Lawmakers Pass Funding Bill, Averting Government Shutdown
On February 15, President Trump signed H.J. Res. 31, a “minibus” of Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 funding bills not completed in 2018. In addition to a bipartisan compromise on the Homeland Security Appropriations bill, the package contains the other six remaining FY2019 appropriations bills: Agriculture, Rural Development, and Food and Drug Administration; Commerce, Justice, Science; Financial Services and General Government; Interior and Environment; State, Foreign Operations; and Transportation, Housing and Urban Development.
Among other APLU priorities, the bill provides increases to the National Science Foundation, the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Science Mission Directorate while funding the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Science and Technology, USAID’s Feed the Future Innovation Labs, and U.S. Geological Survey Water Resources Research Institutes at flat levels compared to FY2018.
APLU released a statement praising passage of the minibus.
APLU, Higher Ed & Science Communities Urge Leaders to Lift Spending Caps
Last week, APLU and AAU sent a joint letter to Congress and the Office of Management and Budget to make the case for increasing the discretionary budget caps for Fiscal Years 2020 and 2021. While leaders in Washington acted to raise the Budget Control Act’s (BCA) discretionary spending caps in prior years, Congress and the White House have yet to strike a budget deal that raises BCA discretionary spending limits for FY2020 and FY2021, the last two years of the BCA. The absence of a budget deal would mean discretionary funding would decrease by $126 billion in FY2020 from the current year. The Coalition for National Security Research and the Ad Hoc Group for Medical Research, coalitions of which APLU is a member, also sent letters advocating for a budget agreement that lifts the caps.
APLU Responds to Senate Request for Feedback on Closing Achievement Gaps
APLU President Peter McPherson sent a letter to Senators Doug Jones (D-AL), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) in response to their request for feedback on achievement gaps relative to students of color in higher ed. APLU’s letter underscores the imperative for higher education to make progress in closing such gaps, offers policy proposals for Congress to consider, and highlights initiatives of APLU and our members to accomplish shared goals.
House Ed Committee Announces Bipartisan Hearings on Higher Ed
Last week, House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Ranking Member Virginia Foxx (R-NC) announced plans to hold five bipartisan hearings on higher education, marking the formal start of the House’s effort to reauthorize the Higher Education Act (HEA) in the current Congress. The hearing topics include: the Cost of College: Student Centered Reforms to Bring Higher Education Within Reach; Strengthening Accountability in Higher Education to Better Serve Students and Taxpayers; The Cost of Non-Completion: Improving Student Outcomes in Higher Education; Engines of Economic Mobility: The Critical Role of Community Colleges, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and Minority-Serving Institutions in Preparing Students for Success; and Innovation to Improve Equity: Exploring High-Quality Pathways to a College Degree.
Bipartisan Legislation to Help Address Student Debt
On February 13, Senators John Thune (R-SD) and Mark Warner (D-VA) and Representatives Scott Peters (D-CA) and Rodney Davis (R-IL) released bipartisan companion bills, the Employer Participation in Repayment Act (S. 460 and H.R. 1043), to aid student debt repayment. The legislation would expand Section 127 of the Internal Revenue Code to include employer-provided student loan repayment assistance as a tax-free benefit up to $5,250 per year. Presently, the tax exclusion is limited to employer-provided education assistance such as tuition. APLU supports the bill.
OSTP Highlights Science and Technology Achievements for 2018
Last week, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) released its Science and Technology Highlights Report for 2018. Among the items mentioned in the report are initiatives on 5G and rural connectivity, advanced manufacturing, artificial intelligence, and the STEM workforce.