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News & Media

Washington Update

August 7, 2018

White House Announces Nomination of OSTP Director
President Trump announced he will nominate Kelvin Droegemeier to be the Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). Dr. Droegemeier is a meteorologist and has served as Vice President for Research at the University of Oklahoma since 2009. An active member and past Chair of the APLU Council on Research, his public service also includes his role as Secretary for Science and Technology to Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin and past Vice Chair of the National Science Board. Shortly after the official nomination, APLU President Peter McPherson released a statement praising the administration’s decision. Droegemeier’s confirmation hearing before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee is expected soon.

OMB and OSTP Release FY2020 R&D Priorities Memo
The White House Office and Management and Budget (OMB) and Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) issued an annual joint memo advising heads of executive departments and agencies of the administration’s research and development (R&D) budget priorities for FY2020. The highlighted priority areas include basic medical research, artificial intelligence, quantum information sciences, strategic computing, and manufacturing. The memo also highlights R&D priority practices including managing and modernizing R&D infrastructure, transferring technology from lab to market, and promoting academic, industry, and government collaboration.

APLU and AAU Send FY2020 Letter to OMB Director
APLU President Peter McPherson and AAU President Mary Sue Coleman sent a joint letter to White House Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney regarding the president’s FY2020 budget request. The letter urges Director Mulvaney to “uphold the fruitful U.S. government-university partnership by making federal investments in higher education and scientific research a high priority.” Although the FY2019 funding bills are still making their way through Congress, federal are in the process of formulating their FY2020 budget submissions.

DACA Litigation Update
Federal Judge John Bates of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ordered the Trump administration to restart the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, ruling in favor of Princeton University and Microsoft, both parties in a lawsuit that the federal government’s decision to end DACA was unlawful. In April, Judge Bates had ruled against the administration's move to end DACA but afforded the administration 90 days to defend its rationale for terminating the program. In his 25-page opinion, the judge reaffirmed that the Department of Homeland Security failed to adequately do so. The administration now has until August 23 to appeal or restart the program in full.

In a separate case, U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen will hold a hearing on Wednesday, June 8 over an attempt by Texas and six other states to terminate DACA. The states filed a lawsuit in May and subsequently moved to enjoin the program, arguing that its creation was an act of executive overreach. Judge Hanen previously blocked a broader deportation relief program, Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA), in 2015. If Judge Hanen rules against DACA, it will conflict with decisions by three federal judges who had previously ruled against the administration, including the aforementioned Judge Bates.

Letter to VA on New Methodology for Determining Housing Benefits
The six presidential higher education associations sent a letter to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) regarding their proposed implementation of Section 107 (Monthly Housing Allowance) of the Forever G.I. Bill (P.L. 115-48). APLU has heard from a number of member institutions regarding the administrative challenges of the VA’s proposal and deeply problematic unintended consequences for student veterans. Per the new VA policy, institutions must now report on the zip codes of the location of every class taken by a student veteran as well as locations of internships, practicum, etc. The VA will then determine the location of where the majority of coursework is taken in determining the student veteran monthly housing allowance. VA sent a letter to school certifying officials in July with an update regarding the policy change and information on Q&A webinars.

APLU worked with the American Council on Education to develop the letter, voice concerns with the VA, and inform appropriate congressional committees. Student Veterans of America has also raised concerns. APLU will continue to stress concerns as the VA considers changes and proceeds with implementation.

Department of Education Announces Negotiated Rulemaking and Related Public Hearings
The U.S. Department of Education published its intent to establish a negotiated rulemaking committee on a sweeping array of issues. Additionally, the Department indicated the committee would have two subcommittees and there would be three public hearings (in Washington, DC; New Orleans, LA; and Sturtevant, WI) for interested parties to comment on the topics and suggest additional topics for the pending negotiated rulemaking committee.

The listed topics for negotiated rulemaking committee are:

· Requirements for accrediting agencies in their oversight of institutions;
· Requirements for accrediting agencies to honor institutional mission;
· Criteria used by the Secretary to recognize accrediting agencies, emphasizing criteria that focus on educational quality;
· Developing a single definition for purposes of measuring and reporting job placement rates;
· Simplifying the Department’s process for recognition and review of accrediting agencies;
· State authorization;
· Definition of “regular and substantive interaction” relative to correspondence courses and distance education;
· Definition of “credit hour;”
· Requirement that an institution demonstrate a reasonable relationship between the length of a program and entry-level requirements for the recognized occupation for which the program prepares the student;
· The arrangements between an institution and another institution or organization to provide a portion of an educational program;
· The roles and responsibilities of institutions and accrediting agencies in the teach-out process;
· Barriers to innovation and competition in postsecondary education;
· TEACH Grants;
· Barriers to direct assessment programs and competency-based education including requirements for term-based academic calendars and satisfactory academic progress (Subcommittee topic); and
· Eligibility of faith-based organization to participate in Title IV programs including GEARUP (Subcommittee topic).

APLU will consider submitting nominees to serve on negotiated rulemaking.

FY 2019 NDAA Sent to President Trump
The Senate approved the FY2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) conference report on a vote of 87 to 10, sending the legislation to President Trump for signature. The House previously agreed to the conference package on a vote of 359 to 54. Upon release of the House and Senate conference agreement, APLU issued a statement in support of a provision in the bill which calls for the Department of Defense to establish an initiative to work with universities that perform defense and engineering research to best determine effective means to address emerging national security issues.

Senate Approves Four-Bill Minibus
On a vote of 92 to 6, the Senate approved a four-bill minibus package that includes the FY 2019 Interior-Environment and Agriculture appropriations bills, in addition to the Financial Services and Transportation-Housing and Urban Development funding bills.

Interior-Environment
The Interior-Environment title of the minibus would provide $6.5 million to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Water Resources Research Institutes (WRRI). This funding level matches FY2018 funding and the House proposal. The bill also includes $17.6 million for USGS Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units (CRUs), a $250,000 increase over FY2018 and $1.6 million less than the House bill. The president’s budget request (PBR) proposed zeroing out WRRI and CRUs.

Under the bill, the Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Science and Technology would receive $706 million, equal to FY2018 funding, $62 million more than the House proposed funding of $644 million, and $257 million above the PBR’s proposal of $449 million.

Consistent with the House proposal, the Senate bill would fund the National Endowment for the Humanities at $155 million, $2 million more than FY2018 enacted levels, which is in contrast with the PBR’s proposal for $42 million to eliminate the agency.

Agriculture
The Agriculture title of the minibus would fund the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative at $405 million, a $5 million increase over FY2018. The House, meanwhile, would fund the agency at $415 million and the PBR proposed $375 million. The bill provides $243.7 million for Hatch Act Funds, even with FY2018 funding, $15.3 million below the House proposal, and $500 thousand above the PBR. The Smith Lever Capacity Grant program would receive the FY2018 level of $300 million, compared to $315 million in the House proposal and $299.4 million proposed by the PBR. The bill’s proposed funding for the Evans-Allen Program matches FY2018 funding at $54.2 million, compared to $55 million proposed by the House and $53.8 million in the PBR. The bill would provide $36 million to McIntire-Stennis Cooperation Forestry, a $2 million increase over FY2018 funding, $7.1 million over the PBR, and level with the House proposal. The bill puts forward $45.6 million for 1890 Institution Extension Services, level with FY2018 and the House proposal. The PBR proposed $45.3 million for 1890 Institution Extension Services.

Among the amendments adopted in the minibus package was an amendment (No. 3582) that would increase funding for 1890 land-grant institutions, offered by Sen.

NIST Request for Information on Semiconductor Industry Workforce
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) published an RFI that seeks “the scope and sufficiency of efforts to educate, train, and attract the workforce necessary to meet the demands of the current and future semiconductor industry, in support of the President's National Security Strategy.” All comments in this RFI must be received by 5pmET on August 15, 2018.

Associations Submit Comments on NIST Return on Investment RFI
APLU, along with the Association of American Universities, Council on Governmental Relations, the Association of American Medical Colleges, and the American Council on Education, submitted comments in response to a Request for Information (RFI) published by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) aimed at gathering information about the current state of federal technology transfer and the public’s ability to access federally funded R&D through collaborations, licensing, and other mechanisms.

  • Council on Governmental Affairs

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