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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, March 28-April 1, 2011

Vol. 12, No. 13

  • Congress Continues Work on FY 2011 Budget; Prospects of Government Shutdown Unclear
  • ED’s Dear Colleague Letters Attempt to Clarify New Regulations
  • House Patent Reform Bill Introduced
  • Virginia Tech Receives Record Fine From ED
  • IN BRIEF: VA Issues Documents on Changes to Post-9/11 GI Bill; AAU Names New President; The Chronicle Surveys Presidents and the Public; Changes Coming to ACE's Commission Structure; U.S./Indonesia Partnership; ACE Unveils New Logo

Congress returned from its spring district work break this week and picked up where it left off in mid-March: trying to complete the budget for the remaining six months of FY 2011.

Before the break, lawmakers passed yet another continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government running, this time through Friday, April 8—the sixth such short-term funding measure. Conflicting reports have us on the brink of a government shutdown or alternatively making solid progress on a deal for a full-year funding bill to avert a shutdown.

It was widely reported that following a trip to the Hill Wednesday night by Vice President Joe Biden, the Senate and House Appropriations panels are working toward a target of $33 billion in spending cuts. The $33 billion proposal approximates the initial amount produced by the House Appropriations Committee at the start of this process, an amount rejected as "too modest" by the House majority and replaced by $61 billion in cuts in the bill approved by the House (H.R. 1) last month. The Senate is expected to agree to a measure that cuts spending in the range of $33 billion, but will balk at attempts to increase that amount.

Almost as soon as these reports began to surface, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) began to distance himself from the news. Conservatives have pressed Republican leadership to hold out for the $61 billion contained in H.R. 1, which, among other provisions, would have reduced the maximum Pell Grant by $845 and slashed National Institutes of Health funding by $1.6 billion for FY 2012. It would also defund the new health care law, Planned Parenthood and NPR, and these so-called riders are likely to be the biggest obstacle to a final deal for both sides.

With a week remaining on the current CR, the possible scenarios range from a full-year deal to a full government shutdown. We'll continue to keep you posted.

You likely received two "Dear Colleague" letters last week from the Department of Education, containing guidance on its new program integrity rules.

The letters were intended to help clarify concerns regarding the rules set to take effect on July 1, 2011, which include incentive compensation for student recruiting; requirements that distance education offerings comply with state licensing regulations; bans on misrepresenting information about colleges in marketing and admissions practices; and the definition of a credit hour.

We appreciate the department's efforts to help explain these very complex regulations, and the guidance does address some of the issues we have been discussing since the rules were finalized. However, in terms of our fundamental concerns, there have been no real changes.

You can find the guidance letters at the following links:

Guidance on Implementation of Program Integrity Regulations

Guidance to Institutions and Accrediting Agencies Regarding a Credit Hour as Defined in the Final Regulations Published on October 29, 2010

A new bill introduced in the House of Representatives that would overhaul the nation's patent system was the subject of a Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday.

The House version of the America Invents Act (H.R. 1249), introduced before the hearing by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), is very similar to the bill (S. 23) approved by the Senate last month. The measure would move the U.S. patent system from a first-to-invent to a first-to-file system, which most other countries currently use. It also would authorize the United States Patent and Trademark Office, which is dealing with an overwhelming backlog of patent applications, to set its own fees.

I would like to thank John Vaughn, executive vice president of the Association of American Universities, for representing the higher education community at the hearing. In his testimony, John commended congressional efforts to enact "balanced, comprehensive patent reform," saying that the America Invents Act contains a number of "strong provisions that effectively address weaknesses in the current U.S. patent system and build a robust framework for 21st century U.S. economic competitiveness." He also outlined the concerns universities have with the legislation, including a provision that would expand the rights of companies to claim "prior-user rights" as a defense against infringement lawsuits. (See our association statement on prior user rights here.)

It is unclear at this point when the committee will vote on the bill.

The Department of Education this week announced it would fine Virginia Tech $55,000 for an alleged failure to provide a "timely" warning to the campus community during the 2007 shooting that killed more than 30 people.

It took the department four years to conduct its investigation and at no point in the long process did the department to speak to anyone from Virginia Tech about the incident. The department also criticized the university because the campus warning was sent by the Office of University Relations and not the campus police chief.

I am deeply disappointed by both the report and the record fine imposed on Virginia Tech. Institutions that violate federal law should be held accountable, but only after a thorough, fair and reasonable investigation.

IN BRIEF

I would like to congratulate Hunter R. Rawlings III, former president of Cornell University (NY) and the University of Iowa, on his appointment as president of the Association of American Universities (AAU). Dr. Rawlings will take the reins of AAU on June 1 for a five-year term. He succeeds Robert Berdahl, who has provided remarkable leadership to AAU in his five years as president.

The Department of Veterans Affairs is currently working on comprehensive guidance on the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvements Act of 2010, which should be released later this year. In the interim, it has released a brief overview of the changes the law makes to the Post-9/11 GI Bill, as well as an FAQ on the changes to the Yellow Ribbon Program.

The Chronicle of Higher Education has partnered with the Pew Research Center on companion surveys of the general public and college presidents about higher education. The survey of presidents across all sectors is aimed at gaining a deeper understanding of their views about the higher education system. The results will be published by Pew and The Chronicle in May. Some of you have likely received an email and standard letter requesting you to respond to this survey. If you have not and would like to participate, contact pewsurvey@chronicle.com or Jennifer Su at Jennifer.Su@psra.com.

In the Jan. 21 issue of President to President, I asked for nominations to ACE's five advisory commissions. When the ACE Board met in February, the members asked for a review of our current commission structure, work we will undertake in the coming months. The results will be presented to the Board for discussion at its next meeting in June. Therefore, we will hold off on making any further appointments to the commissions until the review is complete. I look forward to updating you on this work in the near future.

Under the leadership of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, several higher education organizations and others have organized an effort to work with higher education in Indonesia. If you are interested in this effort, click here.

Lastly this week, you may have noticed the new ACE logo displayed within this email. Our previous logo served us well, but for a variety of reasons, we felt it was time for a new approach. In many ways, it is a new and exciting day at ACE and we wanted a logo that represents the organization well, but also speaks to how we're growing and becoming more innovative in everything we do. Over the past several months, a team within ACE considered several new logo options. You will see the new logo on our website and in all ACE publications and materials moving forward.

Molly Corbett Broad
President of ACE