first-to-invent to a first-inventor-to-file system, which most other countries currently use. This move should simplify the patent application process and enable U.S. inventors to compete more effectively in the global economy.

The bill includes a number of other provisions that will improve patent quality and reduce litigation costs, including a post-grant opposition proceeding as an alternative to litigation for challenging patent validity. One of the most important provisions of H.R. 1249 is adequate funding of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), which has a huge backlog of applications. This provision allows USPTO to keep all of the fees it collects.

The White House issued a Statement of Administration Policy supporting the bill Tuesday. Our coalition sent a last letter of support for House passage on Wednesday and issued this press release yesterday.

The next step is reconciling the House version with that passed overwhelmingly by the Senate (S.23) in March.

I would like to thank John Vaughn, executive vice president of the Association of American Universities, for his hard work in building the higher education coalition that supported the measure in both the House and the Senate.

We received very good news this week from the Canadian Bureau for International Education (CBIE): Renewed funding for the Libyan-North American Scholarship Program has been secured.

CBIE, which has administered the Libyan-North American Scholarship Program since 2010, said the new funding will cover monthly living allowances, health insurance and tuition through May 2012, for the benefit of 2,500 Libyan scholars and their dependents studying at several hundred educational institutions across the United States and Canada. These students and families had been left with no financial support for nearly four months, since the United Nations Security Council froze Libyan assets on Feb. 28.

My great thanks to Karen McBride, president and CEO of CBIE, and her organization for spearheading this effort. For more information, see CBIE's news release.

July 1 is the effective date for Department of Education regulations relating to state authorization and credit hour.

As a reminder, the department has indicated that as long as institutions are making a good faith effort to come into compliance with the distance education provisions of the state authorization regulation, it will take a limited enforcement stance over the next three years. In addition, gainful employment (GE) programs are required to make certain disclosures to students as of July 1 of this year.

The portion of the GE regulation recently issued, which pertains to Title IV eligibility, will not go into effect until next year. As we have continued to study those regulations, we have revised the Q&A document we shared with you three weeks ago. You may also be interested in our brief summary of the regulation.

IN BRIEF

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals voted 9-7 to reject an appeal by two University of Texas (UT) applicants who want the judges to rehear their 2008 challenge to whether UT could consider race and ethnicity in its admissions standards. A three-judge circuit court panel last January upheld a 2009 lower-court ruling in the case Fisher v. University of Texas that UT did not infringe on the civil rights of the two white applicants, who were refused admission to the freshman class. ACE filed an amicus brief with the Circuit Court in support of UT in the case.

In another recent legal decision you might find of interest, the New York office of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) last week dismissed a request by New York University (NYU) graduate student assistants to unionize. However, the decision may lay the groundwork to reverse a 2004 ruling from the NLRB in Washington that graduate assistants at Brown University (RI) could not unionize because their primary role was that of students, not employees. The NYU decision was announced by the United Auto Workers, the union the students are seeking to join. For more details, see The Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed.

Lastly this week, I wanted to let you know that the deadline for the 2012 edition of our online survey on U.S. college and university presidents has been extended to July 11. The information gathered through this survey provides us with data for The American College President. 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 would like to participate, please email policy@acenet.edu or call (202) 939-9381.

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

Molly Corbett Broad
President of ACE