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

Senate, House Hold HEA Reauthorization Hearings; USAID Commits to Funding HED Partnerships

Sept. 16-20, 2013 ~ Vol. 14, No. 29

  • Senate, House Hold HEA Reauthorization Hearings
  • USAID Commits to Funding HED Partnerships
  • Showdown Over Federal Budget Nears
  • Higher Education Leaders Urge Continued Funding for NEH 
  • IN BRIEF: ED to Convene Rulemaking Panel on Clery Act Changes

It was another busy week in Washington, with Higher Education Act (HEA) reauthorization ramping up in the House and Senate; some good news about the funding for one of our signature programs, Higher Education for Development; and continued budget fights expected for the remainder of 2013.

The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) held the first of a series of hearings yesterday in preparation for reauthorizing the HEA, the primary law governing federal higher education programs, which expires in December.

This first hearing looked at what is called “the triad,” the combination of the federal government, accreditors and states that oversees American higher education, and its role in enforcing the HEA. ACE Senior Vice President Terry Hartle discussed the Education Department’s (ED) role in this arrangement, explaining that ED has increasingly turned to accreditors over the past 20 years for help. Left unchecked, he explained, this trend threatens to make accreditors a regulatory enforcement arm of the department. The conversation veered quite a bit to President Obama’s college cost proposals—those of you following that issue might be interested in hearing the webcast.

Also testifying at the hearing were Paul E. Lingenfelter, former president of the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association; Susan D. Phillips, provost and vice president for academic affairs at the University at Albany, SUNY; and Marshall A. Hill, executive director of the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements.

This was the first in a series of 12 hearings the committee has planned for the coming months. Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Ranking Member Lamar Alexander (R-TN) released a letter this week outlining the hearing process and the way in which they will request recommendations from students, parents, the higher education community and other stakeholders.

Meanwhile in the House, the Education and the Workforce Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training continued laying its groundwork for HEA reauthorization this week, with a hearing on how to improve college access and affordability. Witnesses highlighted that institutions are forming innovative partnerships with private sector entities to help reduce costs, strengthen degree programs and enrich coursework to better meet the needs of a changing student body.

Congress last reauthorized the HEA in 2008 with passage of the Higher Education Opportunity Act—five years late and after an unprecedented 14 extensions of the statutory deadline. These House and Senate hearings are just the opening shots in what promises to be another extended process. To read our recommendations for what Congress should focus on in reauthorization, click here.

You may have read this week that the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) was considering cutting the operating budget for Higher Education for Development (HED) by 80 percent at the start of the new fiscal year Oct. 1. As many of you know, HED has for many years supported partnerships between U.S. colleges or universities and higher education institutions in developing countries. Funding for the partnerships, which involve nearly 100 institutions in some 25 countries, comes from USAID through a cooperative agreement with ACE.

I am pleased to inform you that yesterday, the HED board met with representatives from USAID during which agency staff made it clear that they are committed to funding the partnerships through 2015. Some details remain to be worked out, but this is a wonderful development for a program that has done phenomenal work on some of the most pressing issues facing our global community.

The House is set to vote as early as today on a plan to fund the government for the rest of the year, which includes yet another attempt to defund the Affordable Care Act (ACA)—ensuring the plan’s defeat in the Senate. 

Congress has approved no appropriations bills for FY 2014, and thus the government's spending authority is set to run out Sept. 30. The House’s stopgap spending measure would finance the government through Dec. 15 at the current spending levels, which reflect the automatic spending cuts that took effect in March, known as sequestration. House leaders were compelled by their conservative wing to strip ACA funding to gain passage.

House Republicans also attached another proposal sure to be stripped in the Democratic-controlled Senate, the Full Faith and Credit Act (H.R. 807), which stipulates that once the federal debt ceiling is reached, Treasury is authorized only to pay interest and principal on existing debt. That means spending for virtually all other federal programs, from Pell Grants to the National Institutes of Health, would grind to a halt.

With the intractable stalemate over Obamacare and the debt ceiling, there seem to be few good options to stop a government shutdown in less than two weeks.

I joined a number of my fellow higher education association leaders in sending a letter to the House today to express our concern over the drastic funding cuts proposed for the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). 

NEH funding is included in the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies spending bill, which the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees spending by those agencies marked up July 23. The bill includes $75 million for NEH, which is a reduction of $71 million (49 percent) compared to the FY 2013 enacted level.

On July 31, the full House Appropriations Committee debated the bill. During the markup, Reps. Nita Lowey (D-NY) and David Price (D-NC) offered an amendment that would fund NEH (and the National Endowment for the Arts) at the administration’s requested level of $154.4 million. While the amendment was defeated on a party-line vote, the committee adjourned for the August recess without taking action on the overall bill. Although the current situation in the House means the bill’s passage is unlikely, please join us in expressing to your members of Congress the importance of the NEH to your campus, students and the nation as a whole.

IN BRIEF

The Education Department announced yesterday it will convene a negotiated rule-making committee to propose regulations for carrying out new campus crime reporting requirements included in this year’s reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). President Obama signed VAWA into law in March, and it incorporated the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act, which requires colleges and universities to report incidents such as dating violence, domestic violence and stalking.

Molly Corbett Broad
President of ACE