January 15, 2014 – It’s a new year in Washington. House and Senate negotiators reached a deal on the FY2014 consolidated appropriations bill. We updated our appropriations priorities chart that details funding levels important to public universities.
Also, APLU teamed up with the Association of American Universities (AAU) on a letter to congressional leaders expressing concerns with certain provisions in the FIRST Act. And we’ve joined other higher education associations in efforts to urge legislation on access and patent litigation.
House and Senate appropriations leaders announced Monday night the release of the $1.012 trillion FY2014 consolidated appropriations (omnibus) bill (H.R. 3547) that will fund the government through the end of the fiscal year. Since the current funding measure expires on Thursday, the House on Tuesday approved a short-term continuing resolution that will fund the government through Saturday, January 18 to allow time for debate and then votes. Both the House and Senate are expected to approve the measure.
The updated FY2014 APLU Appropriations Priorities Chart prepared by our Congressional and Governmental Affairs team details the funding levels for federal agencies of importance to public universities. A few highlights include: NIH received $29.9 billion, which is $1 billion more than last year, but still below pre-sequestration levels; NSF received $7.2 billion, which is $288 million more than last year, but less than before sequestration; USDA’s AFRI received $316.4 million, which is more than $39 million above last year; the maximum Pell grant award will increase by an estimated $85 to $5,730; the Federal Work Study program will increase by $49 million and the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant will rise by $37 million, though both are less than pre-sequester levels.
Last week, APLU joined with the Association of American Universities (AAU) in sending a letter to the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee highlighting our concerns with the provisions of the Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science and Technologies (FIRST) Act discussion draft related to public access to research results (Section 302). The letter urges that the bill be better aligned with the on-going process being conducted by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).
The higher education associations that are working together on patent reform sent a letter, to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) on January 3 asking him to hold a second hearing on legislation to reform patent litigation. The purpose of the hearing would be to allow universities and other stakeholders to testify about the complexities surrounding this issue. At a December 17 hearing on the issue, several Judiciary Committee Members urged that the panel be deliberative and called for holding another hearing to include stakeholders not represented that day, such as universities. We understand that Senate Judiciary is developing a series of briefings for Senate Staff and is also considering an additional hearing. The higher education associations are encouraging both the additional hearing and the briefings.
The U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) announced that it will host a technical symposium on January 22 related to the development of a Postsecondary Institution Ratings System (PIRS). This is the ratings system referenced in the President’s Plan to Make College More Affordable: A Better Bargain for the Middle Class and more recently in the Request for Information (RFI) that NCES released in mid-December. Christine Keller, APLU’s Associate Vice President of Academic Affairs and Executive Director of the Voluntary System of Accountability and Student Achievement Measure, will be presenting at the symposium.
The technical symposium will be held at 1990 K Street NW, 8th Floor Conference Center, Washington, DC on Wednesday, January 22, 2014 from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm. This will be a public meeting and attendees may show up the day of and register on-site. Additionally, the Department will be making a transcript and “synthesis of the symposium proceedings” publicly available soon after the meeting.