FY2020 Appropriations Update
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) announced that the House will stay in session during the week of December 16, allowing more time for Congress to reach a deal on FY2020 appropriations. The Senate has not yet extended its session. Congress was set to adjourn for recess on December 13.
Despite assertions by appropriations leaders in both chambers that they hope to complete the FY2020 appropriations process before the end of the year, it is not yet clear when and whether a bipartisan, bicameral agreement can be reached. The current continuing resolution provides government funding through December 20.
Both chambers continue to negotiate divisive issues such as border wall funding and other policy riders. House Democrats are pushing for an agreement to be made on all 12 spending bills before voting on any FY2020 measures on the floor. However, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) indicated that this approach would be a “monumental task.” The Homeland Security Appropriations bill will likely prove to be the most challenging to reach a consensus. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Chairwoman of the House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, said “we’re making progress…it’s slow but at least we’re moving forward.”
More than 160 higher education and research organizations, including APLU, sent a letter to House and Senate leadership last week urging completion of the FY2020 appropriations process while requesting continued and increased funding support for research and development. The letter stresses the importance of federally-funded research for scientific advancements that better our nation’s health and national security.
Congress Passes Amended Version of FUTURE Act
Yesterday, the House and Senate passed an amended version of H.R. 5363, the FUTURE Act, sending the bill to President Trump for his signature. President Trump is expected to sign the bill into law.
Endorsed by APLU, the legislation would permanently extend Title III (F) funding for HBCUs, HSIs, and MSIs as well as include a version of the FAFSA Act, which streamlines student applications for federal aid and enrollment in income-driven repayment plans by allowing the IRS to share data directly with the Department of Education. APLU strongly supports the bill. As noted in our statement, the bill would cut much of the red tape that needlessly stands in the way of students receiving financial aid while also extending critical funding for HBCUs, HSIs, and other MSIs that supports strengthening STEM education, enhancing research capacity, investing in academic services and student success, and provident support to students at risk of dropping out.
More than 40 higher education associations, including APLU, wrote in support of passage.
Department of ED Issues New College Scorecard
On November 20, the Department of Education (ED) announced the latest updates to the College Scorecard. The updates include program-level median debt and earnings data, but the data is only one year after graduation. APLU has argued that earnings data should show both short- and long-term outcomes. Future versions of the Scorecard could include longer-term data.
The earnings data also only includes those who receive federal financial aid, leaving out 30 percent of students in postsecondary education. In order to count all students, Congress must lift the student-level data ban in the Higher Education Act such as through passage of the College Transparency Act.
ED and DHS Release Fall 2019 Regulatory Agendas
ED released its Fall 2019 Unified Regulatory Agenda. The agenda includes a number of areas for proposed rulemaking that carried over from Spring 2019, as well as a new proposed rule on campus free speech per President Trump’s executive order. The Department’s regulatory agenda did not provide specific details about changes that the administration is planning to make, but said that the rulemaking was aimed at making sure it is “implementing its programs and activities consistent with the First Amendment to the Constitution and the requirements of federal law, including the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.”
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) also released its fall regulatory agenda. The Department expects to publish several “notices of proposed rulemaking” including changes to the H-1B nonimmigrant visa classification program (December 2019), establishing a maximum period of authorized stay for students expected (February 2020), denying work eligibility to dependent spouses of H-1Bs (March 2020), and revising the Optional Practical Training program (December 2020).
GAO Report on Public Access to Federally Funded Research
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a new report assessing 19 federal agencies’ progress on implementing plans to increase public access to federally-funded research as required by a 2013 memorandum from the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). The analysis found that while agencies are making progress, many have not fully implemented their plans—ensuring data access and putting in place processes to guarantee researchers comply with agencies’ public access requirements are two areas of particular challenge. The GAO made 37 recommendations to 16 different agencies to promote effective implementation. Every agency, with the exception of OSTP, agreed with the recommendations made by GAO.
NDAA Conference Report Released
The House and Senate Armed Services Committee’ completed the FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) conference report, S. 1790. The bill outlines FY2020 appropriations and creates policies for the military regarding the activities of the Department of Defense (DOD), military construction and the national security programs of the Department of Energy (DOE). House and Senate floor votes are expected this week.
The House Armed Services also provided this summary of the report.
The conference report includes provisions that APLU has been actively advocating for including a modified version of the Securing American Science and Technology Act (Sec. 1746 of the report). The legislation establishes an interagency working group of federal science, intelligence, and security agencies under the direction of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). The working group would be tasked with identifying and assessing existing mechanisms for control of federally-funded research, taking inventory of current control definitions, and developing and updating a framework to assist federal agencies and grantees in defending against threats. The legislation would create a new Science, Technology, and Security Roundtable -- convened by the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine -- that would bring together key stakeholders from the scientific enterprise, including federal agencies, universities, and industry.
APLU and Other Associations Urge State Department to Address OPT Challenges and Visa Delays
APLU joined the five other presidential higher education associations among others on a letter to Marie Royce, U.S. Department of State Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, highlighting challenges universities face with uncertainties regarding the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program and visa processing delays. The letter requests that the Bureau convene a meeting with the Department of Homeland Security, relevant agencies, and university stakeholders to discuss how the administration can maintain and support OPT and find a solution to improve visa-processing times for students.
Senate Confirms Dan Brouillette to Serve as Energy Secretary
The Senate confirmed Dan Brouillette to be Secretary of the Department of Energy (DOE) by a vote of 70-15. Prior to his confirmation, Mr. Brouillette was Deputy Secretary at DOE. His previous experiences include serving as senior vice president and head of public policy for the United Services Automobile Association and vice president of Ford Motor Company. He was also chief of staff to the House Energy and Commerce Committee and served as Assistant Secretary of Energy for Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs from 2001-2003.