Build Back Better Update
Despite an enthusiastic push from Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), it appears increasingly unlikely the Senate will take up the House-passed Build Back Better Act before the holiday break. A number of Senate committees began releasing legislative text and Congressional Budget Office scores for their parts of the reconciliation package. Below is a summary of the changes from the House-passed Build Back Better Act in the Senate bills that have been released thus far. As a reminder, APLU published an analysis of the House-passed measure.
The education provisions in the Senate text have not changed from the House version of the bill. Specifically, the Senate maintained the $550 increase to the Pell Grant program, which continues to be limited to only public and private non-profit institutions of higher education.
Within the finance section, the provisions APLU has tracked remain in the Senate bill text. Small changes have been made to the Public University Research Infrastructure Tax Credit and the Qualified Environmental Justice Program Credit, excluding some of the specific provisions related to program implementation that may have been subject to a challenge because of Senate rules.
The research agency funding provisions in the Senate Commerce Committee text remain the same as the House version. Due to differences in committee jurisdictions, there are some superficial changes in section numbers.
Within the Senate Agriculture Committee legislative text, several programs of interest to APLU institutions would receive increases or a decrease as compared to the House-passed BBB. The Agriculture and Food Research Initiative receives $285M for FY22, a $75 million increase from the House bill. Additionally, the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research receives $285M for FY22, also a $75 million increase from the House bill. Finally, the Wood Innovation Grant Program (facilities construction) receives $775 million, a reduction of $250 million as compared to the House bill.
NDAA Headed to President Biden
Earlier today, the Senate passed the Fiscal Year 2022 National Defense Authorization Act sending the bill to President Biden for his signature. APLU developed an analysis of provisions in the final bill of most interest to public research universities. During negotiations over the bill APLU and the Association of American Universities sent a conference letter to Armed Services Committee Leadership with recommendations on several shared priorities and concerns addressed in the legislation.
Congress agreed to increases for basic research funding authorizations beyond President Biden’s budget request. Additionally, provisions of concern regarding increased research security regulations were removed and will likely be considered next year as part of the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act conference between the House and Senate.
Also removed is language in the original Senate NDAA requiring all federal contractors (including universities) to publicly disclose diversity training materials, speakers, and programs in order for these materials to be examined for the use of “critical race theory.” APLU joined our higher education association colleagues in strongly opposing this provision.
APLU’s bill analysis highlights additional areas of interest and impact, including a new Higher Education Act requirement that public institutions provide in-state tuition to qualifying foreign service officers, spouses, and dependents. The requirement is meant to encompass foreign service officers within the existing HEA in-state tuition requirement for active duty servicemembers. NDAA also includes provisions related to DOD and challenges some institutions and soldiers are having with the administration of Army tuition assistance benefits.
Fall Unified Regulatory Agenda Published
Last week, the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs published the Unified Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions Agenda. The agenda provides an overview of actions agencies plan to issue in the short and long term. Of note, the U.S. Department of Education released a statement on moving its target for Title IX rulemaking to April of next year.
Higher Ed Orgs Reiterate Support for Title VI in USICA
APLU joined the Coalition for International Education in reiterating support for including a reauthorization of the Department of Education Title VI international programs in the United States Innovation and Competition Act (USICA). While Congress is not expected to advance USICA this year, House and Senate conference discussions remain very active. APLU is in contact with the key committees and leadership on our full priorities and concerns.
President Biden Signed Executive Order Regarding Federal Customer Service
On Monday, President Biden signed an executive order titled Federal Customer Experience and Service Delivery to Rebuild Trust in Government. The fact sheet includes the following higher ed section of interest:
“Direct Loan borrowers will need to navigate only a single repayment portal on StudentAid.gov, so that they can apply for, manage, and repay their loans without having to visit multiple websites and manage multiple sets of credentials for different aspects of their student loans.
“Public Service Loan Forgiveness candidates, including civil servants and active-duty service members, will be able to apply for the program with less paperwork than currently and without having to fill out forms with information they have already provided to the Federal government previously.
“Students and borrowers can receive relevant recommendations for other benefits and services they may qualify for, like health care subsidies, broadband support, and food assistance, in order to connect them with support to lower additional economic barriers to post-secondary education completion.
There are other topics on the Fact Sheet that may also be of interest to APLU member institutions such as Surviving a Disaster, and Reducing Barriers For Those Experiencing Poverty.”