USCIS Issues Final “Public Charge” Rule
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) issued a final rule, “Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds,” restricting visas and green cards from immigrants if they receive one or more designated public benefits for more than 12 months within any 36-month period or are deemed likely to receive public assistance benefits in the foreseeable future.
Last December, APLU along with partner associations and organizations in the higher education community, submitted comments to USCIS seeking to explicitly exclude all Title IV federal student aid programs from the final rule. The letter also called for an exemption for F-1 and J-1 visa applicants, noting that these individuals must already provide evidence of “sufficient funds available for self-support during the entire proposed course of study” and demonstrate that they will return to their home country. The final rule does not consider federal student aid in the public charge inadmissibility determination but does not include clear exemptions for F-1 and J-1 visa applicants. The rule is set to take effect on October 15, 2019.
Administration releases FY2021 R&D Budget Priorities Memo
The White House released its FY2021 Administration Research and Development Budget Priorities late last week. The memo praises historic federal investment in science and technology but warns against “new and extraordinary threats,” stating that there is a need for our research community to strike a “balance between the openness of our research ecosystem and the protection of our ideas and research.”
The FY2021 budget guidance outlines five budget priorities and five high-priority crosscutting actions. The administration’s budget priorities include: American Security (advancing military capabilities, critical infrastructure, semiconductors, and critical materials); American Leadership in Industries of the Future (prioritizing quantum information science, artificial intelligence, and computing); American Energy and Environmental Leadership (advancing energy technologies, ocean exploration, and improving earth system predictability); American Health & Bioeconomic Innovation (combating the opioid crisis, eradicating HIV/AIDS, improving veteran health and wellness, and supporting the bioeconomy); and American Space Exploration and Commercialization (returning to the Moon’s surface by 2024 and expanding space exploration to Mars).
The release also outlines five cross-cutting actions that should be kept in mind as departments and agencies plan for the new fiscal year. These include supporting risk taking in R&D investments; better compiling, sharing, and utilizing data; and reducing administrative burdens and protecting American research assets. The administration also calls for efforts to build strong foundations for STEM literacy, and to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion in STEM fields. The administration recommends building R&D capacity at institutions that serve high proportions of underrepresented or underserved groups and calls on departments to prioritize investments that strengthen multisector partnerships and engage institutions seeking to build S&T capacity, such as “R2 institutions, HBCUs, and community colleges.”
The administration’s FY2021 priorities build on FY2020 R&D priorities in the areas of security, artificial intelligence, quantum information sciences, computing, advanced manufacturing, space exploration, energy, and medicine. There are new initiatives in the FY21 memo that focus on STEM literacy and diversity, and strategically engaging partnerships with underrepresented or underserved groups.
APLU will continue to work with OMB, agencies, and departments to voice our community’s R&D priorities as the FY2021 budgeting process continues.
DOL Submits Final Overtime Rule to OIRA
The Department of Labor (DOL) submitted the final rule updating the “white collar exemption” to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA). The proposed rule, issued this past March, raises the standard overtime pay requirements from its current level of $455 per week or $23,660 annually to $679 per week or $35,308 annually. It also raises the salary level for the Highly Compensated Exemption (HCE) to $147,414 from its current level of $100,000. The proposal does not make any changes to the duties requirements.
In May, APLU joined the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR) and others in submitting comments to DOL outlining the impact the proposed rule would have on colleges and universities while making recommendations for improving the rule. DOL has not released any details on changes to the final rule, which is expected to be published in October or November.
Associations Comment on NASA’s Notification Requirements on Sexual Harassment
APLU and partner organizations submitted comments on NASA’s “Notification Requirements Regarding Findings of Discrimination, Sexual Harassment, Other Forms of Harassment or Sexual Assault,” published on July 10 and corrected on July 17. The associations express support for NASA’s efforts to eliminate sexual harassment and sexual assault form the scientific and education workplace. The letter also cautions NASA about the need for clarity on the definition of what constitutes a reportable “administrative action,” the confidentiality of reported information, and interaction between other federal and state laws. The letter to NASA contains similar content to a comment letter submitted by APLU and other higher education associations to NSF in May 2018 in response to its 2018 Federal Register notice by the same title.