Late last week, Congress passed and the president signed a bill, the Bipartisan Budget Agreement, lifting the discretionary spending caps for FY2018 and FY2019. The bill also gives Congress a few more weeks to complete the appropriations process for FY2018; the new deadline is March 23, though appropriators are working to beat that deadline. Additionally, the multi-pronged act extends the debt ceiling until March 2019; includes nearly $90 billion in emergency supplemental disaster aid (including some funding for damaged research facilities and halted research projects, some support for colleges and students in areas impacted by the hurricanes and wildfires, and some additional support for colleges that enrolled students displaced by the disasters); an extension of many health-related programs; and several tax provisions.
FY 2019 President’s Budget Request Released
On Monday, the White House released the FY 2019 president’s budget request (PBR), An American Budget. The budget proposes $3 trillion in spending cuts over 10 years and projects a nearly three percent economic growth rate over the next decade. The PBR accounts for the recently enacted Bipartisan Budget Act mentioned above, which increased the defense discretionary and non-defense discretionary (NDD) spending caps for both FY2018 and FY2019. In light of the new spending caps, the administration modified its original FY2019 PBR request to propose additional funding for several NDD accounts – including student aid, the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and the Department of Energy Office of Science. The original PBR included significant cuts to these programs; the adjustment would decrease the size of the cuts and in some cases would keep funding flat.
Much like the FY2018 PBR, this budget proposes eliminating several higher education and research programs, including the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant program, GEAR UP, Title VI International Education, the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Senate Developments on HEA Reauthorization
Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Chairman Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) released a white paper that includes some of his priorities for the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA) related to accountability. The white paper calls for changes to how colleges are held accountable for student outcomes. APLU will respond to Chairman Alexander’s request for feedback on the paper.
Senate Democrats released a set of principles they hope will guide the reauthorization of HEA. The guiding principles include affordability, accountability, access, and protecting the rights and safety of all students.
Chairman Alexander and Ranking Member Murray together released a request for “comments or suggestion for the Committee’s consideration” relative to HEA reauthorization. Commends are due by Friday, February 23rd.
White House Announces New Infrastructure Plan
The White House this week announced the administration’s long-awaited infrastructure proposal. The plan calls for $1.5 trillion in infrastructure investments, with $200 billion coming from the federal government. The proposal, Building a Stronger America, also makes the case for reforming career and technical education, expanding the use of Pell Grants for “high quality, short-term” programs, and making changes to the Federal Work Study program. Additionally, the plan proposes to use the majority of Perkins Career and Technical Education Program funds in high schools to “promote strategies such as apprenticeship, work-based learning and dual-enrollment.” The administration also requests an increase in STEM education and funding authorization for “fast-track programs that prepare high-school graduates for jobs rebuilding America’s infrastructure.”
Senator Hatch Introduces Bill on Campus Free Speech
Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) introduced the Free Right to Expression in Education (FREE) Act. The bill, which is modeled on Utah state law, would amend the Higher Education Act and define protected speech on campuses of public universities. The legislation also creates rights of action for plaintiffs and authorizes damages that can be awarded in a civil action. Senator Hatch also penned an op-ed in the National Review criticizing public universities on speech issues.
Andrei Iancu Confirmed as Director of USPTO
On February 5, the Senate unanimously confirmed the nomination of Andrei Iancu as Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Mr. Iancu was a managing partner of Irell & Manella LLP where he focused on intellectual property litigation, patent and trademark prosecution, due diligence and licensing. He received his B.S. in aerospace engineering, M.S. in mechanical engineering, and law degree from UCLA.