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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, September 12-16, 2011

Vol. 12, No. 33

  • ​President Sends Major Jobs Bill to Congress
  • FY 2012 Update: House Appropriations Committee Introduces Continuing Resolution; Senate Continues Work on Spending Bills
  • President Signs Patent Bill, Highlights New University Economic Development Efforts
  • IN BRIEF: ACE Releases Campus Guidelines on Political Campaign Activities; ACE Webinar Sept. 22 on Fostering Innovation and Productivity; ED Awards Teacher Training Grants

In an effort to respond to the continuing weak economy, President Obama on Monday submitted to Congress his American Jobs Act of 2011, which contains a number of provisions that, if enacted, would impact the higher education community.

At the center of the package is a proposal to expand and extend the temporary reduction in the employee share of the Social Security payroll tax enacted in 2010 and also cut in half the employer's share of the tax for 2012 for the first $5 million in payrolls. In addition, companies—including both public and private colleges and universities—hiring new workers or increasing the wages of existing workers would get an additional tax break.

The package includes substantial funding for postsecondary institutions, particularly community colleges. The largest pool of funding in the bill is $5 billion to "modernize, upgrade or repair" existing facilities on community college campuses. As in previous infrastructure bills, these funds would be awarded as grants to the states by the secretary of education. The bill also includes $1.5 billion in funding for training programs organized by local work force investment boards. The bill specifies community colleges and other postsecondary institutions as possible partners in these programs.

The tax cuts and infrastructure investments in the American Jobs Act would be paid for with several revenue provisions, including a 28 percent cap on itemized deductions for higher income taxpayers. Previously proposed by the administration in its last three budgets, this itemized deduction cap would lower the value of the deduction for charitable contributions and limit the amount of interest from tax-exempt bonds that high-income taxpayers can exclude from their taxable income. The itemized deduction cap proposal, which would raise approximately $400 billion over 10 years, has received a lukewarm reception on Capitol Hill from both parties. We will vigorously oppose this part of the proposal.

We will certainly follow the progress of this bill, particularly the community college funding and the itemized deduction cap proposal, and I will let you know about any significant developments as the process unfolds.

House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) on Wednesday introduced a continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government running after Sept. 30, the end of FY 2011.

The CR will keep government operations and services funded through Nov. 18, allowing time for Congress to complete the 12 FY 2012 appropriations bills. The House has approved six of those bills, but the Senate has not considered any of the measures passed by the House. Under the terms of the draft CR, funding for the next two months will continue at a rate of $1.043 trillion, the total amount to which Congress and the White House agreed in the recent debt ceiling legislation. This is a 1.4 percent cut from FY 2011 levels. The CR also includes a total of $3.65 billion for disaster relief.

FY 2012 Spending Bill Update: The Senate Appropriations Committee yesterday approved the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Subcommittee's FY 2012 funding bill, which includes a 2.4 percent cut for the National Science Foundation (NSF) and a 2.8 percent cut for NASA. The subcommittee bill funds NSF at $6.7 billion, which is $162 million below the FY 2011 level. NASA would receive $17.9 billion, which is $509 million below the FY 2011 level.

The Senate Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies has rescheduled its markup of the FY 2012 funding bill to Sept. 20. The House markup of its version of the FY 2012 Labor-HHS bill that was postponed last week has yet to be rescheduled.

President Obama today signed into law the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (H.R. 1249), the long-awaited bill that overhauls the nation's patent system, at an event at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, VA.

In conjunction with the bill signing, the president and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced the creation of a new national center to advance technologies to transform teaching and learning. Digital Promise will receive startup funds from the Education Department, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and will be overseen by a board made up of education and technology leaders appointed by Sec. Duncan based on recommendations from the House and Senate. I know many of you will be involved in this effort—I've seen several news releases this morning issued by universities supporting the plan—and I look forward to watching the initiative progress in the coming months.

As for the new patent law, as I noted last week, we are strongly in support of the measure and worked consistently for its passage. The America Invents Act 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 should simplify the patent application process and enable U.S. inventors to compete more effectively in the global economy. The measure also 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. (See our full statement on the bill here.)


With the run-up to the 2012 presidential contest in full swing, ACE has released Political Campaign-Related Activities of and at Colleges and Universities. This memo is designed to educate campus staff on appropriate ways to become involved in elections, whether hosting an event or volunteering for a campaign. Divided into institutional and individual political activities, it gives you and your faculty, staff and students concrete examples of what is and is not acceptable practice.

ACE will host a webinar Sept. 22 from 2:30-4:00 p.m. EDT 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. Our guests will briefly talk about the book and its implications for the future of higher education in the United States before discussing these issues with participants. Registered attendees can submit questions for the speakers in advance as well as during the event, which is part of the ACE Webinar Series.

Finally this week, my congratulations to the 42 institutions that received Department of Education National Professional Development Program grants this week. The awards, which totaled $14.8 million, will support professional development activities designed to improve classroom instruction for English Learners (ELs). The grants were made to colleges and universities in collaboration with state and local school districts and were awarded to promising programs that will help personnel working with ELs to meet high professional standards, including certification and licensure standards.

Molly Corbett Broad
President of ACE