House Passes the Build Back Better Act
On Friday, the House passed the Build Back Better Act with a 220-213 final vote count. The sweeping legislation bolsters many social spending programs, including supporting scientific research and increasing the maximum Pell grant by $550. The Build Back Better Act will now advance to the Senate where it is likely to be taken up in early December. Changes will be made to the reconciliation bill in order to conform to Senate budget reconciliation procedural rules and garner the support of all50 Democratic senators.
APLU has an analysis document highlighting key provisions in the bill of interest to public research universities.
Higher Ed Association Letter to ED on Resumption of Loan Repayment
On November 17, APLU and other associations sent U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona a letter advocating for increased information surrounding the policies and communications impacting borrowers leading up to and after the resumption of loan repayment in January 2022.
The letter urges the Department of Education to share updates regarding repayment on a rolling basis so that institutions can support and communicate accurate information to borrowers. The letter expresses appreciation for the Department of Education’s ongoing efforts to prepare borrowers for student loan repayment to resume.
Association Letter to Secretary Miguel Cardona on International Education
On November 3, APLU and other members of the Coalition for International Education and presidential associations sent Secretary of Education, Miguel Cardona, a letter advocating support for Title VI international education programs.
The letter expresses appreciation for the coordinated strategy on international education among the Departments of Education, State, and other federal agencies to address 21st century national needs and global challenges. The letter urges the Department of Education to prioritize and strengthen its international and foreign language education and research role under HEA Title VI and Fulbright-Hays 102(b)(6).
On November 17, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) issued a joint statement on the status of the United States Innovation and Competition Act (USICA). The congressional leaders announced that the bipartisan (USICA) will be conferenced to resolve differences in the House and Senate versions of the legislation. The agreement to go to conference was reached after Senate Republicans indicated opposition to Majority Leader Schumer’s plans to attached USICA to the FY2022 National Defense Authorization Act.
As a reminder, APLU sent a letter outlining priority provisions for a final research and innovation competitiveness package in August. In addition, APLU and other higher education associations sent a letter in September highlighting problematic research security provisions in the House and Senate bills. House and Senate leadership hope to reach a final agreement before the end of the year.
New Data Analytics Program at NSF
The National Science Foundation (NSF) announced in the Federal Register a new records system, the Data Analytics Application Suite, that will compare and analyze information reported by NSF-supported activities to a number of public data bases of “published information related to the research enterprise.” The Federal Register notice indicated public comments will be accepted until December 9. NSF is working on a FAQ document that should be available soon.
NSF hopes the analytics can benefit the research enterprise by better understanding how NSF advances research and career pathways. For example, demographic information may improve the effectiveness of programs aimed at broadening participation. The notice provides eight purposes for the new system that align with NSF Director Panchanathan’s vision to strengthen NSF at speed and scale.
The new Data Analytics Application Suite will also be used to oversee and enforce NSF’s disclosure requirements and enable NSF to implement the OSTP guidance for NSPM-33, which is expected to be released in the next couple of weeks. NSF will cross reference researcher data with several public data sources that aggregate published data from the R&D community. Rules and procedures to ensure NSF’s analytics are implemented in a fair and unbiased manner will be published on NSF’s research security webpage.
New ED Competitive Grant Programs to Support Rural Postsecondary Initiatives
On November 5, the Department of Education published a notice inviting applications for a $10 million fund aimed at increasing rural student success. ED did not solicit public comments on program design, instead moving directly to invite grant applications from institutions of higher education.
The program is designed to support programs that increase rural students’ postsecondary access and completion. The notice projects that the program will fund eight three-year grants of approximately $1.2 million, limited to institutions of higher education that enroll at least 30 percent of students who attended high school in rural areas.