Update on FY2019 Appropriations
Last Friday, President Trump signed a second stopgap spending bill to extend FY2019 appropriations for the departments and agencies included in the seven appropriations bills not yet enacted (Agriculture, Commerce-Justice-Science, Financial Services, Homeland Security, Interior-Environment, State-Foreign Operations, and Transportation-HUD). The continuing resolution extends the original December 7 funding deadline to December 21, giving lawmakers two additional weeks to negotiate a year-end spending deal. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) met with the president yesterday to discuss government funding. During the meeting, President Trump threatened to shut the government down if Democrats do not agree to funding the border wall.
Farm Bill Conference Report
Late Monday night, lawmakers on Capitol Hill released a farm bill House-Senate conference report (H.R.2). The Senate passed the bill yesterday and the House is expected to soon take the bill up for consideration. House and Senate conferees have been working over the past several months to find a way forward for the $900 billion package. While much of the conference report includes funding authorizations at levels consistent with current law, the bill also includes a number of proposed policy changes such as provisions that seek to simplify the processes for conducting research on industrial hemp.
Higher Ed Associations Comment on “Public Charge” Proposed Rule
APLU, in coordination with the American Council on Education (ACE), the Association of American Universities (AAU), and 29 other higher education associations submitted comments in response to Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) on Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds. The proposed rule could restrict visas and green cards for noncitizens if they or members of their household have received, are currently receiving, or are likely to receive public assistance benefits. Under the proposed regulation, the new requirements would apply prospectively, after implementation of the new rule. The associations’ comment letter calls for all Title IV federal student aid programs to be explicitly excluded from the final rule. It also calls for an explicit exemption for F-1 and J-1 visa applicants, noting that these individuals must already provide evidence of “sufficient funds available for self-support during the entire proposed course of study” and demonstrate that they will return to their home country.
Federal STEM Education Announcements
The White House released a five-year science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education plan, Charting a Course for Success: A Federal Strategy for STEM Education. The congressionally mandated plan provides three broad goals: giving every American the opportunity to master basic STEM concepts; increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion in STEM; and preparing a STEM workforce of the future. Federal agencies have been tasked with developing an implementation plan due 120 days from the release of the report.
Shortly after the release of the new five-year plan, the National Science Foundation (NSF) issued a press release about its partnership with other federal agencies to support STEM through an NSF INCLUDES National Network. The press release also announced a $10 million commitment to its newly launched Data Science Corps, which will provide basic training in data science to existing workforces at the local, state and national levels, teaching new skills and offering new experiences. Additionally, NSF intends to fund 200 internships of up to $55,000 each for graduate students in FY2019 and FY2020.
DHS Proposes New Rule to Change H-1B Filing Process
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officially published its anticipated Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) requiring petitioners seeking to file H-1B cap-subject petitions to first electronically register with USCIS during a designated registration period. Under the proposed rule, USCIS would also reverse the order by which the agency selects H-1B petitions under the H-1B cap and the advanced degree exemption, likely increasing the number of beneficiaries with a master’s or higher degree from a U.S. institution of higher education. As the proposed rule would impact cap-subject H-1Bs, it would not directly impact universities as employers. However, it would have an impact on graduates seeking employment opportunities. APLU plans to submit comments. Inside Higher Ed has more details on the proposed rule.
Community Letter Supporting DOD Basic Research and S&T Programs
APLU joined the Coalition for National Security Research on a letter to Department of Defense (DOD) Secretary Jim Mattis and Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney requesting “robust and sustained growth in the DOD’s basic research and science and technology (S&T) program budgets” in FY2020. The letter notes that when adjusted for inflation, Defense S&T has declined 6.8 percent from FY2005 to FY2019.
Revised NSF Sexual Harassment Term and Condition FAQs
Last week, NSF published a revised set of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) regarding the agency’s award terms and conditions entitled, Notification Requirements Regarding Sexual Harassment, Other Forms of Harassment, or Sexual Assault. The revised FAQs include 16 additional questions and responses (pages 5-9).