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News & Media

Washington Update

June 16, 2021

Senate Passes U.S. Innovation and Competition Act

The Senate passed the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (USICA) on a 68-32 vote last week.

APLU President Peter McPherson released a statement hailing passage of the bill, writing “Senate passage of the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act is a critical legislative step forward for American science and innovation. It enables exactly the kind of investments necessary to ensure the U.S. remains the world’s unparalleled innovation powerhouse.” The statement also expressed concerns about research security provisions attached to the bill and APLU’s desire to work “with lawmakers to ensure new research security regulations are appropriate in scope, not duplicative, and don’t needlessly hamper appropriate international education and scientific partnerships.”  

USICA now moves to the House where it faces several hurdles as House Leaders have indicated they may take a slower approach involving several of their own bills to bolster U.S. competition in research, innovation, and manufacturing. The House Science, Space and Technology Committee passed two bills the NSF for the Future Act and the DOE Science for the Future Act on June 15. APLU sent a letter to the Committee leadership supporting these efforts. It is hoped that an agreement between the House and Senate can be reached later this year.

1890 University Leaders to Address House Agriculture Committee

The House Agriculture Committee convened a hearing today, Wednesday, June 16, with several presidents of the 1890 Universities. The hearing titled, 1890 Land Grant Institutions: Investing for Agricultural Resiliency, Equity, and Global Impact, explored the role the 1890 Universities are playing in their respective communities and the investments they need to educate students to meet challenges and opportunities of the 21st Century.

Witness participants included:

  • Makola Abdullah, Chair of the APLU 1890 Council of Presidents and President of Virginia State University;
  • Paul Jones, Vice Chair of the APLU 1890 Council of Presidents and President of Fort Valley State University;
  • Heidi Anderson, President of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore;
  • Tony Allen, President of Delaware State University; and
  • Orlando McMeans, Chancellor-Dean at Southern University will also participate.

The hearing also included a video presentation from several other 1890 presidents and chancellors.

APLU Releases Statement on Congressional Proposal to Double Pell Grants

APLU President Peter McPherson released a statement regarding the introduction of a bill in the House and Senate that would double the maximum Pell Grant award and expand the program’s eligibility to Dreamers.

“We applaud the House and Senate reintroduction of the Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act (PGPEA). This bill sets an important legislative pathway to double the maximum federal Pell Grant award to $13,000, which would make the dream of an affordable higher education a reality for millions of disadvantaged current and prospective students. A higher education has long been the most effective way to ensure upward economic mobility. The Pell Grant program has been central in our nation’s efforts to ensure students from low-income households have the opportunity to go to college, earn a degree, and experience unlimited, lifelong opportunities for success.”

Click here to read the full statement.

Associations Detail FY2022 Approps Request to Congress; APLU Requests $70M for Feed the Future Innovation Labs

On June 11, higher education associations, including APLU, sent a letter to House and Senate Appropriations Committee leadership detailing critical investments needed to support students, institutions, and researchers in FY2022. The letter requests strong funding for student aid programs, including #DoublePell, federal science agencies, and research and development programs.

Relatedly, in outside witness testimony, APLU urged the House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees on State and Foreign Operations to appropriate at least $70 million for Feed the Future Innovation Labs in FY2022 to provide “resources for the Labs to address new food supply and security needs given the pressures of the COVID-19 economic downturn.”

APLU Joins Title IX Comment Letter

APLU joined higher education partners in submitting comments to the Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR) regarding its efforts to gather information for the purpose of improving Title IX. The comments address concerns with the “highly prescriptive, court-like processes” required under the Trump administration’s Title IX rule and urge the Department to consider higher education institutions as “collaborative and indispensable partners” as they seek to enhance the regulations.

On June 3, APLU submitted comments to OCR expressing public university principles for a new Title IX regulation on campus sexual misconduct. The principles recognize public universities’ moral obligations to provide safe campuses and combat discrimination; the need for procedural fairness for complainants and respondents; public universities’ obligations under the Constitution as well as application of state and federal laws, and student conduct codes; need to take into account institutions of all sizes/types/resource levels; and public universities’ interest in forging a partnership with the federal government to research, test, develop, and implement prevention strategies, training, and programming.

ED Delays FAFSA Overhaul Implementation

On June 11, Politico reported that the Department of Education (ED) will delay implementation of the bipartisan FAFSA Simplification Act by one year to the 2024-2025 academic year. The Department cited challenges with old technology and an antiquated system for the delay. ED also clarified that the data-sharing provisions with the IRS would not be implemented until the roll-out of the new form. In the interim, students can still use ED's IRS data retrieval tool to complete the FAFSA.

APLU’s detailed analysis of the FAFSA Simplification Act, enacted as part of last year’s congressional year-end package, is available here.

OSTP and NSF Launch AI Research Resource Task Force

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) launched the National Artificial Intelligence (AI) Research Resource Task Force. Per the announcement, “Task Force members will help develop a roadmap to democratize access to research, tools that will promote AI innovation and fuel economic prosperity.”

CDC, ED, and ACHA Release Updated COVID-19 Guidance

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released updated guidance for institutions of higher education (IHEs) amid preparations for campus reopening. The new guidance includes language on offering and promoting COVID-19 vaccination, prevention strategies for IHEs where everyone is fully vaccinated and for IHEs where not everyone is fully vaccinated, and updated resources. Per CDC, the guidance “does not replace any federal, state, tribal, local, or territorial health and safety laws, rules, and regulations with which IHEs must comply.”

The Department of Education (ED) also released volume 3 of its COVID-19 handbook, "Strategies for Safe Operation and Addressing the Impact of COVID-19 on Higher Education Students, Faculty, and Staff." The handbook highlights CDC guidance and provides detailed information on challenges and needs for supporting higher education in navigating online learning in a pandemic; broadband and device access for higher ed students, faculty, and staff; basic needs support for students; mental health needs; available federal funding and flexibilities, and more.

The American College Health Association (ACHA) issued "Considerations for Reopening Institutions of Higher Education for the Fall Semester 2022" on May 25. The guidance covers a myriad of issues including COVID-19 vaccinations, testing, and contact training, campus access for visitors and the public, mental health, athletics, and international travel.

  • Council on Governmental Affairs

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