- Congress Returns; Syria, Fiscal Issues Dominate Agenda
- Higher Ed Groups Ask Supreme Court to Strike Down Michigan Ban on Considering Race in College Admissions
- Negotiators Begin Work on New Gainful Employment Rules
- House Subcommittee Holds Hearing on Veterans and Higher Education
- IN BRIEF: Register Now for ACE’s 96th Annual Meeting; White House Calls on Health Insurance Set for Today and Monday; Arnold Mitchem Retiring from COE; Colorado State Video on Tuition
Congress returned to Capitol Hill this week to a full agenda,
dominated by the question of Syria and the pending fights over the FY
2014 budget and debt ceiling. While several higher education bills are
theoretically on tap, chances are slim they’ll be taken up before the
end of the year.
Some key dates are approaching: As Congress has approved no
appropriations bills for FY 2014, the government's spending authority is
set to run out Sept. 30. House Appropriations Committee Chair Hal
Rogers (R-KY) on Tuesday introduced
his panel’s FY 2014 continuing resolution (CR), a stopgap bill to fund
the government from Oct. 1 through Dec. 15. However, because Rogers’
plan did not defund the Affordable Care Act,
it was not acceptable to conservative House Republicans and the vote
scheduled for this week was cancelled. It is not clear what happens
Even if a continuing resolution is adopted, the Treasury loses its
borrowing authority in mid-October when the debt ceiling is reached.
Congressional Republicans will likely demand some spending concessions
from the administration as a price for approving an increase in the debt
ceiling. The administration has said it will not accept any such
conditions. To add further urgency to the calendar, the House is
scheduled to recess during the last week of September, leaving only six
legislative days before the end of the fiscal year.
Among the higher education issues waiting in the wings:
Immigration Reform: The Senate approved a comprehensive immigration reform bill
in June, and is now waiting for the House to act. The bill has several
provisions that are important to students and campuses, including a
version of the long-awaited DREAM Act, which provides a path to
citizenship for young people brought illegally to the United States as
children. However, the House is unlikely to take any action this fall,
which may well kill the bill’s chances until 2015.
Higher Education Act (HEA) Reauthorization: Last reauthorized in 2008,
the HEA expires at the end of 2013. The next bill is likely once again
to evolve slowly over months, or conceivably over years. (See recommendations for the reauthorization we submitted to the House Education and the Workforce Committee last month.)
Obama Administration’s Higher Education Proposals: As you know, President Obama last month introduced a wide-ranging initiative on college affordability. As I wrote to you last week,
much of the package, including the proposal to tie student aid funding
to the ratings system, cannot be done without new congressional action.
Given the legislative stalemate that prevails on Capitol Hill and the
total absence of information about how such a plan would work, it will
be difficult for the Education Department to get that authority in the
ACE and 48 other associations submitted an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court Aug. 31 in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, urging justices to strike down the state of Michigan’s ban on the consideration of race and ethnicity in admissions decisions.
The case follows closely on the heels of Fisher v. the University of Texas at Austin (UT), which the Supreme Court decided in June. The justices agreed with the higher education community in Fisher
that diversity on college campuses offers unique educational benefits
to students and is a compelling government interest, and ordered lower
courts to reexamine the challenge to UT’s admissions process.
In the Schuette
case, a coalition of groups has challenged the Michigan ban, which
voters approved in 2006 as an amendment to the state constitution. The
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit struck down the ban last
year, ruling that it violates the 14th Amendment’s equal protection
clause, which mandates that states must apply their laws equally to all
individuals and groups of people. We believe the appeals court correctly
decided that the ban unconstitutionally distorts the political process
to the disadvantage of racial and ethnic minorities, and therefore the
Supreme Court should affirm the decision.
Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action is scheduled for oral arguments Oct. 15.
The Education Department (ED) began its new round of negotiated rulemaking on gainful employment regulations this week.
As you might remember, a federal judge previously blocked parts
of the gainful employment rule proposed in 2011, which would have pulled
federal student aid from career education programs whose graduates had
high debt-to-income ratios or low loan repayment rates. ED's appeal of
the ruling was denied in March and the department declined to pursue
further appeals, deciding instead to craft a new set of rules in this
ED last week introduced draft language
for negotiators to consider. The draft regulations would affect more
programs but are also somewhat simplified, with fewer rules. This week’s
session concluded with the formation of six working groups that will
submit counterproposals to the department by the end of the month.
The meetings are scheduled to continue next month. If
negotiators cannot reach a consensus on the rules, ED can still propose
its own final version.
For more details on the discussions, see Inside Higher Ed and The Chronicle of Higher Education.
The House Education and the Workforce Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training
held a hearing Wednesday to examine the steps higher education
institutions are taking to better support service members and veterans
who are working to earn a postsecondary degree or obtain job training
During her opening remarks, Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC)
highlighted the University of North Carolina’s (UNC) work to build a
network of veteran services and programs known as the UNC Partnership
for National Security, which was explained in detail by Kimrey Rhinehardt, UNC’s vice president for federal and military affairs. Dr. Russell Kitchner,
American Public University System’s vice president for regulatory and
governmental relations, described efforts to expand technology and
implement “a more meaningful formula for calculating its military and
veteran student graduation rate,” while Saint Leo University (FL)
President Arthur Kirk discussed the importance of providing veterans and service members with adequate emotional and social assistance.
To read witness testimony or watch an archived webcast of the hearing, see the committee’s website.
Please make plans now to join us in San Diego next March 8-11 for ACE’s 96th Annual Meeting: Seizing Opportunity.
Confirmed speakers so far include Mary Sue Coleman, president of the
University of Michigan, who will deliver the Robert H. Atwell lecture at
the opening plenary session Sunday, March 9; and Paula Kerger,
president and CEO of PBS, who will give the keynote address at the ACE
Women’s Leadership Dinner Saturday, March 8. For more information and to
register, click here.
The White House and the Department of Health and
Human Services will offer two one-hour conference calls this afternoon
and Monday to give campus administrators a better understanding of the
new health insurance marketplace and how they can help inform students,
staff and community members. These calls are designed to
educate campuses about the choices and benefits, provide examples of
ways campuses can educate and engage others, and offer callers the
opportunity to ask questions. To participate in one of these calls,
please RSVP using the following links: Friday, Sept. 13 at 1:00 p.m. EDT and Monday, Sept. 16 at 3:00 p.m. EDT.
Please join me in congratulating Dr. Arnold L. Mitchem, longtime president of the Council for Opportunity in Education,
who will soon be retiring after many years of service and advocacy to
advance the cause of equal opportunity in higher education. Dr.
Mitchem’s work has helped countless low-income, first-generation
students, as well as individuals with disabilities, adult learners,
veterans and others, gain access to postsecondary education.
Lastly this week, I want to call to your attention a
video produced by Colorado State University that creatively answers the
question “Where Do My Tuition Dollars Go?” You can watch the video on YouTube.
Molly Corbett Broad
President of ACE