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News & Media

Washington Update

June 19, 2019

Education Department Publishes Accreditation and Innovation NPRM

The Department of Education (ED) released its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the Accreditation and Innovation negotiated rulemaking consensus agreement. The comment deadline is July 12.

Per ED, the most significant provisions would:

  • Revise the requirements for accrediting agencies in their oversight of member institutions and programs to be less prescriptive and provide greater autonomy and flexibility to facilitate agility and responsiveness and promote innovation;
  • Revise the criteria used by the Secretary to recognize accrediting agencies to focus on education quality and allow competition;
  • Revise the Department's process for recognition and review of accrediting agencies;
  • Clarify the core oversight responsibilities among each entity in the regulatory triad—accrediting agencies, states, and the Department—to hold institutions accountable;
  • Establish the roles and responsibilities of institutions and accrediting agencies in the teach-out process;
  • Establish that the Department recognizes an institution's legal authorization to operate postsecondary educational programs when it is exempt from state authorization under the state constitution or by state law as a religious institution with a religious mission;
  • Revise the state authorization requirements for institutions offering distance education or correspondence courses; and
  • Remove the regulations related to the Robert C. Byrd Honors Scholarship Program, which has not been funded in many years.

FY2020 Appropriations and Budget Update
Last week, the Task Force on American Innovation (TFAI), which APLU is a member of, sent a letter to Senate and House leadership urging a swift bicameral and bipartisan agreement to raise looming budget caps imposed by the Budget Control Act.

Despite a meeting between Senate Republican leaders and the White House last Tuesday to discuss budget caps, it is not yet clear when the Senate will begin marking up and approving FY2020 funding bills. As reported by the Washington Post, a one-year budget deal remains a possibility. Congress has typically reached two-year deals to lift the caps. If only a one-year deal is reached, Congress would need to agree to another one-year deal next year while the presidential campaign is in full swing. An FY2021 deal to lift the caps would be the end of the Budget Control Act of 2011, as the ten-year caps would expire thereafter.

House Armed Services Committee Advances Securing American Science and Technology Act as Amendment
On June 13, the House Armed Services Committee advanced the F2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The Securing American Science and Technology Act of 2019 amendment, offered by Representative Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ), was adopted by voice vote.

Representative Jim Banks’ amendment that would require the Department of Defense (DOD) to create a list of foreign entities that pose a threat to critical technologies was also adopted. The bill also included Representative Mike Gallagher’s (R-WI) amendment, which instructs DOD to report Chinese and Russian universities with a history of espionage commanded by their intelligence agencies or military.

The Senate, which completed its markup last month, is expected to consider the legislation soon.

HHS Announces Restrictions on Fetal Tissue Research
In a statement released on June 5, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced new restrictions on federal funding for research utilizing fetal tissue.

As part of the announcement, HHS terminated an existing contract with the University of California, San Francisco for HIV research and announced it will discontinue intramural research conducted within the National Institute of Health (NIH) that “requires new acquisition of fetal tissue from elected abortions.” The agency highlighted a December 2018 $20 million funding opportunity to explore alternatives to fetal tissue research.

Existing extramural research using fetal tissue research will be allowed to continue under the new policy. Yet new research proposals and grant continuations that have been approved through existing peer-review processes will also be subject to a new HHS ethics advisory board review that will recommend if the research project should be funded.

Following the agency’s announcement, APLU, the Association of American Medical Colleges, and the Association of American Universities released a statement expressing deep concerns with the new restrictions. The associations cite examples of the breakthroughs that have been made possible through fetal tissue research and cautions that the new restrictions will impede the “scientific discovery of new therapies and vaccines that could provide hope to Americans who are suffering from various ailments and diseases and ultimately save lives.” The associations also seek clarification on how HHS plans to apply the new ethics review to proposals on extramural funding.

While considering an FY2020 minibus appropriations measure that includes funding for HHS, the House of Representatives adopted an amendment introduced by Representative Mark Pocan (D-WI) that would block the administration’s restrictions to fetal tissue research. APLU joined a letter to Representative Pocan strongly supporting the amendment.

USDA to Relocate ERS and NIFA to Kansas City Region
Last Thursday, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Perdue announced the Economic Research Service (ERS) and National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) will relocate to the Kansas City Region. In a statement, Secretary Perdue said the move would maximize “our mission function by putting taxpayer savings into programmatic outputs and providing affordability, easy commutes, and extraordinary living for our employees.” Secretary Perdue also noted multiple land-grant and research universities within driving distance as a contributing factor to USDA’s decision. Of NIFA’s 315 positions, 294 employees will relocate to Kansas City and 21 will remain in the national capital region. Of ERS’ 329 positions, 253 will relocate and 76 will stay in the Washington area.

DOE Announces Ban on Foreign Recruitment Programs
On June 10, the Department of Energy (DOE) issued a directive barring DOE-funded researchers and contractors from joining talent recruitment programs sponsored by foreign governments. The directive also requires researchers and contractors to report recruitment programs sponsored by foreign governments to the Office of Intelligence and Counterintelligence, which will determine whether programs are considered safe or proxies for stealing intellectual property and government secrets.

  • Council on Governmental Affairs

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