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President to President
Molly Corbett Broad's weekly email newsletter to higher education leaders.

House Passes Continuing Resolution

Sept. 15-19, 2014 ~ Vol. 15, No. 32

  • House Passes Continuing Resolution; Congress Wraps Up Work
  • Higher Education Groups Express Concerns About TEACH Act
  • Higher Education, Library Groups Submit Net Neutrality Comments to the FCC
  • IN BRIEF: ACE Releases Report on HBCUs and Internationalization; Committee on Coherence at Scale for Higher Education

As Congress prepares to leave Washington until after the midterm elections in November, the House passed a continuing resolution (CR) Wednesday to fund the government at current levels from Sept. 30—when FY 2014 ends—through Dec. 11. 

The CR passed 273-156, and was paired with a resolution to train and equip Syrian rebels. As of this writing, the Senate plans to vote on the CR late Thursday, and it is likely to pass. 

As I noted last week, the Labor, Health and Human Services (HHS), and Education measure in both chambers is among the least advanced of the 13 spending bills that must be passed. The Senate has approved it in subcommittee, and the House has only held preliminary hearings. House Democrats Monday did release their version of an FY 2015 Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill​, setting out their priorities for the measure, including added funding for the National Institutes of Health and for several student aid programs. However, given their status as the minority party, passage of the bill is highly unlikely and should be understood as a messaging effort. 

Along with five other higher education associations, this week we released a legal analysis ​of the TEACH (Technology, Equality and Accessibility in College and Higher Education) Act, a version of which was included in the Higher Education Act (HEA) reauthorization discussion draft issued by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) in June. 

ACE and 20 other higher education organizations sent comments ​on the HEA discussion draft​ last month to HELP Committee Chair Tom Harkin (D-IA), a brief section of which discussed our concerns with the TEACH Act. While we strongly support the goal of the bill—which is to help institutions serve students with disabilities—we believe as currently written it would result in a significant chilling effect in the development and use of new technology. (Click here​ to read a full explanation of the bill’s likely impact.) 

Unfortunately, some disability community advocates have misconstrued our concerns about the TEACH Act, falsely depicting it as opposition to providing accessible learning technologies. We hope our analysis will help clarify how we came to our position on the bill. Please forward it to your government relations staff and others on your campus who might need more information.

Both the House and Senate are still in the early stages of crafting HEA legislation, so we will be working with lawmakers and with the disability community in the coming months on our common goal of making education accessible to all. 

ACE and a coalition of 10 higher education and library groups submitted comments this week​ to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in response to the agency’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on net neutrality. 

They follow comments we submitted July 18​ and further clarify some of the concepts we believe will help the commission develop a net neutrality regime that is both principled and flexible. Both submissions discuss how the FCC’s proposed rules fall short of what is necessary to ensure that libraries, institutions of higher education and the public at large will have access to an open Internet. (The coalition also issued a set of net neutrality principle​s this summer espousing similar views.) 

The FCC issued the call for public comments following a recent federal appeals court decision vacating network neutrality rules and creating an opportunity for Internet providers to potentially relegate online content and services of colleges, universities and libraries to the “slow lane.” 

Final rules are expected by the end of the year, although that timetable could slip. 

IN BRIEF

ACE’s Inclusive Excellence Group and Center for Internationalization and Global Engagement released a new report this week, Creating Global Citizens: Challenges and Opportunities for Internationalization at HBCUs​. The paper is the culmination of a three-year research project that was funded in part by the U.S. Department of Education, where seven HBCUs worked with ACE to develop campus-wide internationalization strategies. Their experiences and reflections make up the bulk of the report. 

Finally this week, I wanted to bring to your attention an initiative aimed at fostering strategic thinking about how the higher education community can manage the transition from analog to digital technology in a way that stresses access, collaboration and inclusion. Some of us already have been involved with the Committee on Coherence at Scale for Higher Education created by the Council on Library and Information Services and Vanderbilt University (TN). The committee has now released this video ​introducing the project to the broader academic community, which I encourage you to share with senior campus leaders. 

We will bring you news as warranted, but regular editions of President to President will resume when Congress reconvenes after the elections. 

Molly Corbett Broad
President of ACE