Fiscal Year 2024 Appropriations Update
Over the weekend, President Biden signed into law a continuing resolution (CR) funding the government through November 17. The CR, which passed both chambers with bipartisan support, extends funding at Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 levels and includes disaster relief, a reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration, and the National Flood Insurance Program. Notably, the package omitted aid for Ukraine and border security provisions, two issues that will likely need to be resolved in an ultimate FY24 package.
On October 3, the House voted to vacate the speakership, and former Speaker Kevin McCarthy stated he will not run for speaker again. The House Republican Conference plans to host a candidate forum Tuesday, October 10 and then possibly hold a full House vote for speaker October 11. The House will not proceed to legislative business until a new speaker is chosen.
According to a potential October and November schedule shared with Republicans obtained by Politico, the House had been planning to take up its seven remaining bills over the next five weeks. The speaker vacancy and leadership elections will likely delay this timeline at least one week. The House had been working to further FY24 appropriations bills, with passage of the rule to consider both the Energy and Water and Legislative Branch bills on Tuesday, October 3rd.
On the Senate side, following the collapse of a three-bill appropriations package two weeks ago, next movements on appropriations are unclear. There is bipartisan support for additional aid to Ukraine, and Democratic leadership has promised a vote on a package.
Department of Education Releases Final Gainful Employment Rule
The Department of Education (ED) released the pre-publication version of the Gainful Employment (GE) rule and a related factsheet last week. Prior to the release, APLU submitted comments to the proposed regulation on June 20 and recently participated in a meeting with the White House Office of Management and Budget and U.S. Department of Education to relay areas of support and concern. With this release, ED decided to break out GE from other issues in the initial regulatory proposal and move GE components forward while it continues to work in the other areas.
The framework of the accountability components of the regulation remains largely consistent with the proposal. For programs that fall under the definition of GE (nondegree programs of publics and nonprofits and all programs of for-profits), ED will calculate a debt-to-earnings ratio and also apply a new earnings premium test. Programs failing either metric in a given year will be required to share warnings the program could lose eligibility for Title IV aid, and programs who fail the same metric in two of three years can lose Title IV eligibility.
Although the statutory definition of gainful employment precludes application of the accountability components of the rule to degree programs of public and non-profit institutions, ED is moving forward with its “financial value transparency” framework to require reporting and sharing of metrics across all programs. Through the framework, debt-to-earnings rates and earnings premiums will still be calculated for non-GE programs. The information will be shared on a website maintained by ED. For certificate and graduate degree programs with “poor outcomes” under the debt burden test, prospective students will be required to acknowledge viewing the information prior to engaging in an enrollment agreement with an institution. The final regulation exempts undergraduate programs from the affirmative student acknowledgments, though the relevant data will still be reported, calculated, and published. Per ED, “the reporting requirements for the transparency provisions will start July 1, 2024, but the new website will be built and launched afterwards with the first acknowledgement requirements starting in 2026.”
SCOTUS Declines to Take Up OPT Case
The Supreme Court declined to take up the Washtech v. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) case that could have limited DHS’ authority to grant temporary employment authorization to international students through the Optional Practical Training (OPT) Program. The denial brings to a close the case representing the most serious threat to OPT. APLU will continue to advocate for and defend OPT as needed given the importance of the program to public universities, international students, and the nation’s economy.
APLU-AAU Letter to OMB on FY25 Priorities
Last week, APLU and AAU sent a letter to Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young conveying the importance of significant and robust funding of scientific research and higher education investments in its FY25 budget request. The letter highlights the importance of federally-funded research and the partnership between research universities and the federal government. The letter identifies priority research agencies and student aid programs for investment in FY25. The letter also letter requests the administration remember the bold goals set forth in the CHIPS and Science Act, continue its commitment to doubling the maximum Pell grant, and to substantially grow Federal Work Study and Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants.
ED Publishes Strategies for Increasing Diversity and Opportunity in Higher Education Report
The Department of Education and the White House issued a new report highlighting strategies to promote diversity and opportunity in higher education, including outreach, admissions, affordability, and completion. The report offers examples of how institutions can invest in targeted outreach, place meaningful emphasis on student adversity, resiliency, and inspiration in admissions, increase affordability, and cultivate supportive environments for students. It goes on to give examples of how states can support institutions’ enrollment of underserved students by providing sufficient and direct funding to institutions, reviewing state financial aid and benefits eligibility requirements, and strengthening relationships across K-12, community colleges, and four-year institutions.