As Congress took a break in the month of August, APLU continued to push the federal government on several key fronts including funding for research and education. In addition the White House announced the date of another College Opportunity Summit. APLU also endorsed legislation about healthcare for student workers and supported a provision to fund a study abroad pilot program.
APLU joined AAU earlier this month in sending a letter to the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) urging strong commitments to federal investments in higher education and research as the FY16 budget is developed. The letter requests investments for Pell Grants and other federal student financial aid programs; strong funding levels for graduate education and Title VI international programs; funding to expand the number of U.S. students studying abroad; and strong investments in federal science and research agencies, among other items.
The letter also went to the heads of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Education, the Department of Defense, the National Institutes of Standards and Technology, the Department of Energy, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Department of Agriculture.
The White House announced it will host another College Opportunity Summit on December 4, 2014. The Administration plans to build on the work of the first summit, hosted last January, while launching some new initiatives. The summit will focus on building sustainable collaborations in communities with successful K-12 and higher education partnerships that encourage students to pursue higher education as well as supporting collaboration among colleges to improve college completion.
APLU joined several higher education associations in endorsing identical House bills offered by Representatives Michael Turner (R-OH) and Mark Meadows (R-NC) to exempt from the Affordable Care Act (ACA) employer mandate full-time students who work more than 30 hours a week for the university. The bills, H.R. 5298 and H.R. 5262 respectively, are consistent with the higher education community’s requests to the Treasury Department in 2013 for such an exemption. This legislative effort is bipartisan; H.R. 5262 has both Democratic and Republican cosponsors.
Treasury regulations presently only exempt students participating in Federal Work-Study. The associations argue that the employer-mandate for students is unnecessary as student-workers already have access to affordable coverage through their parents, student insurance plans, ACA exchanges, or other means. Additionally, the costly mandate could force institutions to eliminate work opportunities that provide needy students the opportunity to offset educational expenses.
The six presidential higher education associations and the association representing international educators (NAFSA) wrote to Senate Labor-Health and Human Services-Education Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) to express appreciation for the increased funding for international education in the Senate FY15 Labor-HHS-Ed appropriations bill. The bill includes an additional $4M for the core Title VI international education programs and $5M for a new study abroad competitive grants program for colleges and universities.
Consistent with the recommendations of the Commission of the Abraham Lincoln Study Abroad Fellowship Program, the program would focus on significantly expanding the number of U.S. students studying abroad and increasing diversity of participants and destinations including developing nations. APLU and NAFSA have been working with Senator Durbin’s office for years to authorize the Simon Study Abroad Act and secure appropriations for a study abroad program in the model of the bill.