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Washington Update

America COMPETES Passes House with College Transparency Act
Last Friday, the House passed the America COMPETES Act of 2022. APLU released statements hailing the passage of the legislation and the inclusion of the College Transparency Act.

Punchbowl News reported that the Senate might be planning to take up the House bill, swap in the Senate U.S. Innovation and Competition Act language, and pass the amended bill. The House and Senate could then go to conference on the two bills. However, it is unclear if this will happen before or after the upcoming congressional recess. It is also unclear if formal conferees will be named or if the House and Senate will continue to “ping pong” legislation back and forth until an agreement is reached. The White House has indicated that it is eager to complete negotiations before the State of the Union address in March.

FY22 Appropriations Update
The House passed Tuesday a continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government through March 11. Senate Majority Leader Schumer (D-NY) said on Wednesday that the Senate will take up the CR before their President’s Day recess. Additionally, House and Senate Appropriations leaders reached an agreement Wednesday on a FY22 budget framework, permitting Appropriations subcommittees to begin work on the twelve individual spending bills.

Details on the framework are not currently available and we anticipate additional details could emerge quickly. In praising the agreement, Senate Appropriations Chair Leahy (D-VT) said “In any successful negotiation, both sides have to compromise, and this agreement is no different. But I believe we reached a strong, bipartisan agreement that will allow us to make significant investments in the American people and our communities.” House Appropriations Chair DeLauro (D-CT) added “we will now proceed with great intensity to enact legislation making transformative investments to create good-paying American jobs, grow opportunity for the middle class, support the vulnerable who work hard, and protect our national security.”

ED Releases Updates to College Scorecard
This week, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) released updates to the College Scorecard. ED updated the interactive web tool, including restoring several metrics that aid students in comparing institutions. These metrics include costs, graduation rates, and post-college earnings.

According to ED, the updates reflect its priority of encouraging inclusive and affordable postsecondary programs that result in strong career outcomes for students. U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona made a statement on the updates noting, “The updated and enhanced College Scorecard shines a spotlight on affordability, inclusivity, and outcomes, over exclusivity and colleges that leave students without good jobs and with mountains of debt. This update reflects the Biden-Harris administration’s commitment to ensuring students remain at the heart of the Department’s work.”

According to ED, other updates of the College Scorecard include an annually updated record of the cumulative student loan debt at both the institution-level and by field of study within each institution, as well as federal student loan repayment rates for the institution.

Senate Confirms National Endowment for the Humanities Chair
Last week, the Senate voted to confirm Shelly Lowe as chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). The White House is expected to host a swearing-in ceremony shortly. In a statement released after her confirmation, Lowe said: “I am honored and privileged to serve the nation as Chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities and am grateful for the bipartisan support of the Senate and of President Biden and Vice President Harris.”

Prior to her appointment, Lowe served on the National Council on the Humanities from 2015-2021, and served in roles at Harvard, Yale, and the University of Arizona, where she earned her bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees.

ED Released Applications for Supplemental Support under the American Rescue Plan
Today, the Department of Education published a notice in the Federal Register announcing the availability of additional American Rescue Plan awards and the application deadline for these funds. The $198 million in ARP funds are for the Supplemental Support under the American Rescue Plan (SSARP) program, designated for institutions with the most need.

The notice highlights five absolute priorities for the awards: 

  • Absolute Priority 1: Underfunded (a)(1) Grantees due to Technical Errors, Application Issues, or not Reporting in IPEDS
  • Absolute Priority 2: MSI or Strengthening Institutions Program (SIP) Grantees that were Underfunded due to Technical Errors or Application Issues, are Newly Eligible, or are a Branch Campus
  • Absolute Priority 3: Underfunded ARP (a)(1) Grantees due to an Institutional Merger or Change in Program Participation Agreement (PPA)
  • Absolute Priority 4: Community Colleges and Rural IHEs Serving a High Percentage of Low-Income Students and Experiencing Enrollment Declines
  • Absolute Priority 5: Institutions Serving High Percentages of Graduate Students

The Federal Register notice provides more details about each of these priority areas. Institutions will have 60 days to submit applications for funds, with a deadline of April 4, 2022.

  • Council on Governmental Affairs

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