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Washington Update

White House, Speaker McCarthy Agree to Debt Limit Deal
President Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy reached an agreement to lift the debt ceiling until 2025 while ultimately holding non-defense discretionary spending – which includes programs such as student aid and scientific research – roughly flat in Fiscal Year 2024. Under the agreement, spending on non-defense discretionary programs would increase by 1 percent in FY 2025.

While FY 2024 non-defense discretionary spending appears roughly flat in the agreement details, the actual FY 2024 allocated amount in the legislation is much lower than FY 2023 levels. This is because the deal includes the redistribution of rescinded funding that will ultimately be allocated to non-defense discretionary programs, bringing FY24 non-defense levels to what the White House says is roughly FY 2023 levels. The deal includes other provisions, such as the restart of student loan repayment.

Ultimately, the deal sets a topline spending agreement under which Congress must pass an appropriations package by October 1, 2023 (the start of FY 2024). If Congress does not pass an appropriations package by January 1, 2024 and instead passes a continuing resolution, the deal includes a trigger to automatically reduce spending by 1 percent, with a disproportionate cut to defense spending due to significant increases found within the agreement. This trigger is meant to incentivize Congress to complete the appropriations process consistent with the framework negotiated by President Biden and Speaker McCarthy. This provision remains in effect in FY25.

The House is expected to vote on the bill Wednesday evening and the Senate is expected to start voting on the legislation as early as Friday and possibly into the weekend.

Final Title IX Rule Expected in October  
The U.S. Department of Education (ED) announced in a blog post last week that its final Title IX rule is now expected to be released in October 2023. The proposed Title IX rule, released in July 2022, received more than 240,000 public comments including those from APLU. The Department cited additional time needed to carefully review and consider these comments for the delay in issuing the final rule. ED further notes that it expects to release its proposed Title IX athletics rule, which received 150,000 public comments, also in October 2023. 

APLU, Higher Education Community Call on ED to Extend NPRM Comment Period
APLU and the other presidential associations submitted a letter to the Department of Education seeking an extension of the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) comment period to 60 days. The Department’s recent NPRM covers a wide range of topics, including gainful employment, financial responsibility, administrative capability, and certification procedures, as well as consensus language on ability to benefit rules from the Spring 2022 negotiated rulemaking session.

The letter states a 30-day comment period does not provide enough time for the associations to provide meaningful comments on a NPRM of such size and complexity and that an extension would permit us to work with our member colleges and universities to determine the true impact of the regulations and identify any unintended consequences. An ED factsheet detailing the proposed gainful employment rule can be found here and an ED factsheet on financial responsibility, administrative capability, and certification procedures here. APLU staff is reviewing the proposed regulation and will work with the higher education community to submit comments.

FSA Notifying Students of Potential SNAP Eligibility
The Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) has begun notifying students of their potential Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) eligibility due to $0 expected family contribution under the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. ED estimates 7.5 million students will receive the email notification. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has coordinated with state SNAP agencies to ensure the email can be used as supporting documentation for a SNAP application.

FSA’s communication follows the expiration of the public health emergency related to COVID-19 and the temporary flexibilities enabling many college students to access SNAP benefits. APLU created a brief detailing the impact on students receiving SNAP benefits under the temporary eligibility requirements. The brief details deadlines by which current recipients of these benefits must recertify to retain their benefits, as well as when first time enrollees must apply to receive benefits under the flexibilities.

White House Releases Updated National AI R&D Strategic Plan
The White House released an update to the National Artificial Intelligence Research and Development Strategic Plan, adding a new strategy to existing principles from 2016 and 2019 versions of the plan. The new strategy underscores a principled and coordinated approach to international collaboration in AI research by prioritizing collaborations to address global challenges, such as environmental sustainability, healthcare, and manufacturing, and supporting the development and implementation of international guidelines and standards for AI.

The plan further calls for focusing federal investments in R&D to promote responsible innovation, serve the public good, protect people’s rights and safety, uphold democratic values, and ensure continued U.S. leadership in the development and use of trustworthy AI systems.

As part of the release, the White House issued a request for information on national priorities for mitigating AI risks, protecting rights and safety, and harnessing AI to improve lives.

SHEEO Releases FY22 State Higher Education Finance Report
The State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO) released its annual State Higher Education Finance (SHEF) report detailing support for public higher education across all 50 states. The report finds that FY22 per-student spending exceeded pre-recession per-student levels for the first time since 2008, increasing five percent beyond inflation last year. The findings also indicate that historical patterns following economic recessions reversed in 2021 and 2022, with education appropriations increasing for the 10th straight year, rather than decreasing. Additional data includes public FTE enrollment, state and local government funding, state public financial aid per FTE, net tuition revenue, total education revenue, and student share.

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