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Washington Update

FY2019 Appropriations Update and Agency Shutdown Plans
A partial government shutdown took effect December 22, as temporary funding expired for the federal agencies whose operations are sanctioned through the seven FY2019 appropriations bills not yet enacted (Agriculture, Commerce-Justice-Science, Financial Services, Homeland Security, Interior-Environment, State-Foreign Operations, and Transportation-HUD). Shortly before funding lapsed, APLU President Peter McPherson issued a statement urging policymakers to resolve their disputes and complete the 2019 appropriations process. With lawmakers at odds over the administration’s desire to fund a border wall, there appears to be no resolution in sight to end the partial shutdown. The Department of Education, the Department of Energy, the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Defense and other agencies whose funding Congress has already enacted through FY2019, are largely unaffected by the shutdown. But several other federal research agencies have been shut down.

Before the shutdown took effect, the White House Office of Management and Budget issued a memo Planning for Agency Operations during a Potential Lapse in Appropriations, directing agencies to review their plans in the event of a government shutdown. The memo also included a frequently asked questions supplemental document detailing cross-cutting issues that apply to all federal agencies. See below for some specific federal agency contingency plans during the shutdown.

APLU is collecting information about the impacts of the partial government shutdown to share with policy makers and news media who have been inquiring about how the shutdown is affecting universities. Please send any relevant examples to this email address: publicaffairs@aplu.org

Department of Education Releases Proposed Accreditation and Innovation Regulatory Changes
Before the Department of Education’s (ED) Accreditation and Innovation negotiated rulemaking (negreg) committee begins meeting this month, ED released draft redline regulatory changes and summary documents it will ask the committee and three subcommittees to consider. The Department also released the list of negotiators it selected to participate in negreg.

An Inside Higher Education article provides an overview of some of the proposed changes and links to ED’s documents. APLU is reviewing the documents and will work in particular with member institutions with representatives serving as negotiators on the committee. The committee will need to carefully consider changes meant to ease regulatory burdens and expand innovative practices with a careful eye on also ensuring academic quality and protecting students and taxpayers from bad actors.

Higher Ed Associations Comment on Proposed Change to H-1B Visa Process
APLU developed a comment letter that was filed jointly with the Association of American Universities, the American Council on Education, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, the American Association of Community Colleges, and the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities. The comments are in response to the Department of Homeland Security’s proposed rule to require employers seeking to file H-1B visa cap-subject petitions to first electronically register with Citizenship and Immigration Services (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 masters or higher degree from a U.S. institution of higher education. The associations’ comment letter notes that “the administration is right to examine ways to retain more international talent with advanced degrees from U.S. universities” but that “a number of policy changes in the proposed rule, combined with inadequate data and opportunity to study the impact, raises significant concerns.”

Senate Confirms Kelvin Droegemeier as OSTP Director
In a final act of the 115th Congress last week, the Senate confirmed Dr. Kelvin Droegemeier by voice vote to be the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). Dr. Droegemeier is a meteorologist who served as Vice President for Research at the University of Oklahoma from 2009 until his nomination in 2018. An active member and past chair of the APLU Council on Research, his public service also includes his role as Secretary for Science and Technology to Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin and past Vice Chair of the National Science Board. Shortly after the official nomination in August, APLU President Peter McPherson released a statement praising the administration’s decision.

  • Council on Governmental Affairs

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