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Washington Update

Department of Education Free Inquiry Rule
This week, the Department of Education issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking proposing to rescind a portion of regulations related to religious student organizations, known as the “free inquiry rule.” The Department also issued a Request for Information (RFI) on other portions of the rule related to public institutions’ compliance with the First Amendment and private institutions’ compliance with their stated policies and procedures on free speech and free inquiry. The Department is seeking additional input from stakeholders on the impact of these portions of the regulations, including whether they have had any beneficial or detrimental effects.

When the rule was initially proposed, APLU provided comments expressing significant concerns with the two main components of the NPRM: the policy relative to student organizations that would make it more difficult for institutions to enforce “all comer” policies, and inappropriately raising the stakes of First Amendment litigation unnecessarily tying public universities’ ED funding (not Title IV) to litigation outcomes.

OCR Releases Title IX Resources to Support Equal Opportunity in Athletic Programs
The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights released three new resources to assess athletics programs’ compliance with Title IX, a factsheet and a resource for both K-12 schools and higher education. The resources are designed to help students, parents, coaches, athletic directors, and school officials evaluate whether a school is meeting its legal duty to provide equal athletic opportunity regardless of sex.

NIH Advisory Committee to the Director Request for Information
The National Institutes of Health is seeking input from the community, particularly trainees, early-stage faculty, and others invested in the biomedical workforce, about challenges faced by the postdoctoral trainee community. An NIH Advisory Committee to the Director Working Group, which APLU President Mark Becker is serving on, posted a Request for Information where insights on issues affecting and possible solutions to the recent decline in postdoctoral trainees can be shared. Responses will be used to help develop recommendations to address this problem which impacts U.S. competitiveness in biomedical research and innovation.

Bill to Reinstate Advance Refunding to be Reintroduced in House
The Investing in Our Communities Act, a bill that would reinstate advance refunding, will be reintroduced in the House. The text will be the same as what was introduced during the 117th Congress.

Advance refunding provided colleges and universities, along with other municipal bond holders, the
one-time option to refinance outstanding municipal bonds to more favorable borrowing rates or terms.
This tool allowed colleges and universities to generate savings by reducing the interest payments made
to bond owners, freeing up resources to fund new infrastructure projects and other activities.

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