Lawmakers Punt Funding Debates into Early 2024, Extend Farm Bill
President Biden signed into law a “laddered” continuing resolution (CR) that passed the House of Representatives under suspension of the rules in a bipartisan 336-95 vote and the Senate passed 87-11. The CR extends funding for agencies in the Agriculture, Energy-Water, Military Construction-VA, and Transportation-HUD bills through January 19 and agencies in remaining bills through February 2.
The CR includes an extension of the 2018 Farm Bill through September 30, 2024. To date, neither chamber has released a draft bill, and both chambers are citing delays in budget estimates, as well as floor time, as hurdles in advancing the legislation. The extension makes few changes to the 2018 bill, but it continues funding for the programs that do not have permanent funding beyond 2023.
APLU Submits Comments to DOL Overtime Rule
APLU submitted comments in response to the Department of Labor’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the Fair Labor Standards Act overtime rule. The comment letter recommends DOL set a lower threshold for exempt employees, underscores the proposed rule’s budget implications to public universities, conveys impacts to human resources and staff morale, and concern that the proposal does not adequately factor in the fluctuating nature of many higher education positions. The letter also details the negative impacts of the proposed rule on the science mission of public research universities.
Additionally, APLU urges DOL to increase the implementation period of the regulations to 180 days, rescind plans for automatic updates to the salary threshold, and to consider the full array of benefits available to employees of public research institutions in addition to salary.
As previously shared, among other changes, the proposed rule provides a significant increase in the minimum salary threshold for “white collar” exemptions to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) overtime pay requirements. Under the proposal, the minimum salary threshold for exemptions would increase from $35,568 to $55,068, nearly 55 percent. Importantly, the proposal does not make changes to the duties requirements for FLSA overtime exemptions or the teaching exemption.
The proposal also includes a provision to automatically adjust the minimum salary threshold every three years by tying to the 35th percentile of weekly earnings of full-time salaried workers in the lowest-wage Census Region.
APLU also joined the broader higher education community in comments to the Department of Labor’s overtime rule.
ED Reminds Institutions of Legal Obligation to Address Antisemitism, Islamophobia, & Other Hate on Campus
The Department of Education (ED) released a new letter reminding colleges and universities of obligations under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act and underscoring ED’s enforcement authority. ED states the letter is part of the Biden administration’s efforts to take action against the rise in antisemitic, Islamophobic, and other hate- and bias-based incidents on college campuses since the start of the Israel-Hamas conflict began on October 7. The letter follows the Office of Civil Rights’ recently released Title VI complaint form. Additional details can be found in the Department’s press release.
Senate Confirms Dr. Monica Bertagnolli as NIH Director
The Senate confirmed Dr. Monica Bertagnolli to be the Director of the National Institutes of Health on a bipartisan 62-36 vote earlier this week. In May, following Dr. Bertagnolli’s nomination, APLU President Mark Becker issued a statement, calling on the Senate to quickly confirm Dr. Bertagnolli to the post. APLU also joined 115 other organizations in submitting a letter to Senate and HELP leadership supporting the nomination.
ED Announces FAFSA Release Date
ED announced the new FAFSA form will be available for students and parents by December 31, 2023. The updated form incorporates changes mandated in the bipartisan FUTURE Act and FAFSA Simplification Act. Additional details on ED’s rollout of the form can be found in their press release and electronic announcement. Of note, ED does not anticipate sending student financial aid information to institutions until late January and expects delays in aid processing. ED estimates 610,000 additional low-income students will receive Pell Grants and 1.5 million more students will receive the maximum Pell Grant. ED also published an updates page to provide timely updates to practitioners.
APLU previously joined 12 higher education and college access organizations in a letter urging ED to provide the FAFSA release date as soon as possible so institutions, financial aid administrators, and college access groups can plan to maximize FAFSA completion. Last week, APLU joined higher education organizations in a follow-up letter urging ED to strengthen collaboration and outreach to reduce the harm the FAFSA delay will have on students and institutions.
ED Releases Electronic Announcement on Borrower Defense
The Department of Education posted an electronic announcement (EA) with information on how the recent batch of borrower defense claims institutions received will be handled. The EA notes that the claims are of the timeframe between June 23, 2022 and November 15, 2022. A settlement in Sweet v. Cardona requires these applications to be adjudicated under the 2016 regulation. Under that rule, institutions have the option to respond to notices, and there are no negative inferences against an institution if it does not respond. The announcement explains the notification and adjudication process under the 2016 regulation.
APLU, Partners Send Letters to Administration Leadership on Federal Science Agency Funding
The Coalition for National Science Funding, of which APLU is part of the Steering Committee, submitted a letter advocating for $16.7 billion for the National Science Foundation (NSF) in the President’s Fiscal Year 2025 Budget Request. The letter identifies the request as consistent with the levels authorized in the bipartisan CHIPS and Science Act. The letter notes inadequate funding as threats to NSF’s success in AI and details how House and Senate draft FY24 levels are below what is needed to sustain the research and innovation ecosystem.
The Energy Science Coalition, of which APLU is a member, submitted a letter advocating for at least $9.5 billion for the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science in the President’s FY25 Budget Request. The letter identifies the request as consistent with the bipartisan CHIPS and Science Act and notes now is the time to double down on fundamental research programs and to build world-leading research facilities. The requested funding level is needed to grow core research, advance new, strategic investments in emerging technologies, accelerate the construction and updates of user facilities, and implement 18 new research initiatives authorized in the CHIPS and Science Act.