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Washington Update

Endless Frontier Act and NSF for the Future Act Update
This week, the U.S. Senate voted to proceed with floor debate on the Endless Frontier Act. The bill aims to increase federal investments in research and development and advance U.S. innovation through more than a $100 billion investment in the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the creation of a new technology directorate.

Senate floor action follows the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation approving the bill last week. More than 50 amendments were approved in the committee markup, including Senator Maria Cantwell’s (D-WA) NASA Act of 2021 and Senator Ben Ray Luján’s (D-NM) proposal to divert $17 billion of funding for a new NSF directorate to the Department of Energy.

The full Senate will now consider a 1,420-page Amendment in the Nature of a Substitute. The amendment includes additions from the other Senate committees, including Homeland Security, Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, Foreign Relations, Financial Services and Judiciary. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who along with U.S. Senator Todd Young (R-IN) is the lead sponsor of the Endless Frontier Act, predicts a relatively open process so there may be many amendments.

APLU provided input on a letter ACE sent to Senate leadership expressing concerns about some of the research security provisions that have been added to the bill. APLU President Peter McPherson also issued a statement on the bill.

Additionally, the House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Research and Technology marked up and advanced the NSF for the Future Act on May 13. Subcommittee accepted 12 amendments via voice vote. Further consideration of this bill is expected in June.

ED Announces Virtual Title IX Public Hearing
The Department of Education (ED) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) will hold a public hearing June 7-11 to gather information as a first part of a process to rewrite regulations on Title IX and campus sexual misconduct. OCR seeks the public’s input on steps ED can take to ensure schools provide a space for students free of discrimination, how the Department can make certain schools have procedures in place that provide a fair resolution to reports of Title IX violations, and the Department’s role in addressing sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination in schools.

APLU shared its principles for a new Title IX regulation on campus sexual misconduct with OCR. The principles recognize public universities’ moral obligations to provide safe campuses and combat discrimination; the need for procedural fairness for complainants and respondents; public universities’ obligations under the Constitution as well as application of state and federal laws, and student conduct codes; need to take into account institutions of all sizes/types/resource levels; and public universities’ interest in forging a partnership with the federal government to research, test, develop, and implement prevention strategies, training, and programming.

ED Releases American Rescue Plan (HEERF III) Allocations and FAQ
The Department of Education (ED) announced more than $36 billion in grants provided under the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act’s Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF III) for colleges and universities. ED’s HEERF III webpage includes the allocation tables, including the (a)(1) student and institutional fund allocations (see here), along with new guidance for the use of funds.

One of the most significant and positive changes is the final decision that all students, regardless of citizenship, can receive emergency aid grants. The guidance notes that eligibility specifically includes citizens, permanent residents, refugees, asylum seekers, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) recipients, other Dreamers, and similar undocumented students, as well as international students with exceptional need.

ED staff also noted institutions that already received HEERF I and II grants will not need to apply for funds—HEERF III grants will be automatically disbursed. The new guidance provides answers to many questions raised by APLU members including details regarding the two new required uses of HEERF III institutional funds: 1) practices to monitor and suppress COVID-19 and 2) outreach to financial aid applicants.

In addition to the new guidance, ED has also updated its Education Stabilization Fund database, which now includes both HEERF I and II awards and expenditures through March 30, 2020. These data are based on quarterly reports to ED.

Biden Administration Launches AI Website
The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy launched the National Artificial Intelligence Initiative, “a website dedicated to connecting the American people with information on federal government activities advancing the design, development, and responsible use of trustworthy artificial intelligence (AI).” The site was launched in accordance with the National Artificial Intelligence Initiative Act of 2020, which became law on January 1, 2021.

  • Council on Governmental Affairs

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