President Biden Issues Executive Orders Impacting Higher Ed
Shortly following his inauguration last week, President Biden issued a series of executive orders (EO) repealing several Trump administration policies impacting higher education. The president withdrew the EO restricting diversity training for federal contractors and grantees; extended student loan relief through September; directed the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to take appropriate measures to fortify DACA and to ensure DACA recipients are protected from deportation; rescinded the travel bans; and more. APLU released a statement hailing the executive orders while noting the association’s interest in working with the administration to strengthen the mission of public universities.
Higher Ed Community Unveils COVID Relief Requests & Biden Administration Unveils Its Relief Proposal
APLU developed a policy brief detailing the association’s $97 billion request for the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) in the next COVID-19 supplemental package to support students and financially stabilize institutions. Using member survey data, APLU projects its 199 U.S. public research university members are facing a funding shortfall of $15.1 billion when expenses and losses are compared to federal funding received thus far.
Additionally, APLU joined a higher education community letter echoing the $97 billion request. The community letter urges congressional leaders to authorize that funds be distributed to institutions using the same allocation formula as the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, which equally weighs full-time equivalent and total headcount of students, and to include all public and private nonprofit institutions of higher education eligible to receive funds. APLU also led the development of a letter with the Association of American Universities, the Association of American Medical Colleges, and the American Council on Education to congressional leaders renewing our call for $26 billion for federal science agencies in the next COVID relief package to support our nation’s scientists and research operations critical to beating the pandemic, supporting communities, and revitalizing the economy.
According to various reports, the White House began talks with lawmakers on COVID-19 relief over the weekend. President Biden unveiled his relief plan ahead of the inauguration. Totaling approximately $1.9 trillion, the plan aims to mount a national vaccination program to contain COVID-19 and safely reopen schools, support communities impacted by the pandemic, and provide immediate relief to working families. The plan contains $170 billion for education, comprising of $35 billion for public institutions of higher education, including community colleges, as well as public and private Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other Minority Serving Institutions through the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund. $130 billion would be allocated to K-12 to help schools safely reopen. The remaining $5 billion would be designated for the Governors Emergency Relief Fund to support educational programs and the learning needs of students significantly impacted by COVID-19. APLU released a statement on the Biden proposal expressing appreciation for the plan while encouraging additional resources for institutions and the cutting-edge research many of them conduct on behalf of the American people.
Some Republicans have raised concerns over President Biden’s $1.9 trillion proposal, arguing the price tag is too big and that relief should be targeted to immediate needs such as vaccine distribution. The White House hopes to reach a bipartisan agreement soon. Democrats are also discussing feasibility of COVID relief through budget reconciliation, which may allow some parts of the measure to be passed by a simple majority in the Senate.
Biden Releases Fact Sheet Detailing Immigration Legislative Proposal
Last week, President Biden released a fact sheet of his comprehensive immigration reform proposal, the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021. The framework creates a pathway to citizenship for qualified undocumented immigrants who meet certain requirements, clears employment-based visa backlogs, recaptures unused visas, eliminates per-country visa cap, and provides dependents of H-1B visa holders work authorization. Unlike an earlier Washington Post report which specified the bill would exempt only doctoral students in STEM fields from visa limits, the fact sheet indicates graduates with advanced STEM degrees will be exempt from the limits. Dual intent, an APLU priority that would allow international students to enter the United States as a nonimmigrant but retain the option to apply for a green card, is not mentioned in the fact sheet.
A Politico report suggests the president is open to a piecemeal approach on immigration reform.
President-elect Biden Announces Science Team
On January 15, President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris announced key members of their White House science team who will play a critical role in addressing the pandemic and advancing science-driven policy. Francis Collins will continue in his role as director of the National Institutes of Health; Eric Lander will be tapped to lead OSTP and serve as the Presidential Science Advisor; Frances Arnold and Maria Zuber will serve as external Co-chairs of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST); Alondra Nelson will serve as OSTP Deputy Director for Science and Society; Narda Jones will lead OSTP Legislative Affairs; and Kei Koizumi will serve as OSTP Chief of Staff. APLU released a statement applauding the nominees and appointees.
JCORE Releases Final Report on Securing America’s Research Enterprise
On January 15th, the Joint Committee on the Research Environment (JCORE) Subcommittee on Research Security released its long-awaited report, Recommended Practices for Strengthening the Security and Integrity of America’s Science and Technology Research Enterprise, on protecting and safeguarding the United States’ research and development (R&D) enterprise. The report encourages research organizations to “demonstrate robust leadership and oversight; establish and administer policies to promote transparency and guard against conflicts of interest and commitment; provide training, support, and information on research security; ensure effective mechanisms for compliance with organizational policies; and implement processes to assess and manage potential risks associated with collaborations and data.” JCORE said it hopes these recommendations will protect research integrity while preserving open and collaboration critical to U.S. leadership in R&D.
The White House also released a National Security Presidential Memorandum on Research and Development Security with instructions to federal agencies for harmonize security and disclosure procedures. This memorandum will remain in place unless revoked by the Biden administration.