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ACE president’s weekly email newsletter to higher education leaders

CURRENT EDITION March 11-15, 2019 ~ Vol. 20, No. 9

It was great to see so many of you this week in Philadelphia at ACE2019​, ACE’s 101st Annual Meeting, for three days of sessions, wonderful talks, and spending time with friends and colleagues. The energy and enthusiasm for the work we all do was clear, as beginning Sunday we heard from Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, and Harvard University President Lawrence Bacow on developments in global affairs that are likely to impact higher education, and Cappy Hill, president emerita of Vassar College, who delivered the 2019 Robert H. Atwell Plenary address on expanding higher education access. On Monday, Beverly Daniel Tatum, president emerita of Spelman College, and author Robin DiAngelo led a lively and provocative conversation about race, and Nick Anderson of The Washington Post interviewed author Tara Westover about her best-selling memoir, Educated.

Tuesday’s closing plenary featured a conversation moderated by my old friend and boss John B. King Jr., president and CEO of The Education Trust and former secretary of education, on how to get students across the completion finish line. The students on the panel, including ACE’s 2018 Students of the Year Sophia Norcott and Brendyn Melugin, were powerful voices testifying both to the transformative power of education and their own ability to apply their varied life experiences and perspectives as they pursued postsecondary education.

At the Monday morning breakfast plenary, ACE Senior Vice President Philip Rogers debuted our new Learning and Engagement Division, which is developing affordable, scalable, professional learning opportunities for higher education leaders through a series of regional summits and an online platform called ACE Engage. Read this blog post for details about the new initiative, and this series of posts to discover what we all learned at the meeting.

Of course as everyone was packing up to leave on Tuesday, news first broke of the college admissions scandal that has dominated headlines in recent days. This is an appalling and extremely distressing violation of the essential premise of a fair and transparent college admissions process that all of our institutions must demonstrate they are committed to following. As I said in a statement​ Saturday, this alleged behavior is antithetical to the core values of our institutions, defrauds students and families, and has absolutely no place in American higher education. There will be more to come on this in the weeks and months ahead, and we will be monitoring the situation carefully and investigating proactive steps we can take to work with our institutions on addressing these issues.​

  •  Democrats Renew Effort to Protect Dreamers

    ​House Democrats on Tuesday unveiled the latest version of the Dream Act, a bill to give permanent legal protections and a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants brought to this country illegally as children. Introduced by Reps. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Nydia Velázquez (D-NY), and Yvette Clarke (D-NY), the Dream and Promise Act of 2019 (H.R. 6) combines protections for Dreamers with a proposal to allow some immigrants with temporary humanitarian protections to apply for permanent legal status.

    ACE has championed the Dream Act since the first version was introduced in 2001, and we are once again cautiously hopeful that Congress will do the right thing and pass this important piece of legislation. As I said in a statement Tuesday, it would lift the cloud of fear and uncertainty hanging over the hundreds of thousands of bright and talented Dreamers and allow them to earn lawful permanent residence in the United States and a pathway to citizenship in the only country they have ever known.

    Almost all previous versions of the Dream Act have enjoyed bipartisan support, but it is not clear whether any Republicans will co-sponsor this latest measure. Currently there are 202 sponsors for the Dream and Promise Act, all Democrats. The bill should pass the House, but its prospects are uncertain in the Senate.

    For more information on the issue, see our Protect Dreamers Higher Education Coalition​ webpage.

  •  White House Proposes Significant Cuts to Education Programs for FY 2020

    ​On Monday, President Trump delivered his first budget request under a divided government. The foundational basis for his budget is a 5 percent cut across federal agencies except for the Department of Defense for FY 2020, which begins Oct. 1. Needless to say, we are strongly against this plan, which would have a devastating impact on student aid, research, and other higher education programs. Among the specific provisions targeting higher education, the president’s request would reduce overall Pell Grant funding by $2 billion, cut nearly $5 billion in funding for the National Institutes of Health, and slash more than $207 billion over 10 years from student loan programs through changes such as the elimination of Public Service Loan Forgiveness and subsidized loans for low-income students.

    Just a quick reminder that the president's budget request is not an actual accounting of how Congress eventually will fund the government. Instead, it’s best to think of the annual proposal as a statement of political priorities. President Trump proposed deep spending cuts on both domestic programs and entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security in his two previous budget requests, and each time Congress ignored them. Lawmakers actually provided increases to student financial aid and a substantial increase for research funding in the last two years. As I said in a statement Monday, we share the concerns that lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have expressed about this budget proposal and look forward to working with Congress to continue the long-standing, bipartisan support for federal student aid and research funding as the FY 2020 bills move forward.

  •  Hearing Roundup: House and Senate on Higher Education Act; Oversight of For-profits, Student Loans

    ​Both the House and Senate held hearings this week on reauthorizing the Higher Education Act (HEA), while two other hearings looked at oversight of for-profit colleges and student loans. A brief overview:

    The Cost of College: Student Centered Reforms to Bring Higher Education Within Reach (House Committee on Education and Labor): Under new leadership from Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), the committee is restarting deliberations on the HEA, last reauthorized in 2008. The committee released a report last week to formally launch the process. The conclusion: Though higher education has some issues, a college degree still has significant value. At the first in a series of five upcoming hearings, Tuesday’s panel discussed college affordability proposals.

    Reauthorizing the Higher Education Act: Simplifying the FAFSA and Reducing the Burden of Verification (Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions): Still under Republican control, the Senate picked up with its HEA debates where it left off in the 115th Congress—with Committee Chair Lamar Alexander’s (R-TN) long-standing efforts to revise and simplify the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. Both Alexander and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), the ranking Democrat, have laid out their HEA priorities in recent speeches.

    Oversight of For-p​rofit Colleges: Protecting Students and Taxpayer Dollars from Predatory Practices (House Committee on Appropriations): Among those testifying before this panel was student veteran Eric Luongo, who told lawmakers of the for-profit college experience that left him with over $100,000 in student debt. The Education Department’s inspector general has warned Congress about the department’s efforts to roll back regulations on these institutions, and the issue is sure to be addressed during HEA debates.

    The Consumer F​inancial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) Semi-Annual Report to Congress​ (Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs): Student loan debt was a main topic during CFPB Director Kathy Kraninger's testimony at this hearing on Wednesday. Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ) pointed out that no enforcement actions against student loan servicers have been initiated either during her tenure or during former Acting Director Mick Mulvaney's tenure. For her part, the director said that the Bureau still has a group dedicated to protecting student loan borrowers.

  •  ACE, Higher Education Groups Hold Briefing on International Students for Congressional Staff

    ​ACE, along with the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, the Association of American Universities, and NAFSA: Association of International Educators, hosted a briefing on Capitol Hill this week on international students and their importance to the American innovation ecosystem.

    The briefing featured David Di Maria, associate vice provost for international education at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, who discussed the process of applying for an F-1 visa. Heather Stewart, NAFSA’s counsel and director of immigration policy, outlined the current regulatory environment, and Jon Baselice, director of immigration policy for the Chamber of Commerce, discussed the importance of keeping international students—especially in STEM graduate fields—in the United States after graduation. Graduate student Kinu Harichandran talked about her experiences at Georgetown University. My sincere thanks to everyone who participated.

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