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ACE president’s weekly email newsletter to higher education leaders

CURRENT EDITION May 6-10, 2019 ~ Vol. 20, No. 14

Work continues behind the scenes on legislation to protect Dreamers, young people brought to the United States as children who remain living in legal limbo after the Trump administration’s attempt to repeal the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy. I have an update for you on that process, as well as news about ACE Vice President Lorelle Espinosa’s appearance before the House Science Committee, and the FY 2020 appropriations process in the House. Also, as I mentioned last week, later this morning you will receive an email from me about the increased concern in Congress and the national security agencies about what they view as the growing threat of improper foreign influence on our campuses, primarily from China. I hope you will review this memo carefully, and contact Sarah Spreitzer in our Office of Government Relations with any questions. ​

  •  Update on Congressional Efforts to Protect Dreamers

    ​The House Judiciary Committee had been scheduled this week to mark up the Dream and Promise Act (H.R. 6), which provides protections and a path to citizenship for Dreamers, as well as Temporary Protected Status and Deferred Enforced Departure holders, who also have experienced uncertainty since the Trump administration ended those policies. We are in full support of this bill, along with many in the higher education community. However, the short-term fate of H.R. 6 is now unclear. Different factions in the House Democratic caucus are seeking to make changes, which calls into doubt whether the bill could even pass a committee vote at the moment.

    There are four roadblocks: 1) While H.R. 6 currently has 230 Democratic cosponsors, no Republicans have signed on; 2) There is disagreement among Democrats over how much (if any) legal trouble would disqualify a Dreamer from pursuing citizenship; 3) Democrats are worried about possible Republican amendments that would force Democrats to make a hard vote; and 4) Ongoing efforts to investigate the administration over issues related to the Mueller investigation are now at the heart of the Judiciary Committee’s work, so everything else is being pushed to the side—especially anything that requires consensus building or that may prove politically controversial.

    Supporters of the bill are pushing for markup before Memorial Day, but that is becoming more and more unlikely. However, House Democratic leadership remains committed to this bill and plan to take it to committee when they are fully confident about the outcome. On the other hand, there is almost no discussion of the issue in the Senate—at least that we can see—and virtually no chance as it stands now that the House legislation will be considered in that chamber.

    We will continue to monitor the situation and advocate for a permanent solution to protect Dreamers. But it’s hard to be optimistic about the prospects for the full Congress agreeing on such a solution this year.

    White House restarts work on an immigration proposal: The White House hosted a meeting this week between the president, senior White House advisors, and Republican senators to work on a plan to expand “merit-based” immigration, giving preference to those with certain skills or degrees rather than immigrants seeking family-based admission to the country. It appears that the plan will not address Dreamers and others in temporary protected status. The White House would package that legislative proposal with a border security bill that would modernize security at the borders. Critics noted that the White House meeting only included conservative Republican senators who have objected to previously proposed bipartisan immigration bills.

    The bottom line is that while there continues to be discussion and rhetoric around immigration from both House Democrats and the administration, the lack of bipartisan discussions will likely slow down any substantive action around addressing DACA or other important immigration issues.

  •  House Appropriations Committee Approves FY 2020 Spending Bill for Labor-HHS-Education

    ​The House Committee on Appropriations this week approved its spending bill for Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education for FY 2020, allocating $75.9 billion to the Department of Education (ED). As I mentioned last week after the subcommittee markup, the measure would increase the maximum Pell Grant award by $150 and boost funding for the National Institutes of Health by $2 billion, among the overall increases for student aid, higher education programs, and research.

    The $75.9 billion for ED includes $24.9 billion for federal student aid programs ($492 million above FY 2019) and $2.7 billion for higher education programs ($431 million above FY 2019). Click here for a detailed breakdown of these totals.

    We sent a letter on behalf of 36 other higher education groups to the committee in advance of the vote, expressing support and noting that the funding levels, if enacted, would have a profoundly positive impact on the millions of college students who rely on federal financial aid to afford college.

    The legislation is a starting point for negotiations for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1. No date has been set for floor consideration of the measure, and the Senate Appropriations Committee has yet to consider any spending bills.

  •  ACE VP Lorelle Espinosa Discusses Diversifying the STEM Workforce Before House Committee

    ​Lorelle Espinosa, ACE's vice president for research, testified yesterday before the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology at a hearing looking into efforts to diversify the STEM workforce.

    Lorelle co-chaired the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Committee on Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs), which published the recent report, “Minority Serving Institutions: America’s Underutilized Resource for Strengthening the STEM Workforce.” The report includes key findings, recommendations, and strategies related to strengthening STEM education and research at the more than 700 MSIs across the country.

    As Lorelle noted in her testimony, “MSIs are essential anchors within the U.S. higher education system—and in the communities they serve. Despite being under-resourced, and despite the fact that they are willing to take chances on students with significant financial and academic challenges, MSIs will continue to grow in importance—especially as the demographics shift in our country and more students from underrepresented populations enroll in institutions of higher education.”

    Click here to read more details about the hearing, and here to view a webcast of the event.​

  •  IN BRIEF: Confucius Institutes; White House Office of Science and Technology Policy; Student Mental Health Brief

    The Department of Defense (DoD) announced last week that they will not grant any waivers allowing for DoD-funded Chinese language instruction at higher education institutions with Confucius Institutes. The requirement for waivers was included in the FY 2019 National Defense Authorization Act by lawmakers concerned about co-mingling of funding and faculty and staff between DoD-funded programs and Confucius Institutes. While the impacted institutions worked to demonstrate that there were firewalls between the programs, according to a DoD spokesman, “after review, the department has determined that it is not in the national interest to grant waivers to this provision.”

    The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy announced this week the launch of a new joint committee on improving the “safety, integrity, and productivity” of research environments. The committee will be spearheaded by the National Science and Technology Council’s Committee on Science and the Committee on Science and Technology Policy. Specifically, the joint committee will examine administrative burdens on federally-funded research; rigor and integrity in research; safe, inclusive, and equitable research settings; and protecting American research assets.

    A new ACE brief, “Investing in Student Mental Health: Opportunities and Benefits for College Leadership,” finds investing time and resources in student mental health makes good academic and economic sense for colleges and universities and society at large. The brief, produced in collaboration with the Healthy Minds Network, includes a simple online calculator​ to estimate the expected return on a new investment in student mental health, such as treatment services or preventive programs.

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