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Senate Appropriations Committee Releases FY 2015 LHHS-ED Bill and Report

July 25, 2014 – The Senate Appropriations Committee has released its Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS-ED) funding bill and report for fiscal year (FY) 2015. The bill was previously marked up in subcommittee in June, but the full-committee markup and released of the bill was postponed. The release of the bill text and report indicates that the Senate will likely proceed with a continuing resolution or omnibus package. Under the bill, the Pell Grant program sees a $100 increase in the maximum award, bringing it to $5,830 for award year 2015-16. The bill also includes restoration of Pell Grant eligibility for ability to benefit students enrolled in career pathway programs. The bill also includes increases in funding for a number of programs, including: Adult Basic Education; Perkins CTE; SEOG; Federal Work Study; Strengthening Institutions; and Developing Hispanic Serving Institutions. The bill text and committee report may be viewed here: http://1.usa.gov/1nGJeDZ.

Yesterday, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) released a discussion draft entitled, "Expanding Opportunity in America." The report includes several higher education reform proposals, including: consolidating funding for the SEOG program into the Pell Grant program; consolidating funding for Perkins loans into Federal Work Study; collapsing the current funding streams under TRIO programs into a single grant; creating a new cap on PLUS loans; and offering a "flex-fund" for the Pell Grant program. The full report may be viewed here: http://1.usa.gov/1zctXh5.

Yesterday, the House passed two higher education related bills. The first, HR 3393, the Student and Family Tax Simplification Act passed by a vote of 227 – 187. H.R. 3393 consolidates existing tax credits into a simplified and permanent American Opportunity Tax Credit. It also increases refundability for students and provides better coordination with the Pell Grant program. Additionally, the House passed HR 4984, the Empowering Students Through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act. This bill requires students that participate in the federal loan program receive counseling each year and when they exit their program.

The Senate also held a hearing yesterday on the role of states in higher education. An archived webcast of the hearing, as well as witness testimony may be viewed here:  http://1.usa.gov/1p5XBNu.

 

House Considers Higher Ed Bills

July 24, 2014 - Yesterday, the House passed two bills addressing portions of the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA), and is expected to consider and pass an additional bill today. The first bill, the bipartisan H.R. 3136, Advancing Competency-Based Education Demonstration Project Act passed by a vote of 414 to 0. The bill would allow for 20 institutions to offer competency-based education (CBE) "demonstration projects" that waive certain statutory and regulatory requirements to be eligible for federal student aid. Additionally, yesterday the House passed H.R. 4983, the Strengthening Transparency in Higher Education Act by voice vote. This bill creates a "College Dashboard" website similar to the College Navigator to display consumer information on institutions. ACCT successfully advocated for a provision that would place the federal student loan borrowing rate next to an institution's cohort default rate.

Today, the House is expected to consider H.R. 4984, the Empowering Students Through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act, as well as H.R. 3393, the Student and Family Tax Simplification Act. H.R. 4984 requires students that participate in the federal loan program receive counseling each year and when they exit their program. H.R. 3393 consolidates existing tax credits into a simplified and permanent American Opportunity Tax Credit. It also increases refundability for students and provides better coordination with the Pell Grant program. ACCT sent a joint letter with AACC in support of H.R. 3393, which may be viewed here: http://bit.ly/1mwmctk.

This week, the U.S. Department of Education announced a forthcoming CBE experimental site initiative to create demonstration project sites. information on the announcement is available at: http://1.usa.gov/1nQM9UJ

 

President Signs WIA Reauthorization Bill into Law

July 23, 2014 – President Obama has signed into law the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). This bipartisan, bicameral bill reauthorizes the Workforce Investment Act, and contains a number of positive aspects for community colleges. It places a greater emphasis on career pathways and the attainment of postsecondary credentials. It also eliminates the current sequence of services, creates common performance indicators across programs, and allows local areas increased flexibility to contract with institutions of higher education.  ACCT has prepared a fact sheet on the recently passed Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), which may be viewed here: http://bit.ly/1rAXxf1.

In conjunction with the signing of WIOA, the Administration has released Vice President Biden’s report of federal job training programs. The report highlights the need to better align workforce training programs with industry needs, as well as the benefits of apprenticeship programs and partnerships. It also features the progress that has been made at community colleges under the TAA Community College and Career Training Grants program (TAACCCT), and calls for a new $6 billion Community College Job-Driven Training Fund to succeed TAACCT. The full report may be viewed here: http://1.usa.gov/1njakiL.

Yesterday, ACCT and The Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS) released a new report entitled “Protecting Colleges and Students: Community College Strategies to Prevent Default” which takes a unique look at student loan default at nine community colleges across the nation, and how those colleges are working to help students avoid default. Read more at: http://www.acct.org/news/protecting-colleges-and-students-strategies-prevent-default.

 

House to Consider Higher Education Bills Next Week

July 18, 2014 – Next week the House will likely consider four higher education bills on the floor. The first two bills, HR 3136, the Higher Education Act: the Advancing Competency-Based Education Demonstration Project Act, and HR 4984, the Empowering Students Through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act, passed out of the Education and Workforce Committee last week by voice vote. HR 3136 directs the Secretary of Education to implement demonstration projects to support competency-based education, and to waive certain statutory and regulatory requirements that impede creation of these programs. H.R. 4984 requires students that participate in the federal loan program receive counseling each year and when they exit their program. Additionally, the House will likely consider HR 4983, the Strengthening Transparency in Higher Education Act. This bill creates a "College Dashboard" website similar to the College Scorecard to display consumer information on institutions. The House is taking a piecemeal approach to reauthorizing the Higher Education Act, and these bills are part of that plan.

The House will also consider HR 3393, the Student & Family Tax Simplification Act. The legislation consolidates four existing education provisions - the Hope Credit, the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC), the Lifetime Learning Credit, and the tuition and fees deduction - into a single permanent AOTC. It also raises refundability levels and improves coordination with the Pell Grant.

ACCT has prepared a fact sheet on the recently passed Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), which may be viewed here: http://www.acct.org/files/Advocacy/Factsheets%20and%20Summaries/ACCT%20Fact%20sheet%20WIOA.pdf

 

House Committee Passes Three Higher Ed Act Bills

July 10, 2014 – Today, the House Education and Workforce Committee held a markup on three bills associated with the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act: the Advancing Competency-Based Education Demonstration Project Act (H.R. 3136); the Strengthening Transparency in Higher Education Act (H.R. 4983); and the Empowering Students Through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act (H.R. 4984). All bills passed by voice vote with bipartisan amendments in the nature of a substitute. The next step would be consideration on the House floor, possibly in the next few weeks.

H.R. 3136 directs the Secretary of Education to implement demonstration projects to support competency-based education, and to waive certain statutory and regulatory requirements that impede creation of these programs. H.R. 4983 creates a "College Dashboard" website similar to the College Scorecard to display consumer information on institutions, but that would be consumer tested, and include institutional borrowing rates and completion rates of non-traditional and Pell Grant students. Finally, H.R. 4984 requires students that participate in the federal loan program receive counseling each year and when they exit their program. Additional information regarding the markup may be found here: http://edworkforce.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=387323.

 

House Passes WIA Reauthorization & Sends to President

July 9, 2014 – Today, the House passed H.R. 803, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), by a vote of 415 to 6. The vote sends the bill to the President after the Senate passed the bill on June 25th  by a vote of 95-3. WIOA reauthorizes the Workforce Investment Act and contains a number of positive aspects for community colleges, as described in an ACCT analysis, here: http://bit.ly/1r8LnYc.

Tomorrow, the House Education and Workforce Committee will mark up three bills associated with the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. Bipartisan substitutes will be offered for each of the three bills, and can be found here:http://1.usa.gov/1qjUFiI. ACCT signed onto a joint letter with other associations in the higher education community providing comments prior to the markup: http://bit.ly/1oIoQjT.

 

DoD Updates Requirements for TA Program MOUs 

July 8, 2014 – Yesterday, the Department of Defense (DoD) issued an update on requirements for 2014 memorandums of understanding (MOUs) for institutions who participate in DoD's tuition assistance program for service members (TA program). Institutions wishing to continue to participate in the TA program will have to execute a new MOU by September 5, 2014. For those institutions that already signed a 2014 MOU, additional action may need to be taken to acknowledge the most recent change in requirements. A guide to frequently asked questions may be viewed here: http://www.dodmou.com/Home/Faq.

Tomorrow, the House is expected to consider H.R. 803, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). This bipartisan, bicameral reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act passed the Senate, as amended, in June. The bill contains a number of positive aspects for community colleges and places a greater emphasis on career pathways and the attainment of postsecondary credentials. It also eliminates the current sequence of services, creates common performance indicators across programs, and allows local areas increased flexibility to contract with institutions of higher education. If passed, the bill will be sent to the President to be signed into law. ACCT sent a joint letter with AACC to Members of the House supporting this bill: http://goo.gl/5Ig5Hk.

On Thursday, the House Education and Workforce Committee is scheduled to markup three bills associated with the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act: the Advancing Competency-Based Education Demonstration Project Act (H.R. 3136); the Strengthening Transparency in Higher Education Act (H.R. 4983); and the Empowering Students Through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act (H.R. 4984). H.R. 3136 directs the Secretary of Education to implement demonstration projects to support competency-based education, and to waive certain statutory and regulatory requirements that impede creation of these programs. H.R. 4983 creates a "College Dashboard" website similar to the College Scorecard to display consumer information on institutions, but that would be consumer tested and include information on completion rates of non-traditional and Pell Grant students. Finally, H.R. 4984 requires students that participate in the federal loan program receive interactive counseling each year and when they exit their program. It also requires additional annual counseling for Pell Grant recipients regarding the terms and conditions of their grant. Additional information on these bills may be found here: http://goo.gl/J0EJy3.

 

House Introduces First Set of HEA Reauthorization Bills

June 27, 2014 – Following the release of a Higher Education Act (HEA) reauthorization white paper earlier this week, the House Republicans on the Education and Workforce Committee have begun to release bills reflective of those priorities. The first bill, the Strengthening Transparency in Higher Education Act creates a "College Dashboard" website that is consumer tested, consistent with other federal higher education data, and includes information on completion rates of non-traditional and Pell Grant students.

The second bill, the Empowering Student through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act requires students that participate in the federal loan program receive interactive counseling each year and when they exit their program. It also requires additional counseling for students regarding the terms and conditions of their Pell Grants and federal student loans.

The third bill, which is bipartisan is aimed at reforming the FAFSA. The Simplifying the Application for Student Aid Act would allow students to use family income data from two years prior to the date of the FAFSA application, and also allow students and families to more easily import income data directly from the IRS while filing their FAFSA. Additional information on these bills may be viewed here:  http://edworkforce.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=386108

The Department of Education has announced that  they are delaying plans to develop a new state authorization rule for distance education programs prior to the November 1st deadline. Regulations over state authorizations were included among the topics in most recent negotiated rulemaking session for program integrity. This announcement coincided with a notice in the federal register that officially pushed back the deadline for institutional compliance with state authorizations to July 1, 2015.

 

Senate Passes WIA Reauthorization

June 25, 2014 - Today, the Senate passed a bipartisan, bicameral bill to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act. The bill contains a number of positive aspects for community colleges. It places a greater emphasis on career pathways and the attainment of postsecondary credentials. It also eliminates the current sequence of services, creates common performance indicators across programs, and allows local areas increased flexibility to contract with institutions of higher education. The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) passed by a vote of 95 to 3 as a substitute to the House-passed SKILLS Act. The bill is expected to be taken up soon by the House. ACCT and AACC previously sent a joint letter supporting WIOA, which may be viewed here: http://bit.ly/1pBUsXM 

Senate Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) introduced his plan for Higher Education Act (HEA) reauthorization today. The bill focuses on ways to reduce the burden of student debt, simplify repayment, promote new college partnerships, and tighten oversight of for-profit institutions. Among the positive aspects of the bill include reinstatement of the year-round Pell Grant, eligibility for ability-to-benefit students, consolidation of loan repayment options, and new grant programs to support industry partnerships and dual-enrollment. A two-page summary of the bill is available at: http://1.usa.gov/1nE6q1E. A previous ACCT & ACCT letter regarding the bill is at: http://bit.ly/1meB8fo

Additionally, the House Education & Workforce Republicans released a white-paper yesterday outlining their principles for an upcoming release of the HEA, although bill language is not expected for a few weeks. Similar to the Harkin bill, the proposal supports year-round Pell Grant access, consolidation of repayment options, better loan counseling, and demonstration projects, such as competency-based learning. However, the House bill would diverge in key ways, setting the stage for potential partisan clashes this year. The bill would prevent implementation of the Obama administration's college ratings system and gainful employment rules, consolidate Title IV aid into "one grant, one loan, and one work-study program," and expand the current IPEDS system to capture more nontraditional students. The House bill white paper is available at:http://1.usa.gov/1nDNKzg

Today, the House Ways & Means Committee reported favorably to the House floor H.R. 3393, the Student & Family Tax Simplification Act, by a vote of 22-13. The legislation consolidates four existing education provisions - the Hope Credit, the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC), the Lifetime Learning Credit, and the tuition deduction - into a single AOTC. It also raises refundability levels and improves coordination with the Pell Grant. The bill may receive consideration on the House floor as part of a larger "tax extenders" package in the coming months.

 

Senate to Introduce HEA Bill / WIOA Moving Forward

June 20, 2014 – Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Chairman, Tom Harkin (D-IA) is expected to introduce a Higher Education Act (HEA) reauthorization bill next week. ACCT weighed in during drafting of the legislation, and has sent a joint letter with AACC outlining positive provisions in the bill. The letter may be viewed here: http://www.acct.org/files/Advocacy/Letters%20to%20Congress/AACC%20ACCT%20Joint%20Harkin%20HEA%20Final.pdf.

The Senate has reached agreement on moving forward with a bill to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act. The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) will be offered as a substitute amendment to the House passed SKILLS Act. The bill may be brought to the Senate floor as early as next week. There will be very limited debate and only a handful of amendments. ACCT and AACC previously sent a joint letter supporting WIOA, which may be viewed here: http://www.acct.org/files/Advocacy/Letters%20to%20Congress/WIOA%20AACC%20ACCT%20Final.pdf.

The Senate Finance Committee is holding a hearing on Tuesday, June 24th, at 10 am entitled "Less Student Debt from the Start: What Role Should the Tax System Play?"  Additional information regarding the hearing will be posted here: http://goo.gl/9VZ8l1.

 

Senate L-HHS-ED Appropriations Subcommittee Holds Markup

June 10, 2014 – This afternoon, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (L-HHS-ED) held a markup on its FY 2015 funding bill. Discretionary base funding for the L-HHS-ED bill remains “level” to FY 2014, however the bill also includes $1.484 billion in “cap adjustment funding” that allows for some supplemental funding for several programs. Some of these increases include:

  • Pell Grants - $100 increase to the maximum award for 2015-16, to a total of $5,830
  • Workforce Investment Act State Grants - $36 million increase
  • Campus-based student aid - $50 million combined increase for SEOG and Federal Work Study
  • TRIO - $8.4 million increase

In conjunction with the markup, the subcommittee released a summary of the bill, which may be viewed here: http://goo.gl/N4aNMe. Additional details will be available on Thursday when the FY 2015 bill is released during the full committee markup. A live audio-cast of the full-committee markup will be accessible here, time TBD: http://goo.gl/8PFXZy.

The White House has provided a fact sheet regarding yesterday’s Executive Order on the expansion of the Pay As You Earn repayment option to additional borrowers and renegotiation of servicing contracts. The fact sheet may be viewed here: http://goo.gl/KbycjX.

 

President Obama to take Executive Action on Student Loan Repayment & Servicer Contracting

June 9, 2014 – This afternoon, President Obama will announce a plan to expand the "Pay as You Earn" (PAYE) loan repayment option to additional federal loan borrowers through executive order. Under PAYE, federal Direct Loan borrowers may cap their monthly repayment at 10 percent of their discretionary income, but in order to qualify, students must be a new borrower on or after October 1, 2007 and received a disbursement on or after October 1, 2011. The President's announcement would expand the PAYE plan to certain older Direct Loans that are currently ineligible, but the U.S. Department of Education will need until December 2015 to enact regulations to facilitate the expansion.  In conjunction with the executive action, it is also expected that the Department will begin to renegotiate contracts with federal student loan servicers in order to provide financial incentives to help borrowers prevent loan delinquency or default.

Tomorrow at 2:30 pm EDT, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS-ED) will markup its fiscal year (FY) 2015 funding bill. The LHHS-ED Subcommittee received an overall 302 (b) level of $156.8 billion. This is level funding from current FY 2014, and $1 billion above the House allocation for FY 2015. The audio from the markup will be streamed live, with additional info at:  http://www.appropriations.senate.gov/event/lhhs-subcommittee-markup.

The Senate is expected to act this week on two bills that impact higher education. First, on Wednesday the Senate will begin consideration of Senator Elizabeth Warren's (D-MA) student loan refinance bill that would allow eligible borrowers to refinance older FFELP or Direct Loans, as well as private educational loans, at current federal interest rates. The Senate is also expected to consider a bipartisan veterans bill that would extend Post 9/11 GI Bill educational benefits to surviving spouses of military members who died in the line of duty. It would also require public colleges and universities receiving Post 9/11 GI Bill educational benefits to charge in-state tuition rates to recently separated veterans.

 

Community Colleges Submit Gainful Employment Comments

May 28, 2014 – ACCT along with AACC and several cosigners submitted comments on the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to set gainful employment standards for vocational programs at community colleges and for-profit institutions. The comments are in response to a final draft regulation released by the Department of Education following several negotiated rulemaking sessions on gainful employment that occurred last fall. In additional to ACCT's comments, the department received more than 1,500 public comments which can be viewed via regulations.gov. ACCT's joint letter may be viewed here: http://www.acct.org/files/Advocacy/AACC%20ACCT%20Joint%20GE%20Comments%2005272014.pdf.

The Senate has released its appropriations subcommittee 302(b) allocations for FY 2015. The Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Subcommittee received a 302 (b) level of $156.8 billion. This is level funding from FY 2014, and $1 billion above the House allocation for FY 2015.

 

House and Senate Announce WIA Reauthorization Agreement

May 21, 2014 – A bipartisan, bicameral Workforce Investment Act (WIA) reauthorization bill has emerged from pre-conference negotiations occurring between the House and Senate. The final package will soon be introduced in both chambers as the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). It represents a compromise between the House's SKILLS Act (HR 803) and the Senate's Workforce Investment Act of 2013 (S 1356). The final package may be considered on the floor in June.

The WIOA eliminates 15 programs that are currently unfunded. The bill also consolidates the current structure of the state and local Workforce Investment Boards. The community college slot remains mandatory of the local board, but optional on the state board. Additionally, the bill places a greater emphasis on the transition to postsecondary education in the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act, and includes numerous provisions calling for integrated delivery of basic skills and occupational instruction. The WIOA also eliminates the current sequence of services, and allows local areas increased flexibility to contract with institutions of higher education. Funding for employment and training activities for adults, dislocated workers, and youth are authorized at levels equal to current funding for FY 2015, and increase each year after that till FY 2020.

A one-page summary of the legislation can be viewed here: http://goo.gl/MYMcXC.

A section-by-section summary of the legislation, can be viewed here: http://goo.gl/3YutMy.

The text of the agreement can be viewed here: http://edworkforce.house.gov/uploadedfiles/wioa_sa_hr803.pdf.

Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) Program Integrity and Improvement (PII) negotiated rulemaking committee officially failed to reach consensus on all of the issues up for negotiation after their fourth and final session. Although tentative agreement was reached on four of the six PII topics, the committee deadlocked over (a) cash management, including campus debit cards and sponsored accounts, and (b) state authorization of distance education programs. Federal rules stipulate that the Obama administration may now write their own rules for each of the six issues, although they are not expected to deviate substantially from the four tentative agreements.

On the issue of cash management, negotiators disagreed on the extent to which the rules should apply to banking products linked to student ID cards, even if those accounts did not receive federal student aid disbursements. On state authorization, most non-federal negotiators strongly disagreed with the  Department's insistence, or jurisdiction to mandate, that all states engage in an "active" regulatory review of distance education programs. The latest state authorization draft did not permit authorization exemptions based solely on accreditation, even though about 45 states use exemptions for some subset of the institutions, and required complaint processes and review. It is not known when the proposed rules will be published for public comment, but draft state authorization rules were proposed to take effect in June 2018, and cash management rules could apply for the 2015-16 academic year. More information is available at http://1.usa.gov/1nJOmnQ

 

ED Accepting Applications for $75 mil First in the World Grant

May 15, 2014 – Today, the U.S. Department of Education released further details on their new $75 million First in the World (FITW) grant competition. Individual intuitions or consortia may apply with awards ranging from $2 - $4 million. Awards should support innovation and expand research. This is defined by a number of priority areas aimed at supporting underrepresented and low-income students, including: increasing community college transfer rates; reducing time to completion; increasing enrollment and completion in STEM; increasing access and completion; and improving college affordability. Up to $20 million of the grant is reserved for Minority Serving Institutions. The announcement may be viewed here:  http://ofr.gov/OFRUpload/OFRData/2014-11463_PI.pdf. Applications are due within 45 days of the notice appearing in the federal register, which is expected in the coming days.

The Senate is considering a tax extenders package this week, which includes a two-year extension for the now expired above the line tuition and fees deduction, as well as the IRA charitable rollover provision. The House is considering tax extenders in a piecemeal fashion. Both chambers have opted not to provide offsets for the cost of these bills, leaving the possibility of a Presidential veto.

Next Thursday at 10 am the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions will hold a hearing entitled, "Examining Access and Supports for Servicemembers and Veterans in Higher Education."  Further details regarding the hearing will be posted here:  http://goo.gl/HyXcqR. Additionally, the HELP Committee held a hearing this week on strengthening Minority Serving Institutions. Eloy Ortiz Oakley, President of Long Beach City College testified at the hearing. Details regarding that hearing, as well as an archived webcast may be viewed here: http://goo.gl/77fwWQ.

 

Direct Loan Interest Rates set to Rise for 2014 - 2015 Academic Year 

May 7, 2014 – Today, new interest rates for the upcoming 2014 – 2015 academic year were revealed. Starting with reforms set in place last summer, each year interest rates on new federal loans are set based on the final auction of the 10-year Treasury note prior to June 1st. For Stafford subsidized and unsubsidized undergraduate loans, rates rose from 3.86% to 4.66%. Stafford graduate rates rose from 5.41% to 6.21%, and PLUS loan rates increase from 6.41% to 7.21%. These new rates go into effect after July 1, for the upcoming 2014 -2015 school year.

Also on the interest rate front, yesterday Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) along with Congressmen George Miller (D-CA) and John Tierney (D-MA) introduced the 'Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act' in their respective chambers. The bill will allow some qualified borrows of private loans, and federal loans with higher interest rates to refinance to the current 2013 - 2014 rate offered to new direct loan borrowers. The Senate may consider this refinance bill as early as June.

Yesterday, US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan testified in front of the Senate Budget Committee regarding the President's FY 2015 budget request for the Department of Education. During the hearing Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-WA) reiterated her priority to reinstate partial Pell Grant  eligibility for Ability to Benefit students. Some additional details regarding the hearing may be viewed here: http://www.budget.senate.gov/democratic/public/index.cfm/2014/5/budget-hearing-the-president-s-fiscal-year-2015-education-budget-request.

Additionally, next Tuesday the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions plans to hold a hearing at 10:00 am on strengthening Minority Serving Institutions. Further details regarding that hearing will be posted here: http://www.help.senate.gov/hearings/hearing/?id=334cc656-5056-a032-5256-b5956209ca64.

 

House Holds Hearing on Department of ED's FY 2015 Budget Request

April 29, 2014 – Today, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan testified in front of the House Education and Workforce Committee on the Department's FY 2015 budget request. Topics of discussion included formula vs. competitive grants, the proposed college ratings system, and funding for Perkins Career and Technical Education. The Secretary also promoted a number of the new budget proposals, and reiterated support for Pell Grant eligibility for ability-to-benefit students who are enrolled in career pathway programs. An archived webcast of the hearing, as well as testimony may be viewed here: http://edworkforce.house.gov/calendar/eventsingle.aspx?EventID=376999.

The U.S. Department of Labor yesterday announced the availability of $150 million for the new Job-Driven National Emergency Grants program. Fund will be available to states to implement new or expanded local and regional job-driven partnerships that will serve more dislocated workers and achieve better employment-related outcomes. The grants will be used to create or expand employer partnerships – including those at community colleges – that provide opportunities for on-the-job training, registered apprenticeships or other occupational training that results in an industry-recognized credential. Grants ranging from $500,000 to $6 million are being made available to states, territories and federally-recognized tribes. Applications are due by May 27th. Further information on the grant may be viewed here: http://wdr.doleta.gov/directives/corr_doc.cfm?DOCN=4915.

Today, the White House Task Force to Protect Students From Sexual Assault, established by President Obama in January, released a new report and website at https://www.notalone.gov/ that provides colleges with guidelines on how to identify, prevent, and respond to sexual assault on campus, as well as resources and data for students and the public. The U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights also issued an accompanying 52-page policy guidance on institutional obligations under Title IX to address sexual harassment and assault. The coordinated recommendations and website were released amid recent moves by the Department of Education to more stringently enforce Title IX violations, and calls for comprehensive campus sexual misconduct policies, school climate surveys, and trainings for campus officials. The full report White House report can be viewed at http://1.usa.gov/1hLUFld and Department guidance at http://1.usa.gov/1m73TBd.

 

Administration Announces Plan to Regulate Teacher Prep Programs

April 25, 2014 – Today, President Obama and the U.S. Department of Education announced a plan to move forward with new rules to evaluate teacher preparation programs, and encourage states to develop ratings system that identify high- and low-performing teacher preparation programs. That ratings systems would likely consider job placement rates and retention, as well as data on student outcomes and achievement. Eligibility for federal TEACH grants would be tied to these state-developed program ratings systems. In 2012, the Department of Education convened negotiated rulemaking panel on teacher preparation programs. Consensus was not reached during those meetings, however the forthcoming proposal may be similar to drafts the department circulated during those sessions. A detailed proposal is expected this summer, with the goal of producing a final rule within the next year. The department will be accepting public comment once the draft regulations are released. A fact sheet on today's announcement may be viewed here:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/04/25/fact-sheet-taking-action-improve-teacher-preparation.

The third round of the Department of Education's negotiated rulemaking sessions on program integrity is wrapping up today.  The panel continued discussions today regarding cash management and use of campus debit cards, parent PLUS loans, and state authorization rules. The department will be holding an additional session that will be meeting May 19 – 20.

 

President Obama and VP Biden to Announce New Round of TAACCCT Grants

April 16, 2014 – Today President Obama and Vice President Biden visit the Community College of Allegheny County to announce the availability of grant funds under the fourth round of Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) Grant Program and other federal job training investments. The event, which is expected at 3:30 PM EDT today, will focus on $450 million available under TAACCCT as well as $100 million for a new U.S. Department of Labor grant program to support apprenticeships in high-growth fields. The TAACCCT grants are the final round of the $2 billion grant program created under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to support educational and career-training programs focused on dislocated and unemployed workers.  This final round calls for increased engagement with employers, and allows individual institutions to apply for an award. Applications will be accepted through July 7th, and the full announcement may be viewed here:  http://www.doleta.gov/grants/pdf/SGA-DFA-PY-13-10.pdf.

ACCT will provide additional details on the newly-proposed apprenticeship grants as they become available. The grant period is expected to open in the fall, and is likely to align with the Administration's new Registered Apprenticeship–College Consortium (http://www.doleta.gov/OA/racc.cfm).

UPDATE:  The White House has released a fact sheet on today's announcements:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/04/16/fact-sheet-american-job-training-investments-skills-and-jobs-build-stron.

 

Pell Grant Numbers Revised by CBO

April 15, 2014 – The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has released updated budget projections for the Pell Grant program that once again show lower estimated program costs over the next ten years (FY 2014 – 2024) and delaying the need for supplemental funding for at least one year. The CBO projects fewer students will receive awards over this time frame, driving part of the reduction in program costs. Already projected to have a surplus in the upcoming FY 2015, and the new Pell Grant estimates would mean a small surplus for FY 2016 as well. However, for FY 2017 and beyond the program will still experience funding shortfalls ranging from $2.3 billion to $7 billion annually. Assuming current discretionary funding, the cumulative shortfall between FY 2017 and 2024 is approximately $38 billion – compared to more than $54 billion as projected in May 2013. The updated CBO chart may be viewed here: http://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/cbofiles/attachments/44199-2014-04-Pell_Grant.pdf.

Yesterday, the Lumina Foundation released a series of reports on college affordability, loan repayment models, and federal-state-institutional partnerships in student financial aid. The reports, as well as an archived webcast of the event, may be viewed here: http://www.luminafoundation.org/newsroom/ideas_summit.html.

 

House Passes Budget Resolution

April 10, 2014 – Today, the House passed H.Con.Res. 96, a budget resolution for fiscal year (FY) 2015 by a vote of 219 to 205. The resolution, introduced by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) cuts federal spending by $5 trillion over 10 years, and includes cuts to higher education. Additionally, it shifts a significant amount of non-defense discretionary funding to the defense side of the ledger.

The resolution calls for significant changes for the Pell Grant program, including: eliminating eligibility for less-than-half-time students; instituting an income cap; lowering income thresholds to qualify for a zero expected family contribution; changing the current income protection allowance to require higher contributions from working students; and removing the income exclusion of the child tax credit, TANF, and EITC. Additionally, it freezes of the maximum Pell Grant award at its current level of $5,730, and eliminates all $84 billion in mandatory funding for the Pell Grant program. The House budget also calls for elimination of federal loan in-school loan interest subsidies for undergraduate students, as well as elimination of fees paid to institutions for administration of the Pell Grant or campus-based aid.

The Senate will not pass a budget resolution this year, instead relying on the statutory limits set by last year's Bipartisan Budget Act (BBA). The House budget also abides by FY 2015 funding caps set by the BBA, hence the overall funding levels will be in line with Senate allocations. However, the two chambers will likely differ on subcommittee allocation levels. The House allocation for the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies appropriations bill is expected to be announced the week of May 5th.

 

Vice President Biden Announced Registered Apprenticeship-College Consortium

April 8, 2014 - Yesterday, at the American Association of Community Colleges' annual meeting Vice President Joe Biden announced the creation of a Registered Apprenticeship-College Consortium designed to expand articulation agreements between postsecondary institutions and local Registered Apprenticeship programs. In his announcement, the Vice President called for community colleges to voluntarily participate in this program in order to assist students in apprenticeship programs receive academic credit. Additional details regarding the consortium program may be viewed here: http://www.doleta.gov/oa/racc.cfm#consortium.

Today, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies held a hearing on FY 2015 appropriations, featuring U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Secretary Duncan provided testimony on the Department's FY 2015 budget request. Several questions arose regarding the Administration's proposed funding for new competitive grant proposals, as opposed to providing additional funding for existing formula programs. Members, including Subcommittee Ranking Member Rosa DeLauro also reiterated the need to restore Pell Grant eligibility for Ability-to-Benefit students. An archived webcast may be accessed here: http://appropriations.house.gov/videos/.

Also today, the House will begin consideration on the FY 2015 budget resolution introduced by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI). As in previous years, Chairman Ryan's proposal would cut significant funding from non-defense discretionary programs and shift it to the defense side of the ledger. The plan once again proposes significant changes for the Pell Grant program, including: eliminating eligibility for less-than-half-time students; instituting an income cap; lowering income thresholds to qualify for a zero expected family contribution; and changing the current income protection allowance to require higher contributions from working students. Additionally, the budget calls for a freeze of the maximum Pell Grant award at its current level of $5,730, and eliminates all $84 billion in mandatory funding for the Pell Grant program. The House budget plan also calls for elimination of federal loan in-school loan interest subsidies. The full budget proposal can be viewed here:  http://budget.house.gov/uploadedfiles/fy15_blueprint.pdf.

 

House Holds Higher Ed Hearing Focused on Nontraditional Students

April 2, 2014 – Today, the House Education and Workforce Committee held a hearing entitled, "Keeping College within Reach: Meeting the Needs of Contemporary Students." The hearing focused on challenges faced by nontraditional students and delivery models for student success. The need for better data, support for innovative learning models (such as competency-based education), transferability of credits, and student persistence were all topics discussed at the hearing. This hearing is part of a series of hearings the House is holding in preparation for the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. Witness testimony, as well as an archived webcast of the hearing may be viewed here:  http://edworkforce.house.gov/calendar/eventsingle.aspx?EventID=374799.

Also in House Education and Workforce Committee news, Congressman Mark Takano (D-CA) has been appointed to fill the vacant Democratic slot on the committee. Congressman Takano is a first-term Member representing California's 41st Congressional District. He is also a former trustee from Riverside Community College District.

 

House Releases FY 2015 Budget Proposal

April 1, 2014 – Today, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) released his FY 2015 budget proposal. The budget is will not impact topline funding levels which were previously set for FY 2015 in the bipartisan budget accord that was agreed to in December. As in previous years, Chairman Ryan's proposal would cut significant funding from non-defense discretionary programs and shift it to the defense side of the ledger. Adjusted for inflation, the budget would result in a 29 percent cut from current spending levels within 10 years.

The plan once again proposes significant changes for the Pell Grant program, including: eliminating eligibility for less-than-half-time students; instituting an income cap; lowering income thresholds to qualify for a zero expected family contribution; changing the current income protection allowance to require higher contributions from working students; and removing the income exclusion of the child tax credit, TANF, and EITC. Additionally, the budget calls for a freeze of the maximum Pell Grant award at its current level of $5,730, and eliminates all $84 billion in mandatory funding for the Pell Grant program. It calls for all Pell funding to be discretionary spending subject to yearly Congressional appropriation, however the plan does not specifically propose an offset to the mandatory funding cuts.

Additionally, the House budget plan calls for elimination of federal loan in-school loan interest subsidies for undergraduate students, as well as elimination of fees paid to institutions for administration of the Pell Grant or campus-based aid. It applauds the work of the House Education and Workforce Committee for its work to reauthorization the Workforce Investment Act, and calls for consolidation for workforce training programs into targeted "career-scholarship programs." Additional details regarding these "scholarships" programs were limited to a call for increased accountability and better targeting to industry needs. The full budget proposal can be viewed here:  http://budget.house.gov/uploadedfiles/fy15_blueprint.pdf.

This week the House Education and Workforce Committee will hold a hearing tomorrow at 10am entitled, "Keeping College within Reach: Meeting the Needs of Contemporary Students." The hearing will focus on the growing majority of so-called 'non-traditional' students, and how institutions and states are working to serve these students. Additional information regarding the hearing, as well as the live webcast may be viewed here:  http://edworkforce.house.gov/calendar/eventsingle.aspx?EventID=374147.

 

Comment Period Open for Gainful Employment

March 25, 2014 – The U.S. Department of Education (ED) has opened the public comment period for the recently released ‘Gainful Employment’ Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM).  The gainful employment proposal is aimed at evaluating vocational programs at community colleges and for-profit institutions based on debt-to-earnings ratios and student loan default rates. An ACCT fact sheet on the proposed regulations may be viewed here: http://goo.gl/S39kKW. The 841-page proposal, as well as a comment submission link may be accessed here:  https://federalregister.gov/a/2014-06000. Comments will be accepted through May 27th.

Also on the regulatory front, ED will be holding its second meeting of negotiated rulemaking on ‘program integrity and improvement’ starting tomorrow, March 26th, through Friday. The six regulatory issues being discussed are: clock to credit hour conversion; state authorization for distance or correspondence education; state authorization for foreign locations of U.S. institutions; Title IV cash management (student debit and prepaid cards); and retaking or repeating coursework. Negotiators received draft proposed regulations on these issues last week. Negotiating sessions will continue through late May. Cash management and state authorization regulations could have a significant impact on community colleges.

This Thursday at 10 a.m. the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) will hold a hearing related to reauthorization of the Higher Education Act entitled, “Strengthening the Federal Student Loan Program for Borrowers.” Additional details regarding the hearing, as well as a live webcast will be posted here: http://goo.gl/2LylQJ. Also, at 2:30 today the HELP Committee will be holding a hearing on teacher preparation. Details regarding that hearing may be viewed here:  http://goo.gl/l5pCwN.

 

Department of Education Releases Gainful Employment Rule

March 14, 2014 - Today, the Department of Education (ED) released its proposed rule for Gainful Employment aimed at evaluating vocational programs based on debt-to-earnings standards and default rates. ED held a negotiated rulemaking session on Gainful Employment last fall. At the time negotiators could not come to consensus, resulting is ED drafting the final proposal released today. ED will accept public comments on this proposal for the next 60 days. ACCT has provided analysis of the proposal, which may be viewed here:  http://www.acct.org/files/Advocacy/Factsheets%20and%20Summaries/ACCT-GE-....  Additional perspective from ACCT regarding the proposal will be included in the next issue of Capitol Connection. The full, 841-page Gainful Employment rule may be viewed here:  1.usa.gov/1o0hTcZ.

This week’s subcommittee hearing on examining the student loan rehabilitation process was held to coincide with the release of a GAO report entitled “Better Oversight Could Improve Defaulted Loan Rehabilitation.” The report details missteps in ED’s process to rehabilitate defaulted student loans, as well as recommendations to enhance oversight. The full report may be viewed here: http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-256.

 

House Holds Hearing on Student Loan Rehabilitation

March 12, 2014 – The House Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training is currently holding a hearing examining student loan rehabilitation. The hearing will discuss the process used by the Department of Education's to help borrowers overcome loan default through the rehabilitation process. Witnesses include Peg Julius, Executive Director of Enrollment Management for
Kirkwood Community College. A webcast of the hearing, along with additional information may be viewed here: 1.usa.gov/1eszcgE.

The U.S. Department of Education Office of Inspector General (IG) has issued a report this week on third-party servicer use of debit cards to deliver Title IV funds. The IG report raised concerns regarding student privacy, fees paid by students, and institutional management of third-party servicers. This report will likely be referenced by negotiators during the next round of "negotiated rulemaking" on program integrity and improvement. That meeting is set to take place March 26 – 28. The following letter contains comments submitted by the community college negotiators on the subject of cash management: http://www.acct.org/files/Advocacy/CashManagementTwoYearPublicSchools.pdf. The full IG report may be viewed here:  1.usa.gov/1foB3m9.

 

President Obama Releases FY 2015 Budget Request

March 4, 2014 – Today, President Obama released his FY 2015 budget request. The budget included a number of reforms and new proposals for higher education and workforce training. Highlights for the community college sector include a $6 billion Community College Job-Driven Training Fund, reinstatement of Pell Grant eligibility for Ability to Benefit students, and a $4 billion State Higher Education Performance Fund.  ACCT has provided a detailed fact sheet on the FY 2015 budget request, which may be viewed here:  http://www.acct.org/files/Advocacy/Factsheets%20and%20Summaries/ACCT%20FACTSHEET%20president%5C%27s%20budget%202015.pdf.

Additionally, the Department of Education’s budget request information may be viewed here: http://www.ed.gov/budget15, and the Department of Labor’s request may be viewed here: http://www.dol.gov/dol/budget/.

 

House Tax Reform Bill Includes Proposed Changes to Higher Ed Tax Benefits 

February 27, 2014 – Yesterday, House Ways and Means Chairman, Dave Camp (R-MI) introduced a comprehensive tax reform package that included significant proposed changes to higher education tax benefits. On a positive note for community college students, the bill includes H.R. 3393, the Student and Family Tax Simplification Act. H.R. 3393 would strengthen and permanently extend the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC)  through consolidation of the Hope Tax Credit, the tuition and fees deduction, and the Lifetime Learning Credit into the AOTC. The bill increases refundability, adjusts for inflation starting in 2018, and makes it easier for community college students to receive the maximum credit through better coordination with the Pell Grant program. However, Chairman Camp’s bill also seeks to elimination a number of other higher education tax benefits, including: section 127 employer educational assistance program, Coverdell savings accounts, and deduction for interest on education loans. The section by section summary of the tax reform package may be viewed here: http://tinyurl.com/n2btvmm.

Today, the Senate is continuing consideration of S.1982, the Comprehensive Veterans Health and Benefits and Military Retirement Pay Restoration Act of 2014. The bill includes a number of education provisions, including requiring public institutions to provide in-state tuition rates for Post-9/11 GI Bill and MGIB beneficiaries who have been discharged or released from military service within three years. The bill also reauthorizes the VA’s Work-Study Program. A summary of the bill may be viewed here:  http://www.sanders.senate.gov/download/s-1982-summary?inline=file.

Last Friday, the U.S. Department of Education concluded the first of three rounds of “negotiated rulemaking” over program integrity and improvement. The negotiating committee will next meet March 26 - 28. If no consensus is reached after the third and final session, the Department will write their own regulations. This committee includes one primary and one alternate representative of two-year public institutions. The six regulatory issues being discussed are:

  • Clock to Credit Hour Conversion
  • State Authorization for Distance or Correspondence Education
  • State Authorization for Foreign Locations of U.S. Institutions
  • Cash Management (aka use of Student Debit/Prepaid Cards)
  • Retaking or Repeating Coursework
  • Definition of Adverse Credit for Direct PLUS Loan Eligibility

Today, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions held a hearing entitled, “Promoting College Access and Success For Students With Disabilities.” Witnesses discussed challenges faced by students with disabilities, as well as models for success. Witness testimony, as well as an archived webcast of the hearing may be viewed here:  http://tinyurl.com/lrn39g9. Also today, the House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education held a hearing entitled, “Exploring Efforts to Strengthen the Teaching Profession.” The hearing touched on innovative reforms in teacher training, as well as postsecondary reporting requirements. Witness testimony, as well as an archived webcast of the hearing may be viewed here:  http://tinyurl.com/l82jdcy.

 

Pell Grant Costs Revised Lower, Ed Dept Holds College Ratings Symposium

February 7, 2014 – On Tuesday, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) provided welcome news for the Pell Grant in the form of updated budget estimates for 2014 to 2024. The CBO now projects total funding needs for the Pell Grant program to be lower in the current fiscal year and for the next few years thereafter than previously estimated. The current surplus will remain through FY 2015 – a year longer than previously projected – and FY 2016 has a more manageable shortfall of $990M. For FY 2017 and beyond, the shortfall remains between $3-7 billion per year.

Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Education held a technical symposium at the National Center for Education Statistics to guide the development of the new "college ratings" system, known as the Postsecondary Institution Ratings System (PIRS). Invited researchers and analysts weighed in on issues such as potential data elements, metrics, weighting, scoring, and the development of comparison groups.  Respondents expressed concern that the PIRS will be utilize federal data that has significant shortcomings. ACCT provided comments in response to the Department's Request for Information on the college ratings system, which can be viewed at: http://bit.ly/1j6Y9Vy.

Late last week, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP ) approved and sent to the full Senate the nominations of Ted Mitchell to be Under Secretary of Education and for Ericka M. Miller to be Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education at the U.S. Department of Education. If confirmed by the full Senate as expected, these nominees will fill out a tem expected to carry out the Obama administration's higher education agenda over the next several years. On Tuesday, February 11 at 10AM, the HELP Committee will hold a hearing on the nominations of Christopher P. Lu for Deputy Secretary of Labor and Portia Y. Wu for Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employment and Training.

On Capitol Hill the past few weeks, numerous retirements have been announced in the House and Senate. The two most senior democrats on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce have announced their departure.  Ranking Member George Miller (D-CA) will retire at the end of 2014, and Rep. Rob Andrews (D-NJ) will resign from Congress mid-February. It is expected that Rep. Robert C. "Bobby" Scott (D-VA) will become ranking member of this committee in 2015.

 

President Obama Annouces new $150 million "Ready to Work" Partnership Grant

January 31, 2014 – Today, President Obama met with a number CEOs whose companies have agreed to take steps to help give the long-term unemployed. As a part of that effort, the President announced a new $150 million grant to fund "ready to work" partnerships that support high performing collaborations between employers, non-profit organizations and America's public workforce system.  The grant will help provide long-term unemployed individuals with the range of services, training, and access they need to fill middle and high-skill jobs.

In particular, these grants will reward partnerships with the following key features: 1) Focus on reemploying long-term unemployed workers; 2)Work-based training that enables earning while learning through models such as on-the-job training, paid work experience, paid internships and registered apprenticeships; 3) Employer engagement and support in program design – including programs that commit to consider hiring qualified participants. A solicitation for applications for these "ready to work" partnerships be available in February and awards will be made in mid-2014.

Yesterday, President Obama issued a memorandum calling for a review of all federal workforce training programs. The review, which will be spearheaded by Vice President Biden, aims to better align training programs with in-demand jobs and careers.  The memorandum may be viewed here: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/01/30/presidential-memorandum-job-driven-training-workers.

The Administration has also announced that as part of the final round of grants for the TAA Community College and Career Training Grant program, the Secretary of Labor will call for an enhanced focus on job-driven training, strong employer engagement, and best practices. This $500 million grant competition will seek to scale job-driven training partnerships between regional employers and national industry associations that advance the best practices identified by stakeholder consultations.

 

White House Hosts Higher Education Summit 

January 16, 2014 – Today, President Obama convened over 100 college and university presidents, as well as higher education leaders for a national summit on higher education. Coordinated by the White House National Economic Council, the White House Domestic Policy Council, and the Department of Education, the summit is dedicated to launching a plan of action for increasing college access and success for low-income and disadvantaged students. Representing the nation's community college trustees at a White House summit was ACCT president and CEO, J. Noah Brown.

Also today, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee held a hearing entitled, "Strengthening Federal Access Programs to Meet 21st Century Needs: A Look at TRIO and GEAR UP." The hearing is part of an ongoing series of hearings held by the committee in preparation for the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.  Among those testifying, included Tallie Sertich, Director of Climb Upward Bound at Hibbing Community College in Minnesota. An archived webcast of the hearing, as well as testimony may be viewed here:   http://www.help.senate.gov/hearings/hearing/?id=abbdb7d5-5056-a032-5280-c0b1dd6a8c4e.

Yesterday the House passed the FY 2014 omnibus appropriations bill by a vote of 359 to 67.  The Senate is expected to hold a cloture vote on the bill tomorrow morning. Under the bill, the Pell Grant maximum award receives its automatic inflationary increase from the current $5,645 level to $5,730 in Award Year 2014-15. The bill also includes $75 million for President Obama's new "First in the World" grant program for institutions of higher education to implement innovative strategies and practices shown to be effective in improving educational outcomes and making college more affordable for students and families. Funding for the Federal Work Study and Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant programs was restored to their pre-sequester FY 2013 levels.  TRIO and GEAR-UP also recovered all of their sequester cuts, while most of these cuts were restored to the Title III and V programs. A funding chart may be viewed via this link: http://www.acct.org/files/Advocacy/FY14%20OMNIBUS%20APPROPRIATIONS%20CHART.pdf.

 

FY 2014 Ominbus bill is Released

January 14, 2013 – The House and Senate Appropriations Committees have released their bipartisan FY 2014 omnibus package, which will fund the government through the remainder of the current fiscal year. The more than 1,500 page bill is expected to pass the House tomorrow, followed by the Senate later this week. However, with current government funding expiring tomorrow, Congress also plans on passing a three-day stopgap funding measure. The omnibus bill is reflective of the budget agreement that passed in December which set overall funding levels for FY 2014 and 2015 and partially restored funding cut by sequestration. While no priority community college program will see additional funding cuts, the degree of funding restoration from sequester levels varies. Much of the overall funding for the U.S. Department of Education (ED) is restored, but would remain approximately $811 million less than FY 2012 levels.

Under the bill, the Pell Grant maximum award receives its automatic inflationary increase from the current $5,645 level to $5,730 in Award Year 2014-15. The bill also includes $75 million for President Obama’s new “First in the World” grant program for institutions of higher education to implement innovative strategies and practices shown to be effective in improving educational outcomes and making college more affordable for students and families. Policy provisions in the bill require ED to report on enrollment and graduation rates for Pell Grant recipients by institution while also asking for officials to suggest how to improve the tracking of transfer and nontraditional students. In a small change to the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grant program, the Secretary of Labor is authorized to reserve up to three percent funds for evaluation and technical assistance purposes and to allow grantees to award subgrants. Additionally, the Office of Vocational and Adult Education has been renamed as the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education.

A funding chart may be viewed via this link: http://www.acct.org/files/Advocacy/FY14%20OMNIBUS%20APPROPRIATIONS%20CHART.pdf.

Text of the omnibus bill and joint explanatory statements may be viewed here:  http://rules.house.gov/bill/113/hr-3547-sa.

 

House to Take Up Short-Term CR Next Week

January 10, 2014 – Both the House and Senate returned this week from their winter recess to begin the second session of the 113th Congress. With a budget agreement in place, the House and Senate are now tasked with passing a FY 2014 appropriations bill that will fund the government through September 30th. Appropriations committee leadership has indicated that an omnibus bill may be filed either Sunday night or Monday. However, that will not provide Congress with enough time to pass the omnibus bill before the current short-term funding agreement expires on January 15th. Therefore, early next week the House plans on taking up a three-day extension of current funding as a stopgap measure.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee has scheduling a hearing for 10am on Thursday, January 16th entitled, "Strengthening Federal Access Programs to Meet 21st Century Needs: A Look at TRIO and GEAR UP". Additional information regarding the hearing, as well as a live webcast will be posted here: http://www.help.senate.gov/hearings/hearing/?id=abbdb7d5-5056-a032-5280-c0b1dd6a8c4e.

 

Senate Passes Budget Agreement

December 18, 2013 – By a vote of 64 to 36 the Senate passed H.J.Res. 59, the bipartisan budget agreement that sets funding levels for FY 2014 and 2015, and partially replaces sequestration. The deal provides $63 billion towards sequester replacement - $45 billion for FY 2014 and $18 billion for FY 2015. Overall funding levels for FY 2014 are set at $1.012 trillion. For non-defense discretionary spending the budget agreement provides an additional $24 billion over FY 2013 post-sequestration levels. This is approximately an 87% restoration of funding. In order to provide this partial restoration, the budget agreement makes a number of offsets. This includes, savings that were generated by lowering the reimbursement for guaranty agencies that rehabilitated loans under the old Federal Family Education Loan Program, and eliminating mandatory spending for payments to non-profit student-loan servicers. Those loan services payments will now be distributed through discretionary funds in the same manner as other student-loan servicers.

After the bill passes the Senate, it will head to the President's desk for signature this evening. Once the agreement is signed into law, the appropriations committee will set its 302(b), or subcommittee allocations. From this, the committee will develop an omnibus appropriations bill to fund the remainder for FY 2014. Individual programmatic funding levels will be determined within that bill. The current funding agreement expires on January 15th.

 

House Passes Budget Deal

December 13, 2013 – Last evening, the House passed a budget deal by a vote of 332 – 94 that sets overall appropriations levels for FY 2014 and 2015, and partially reinstates funding that was cuts under sequestration. Funding levels for FY 2014 are set at $1.012 trillion. While this is larger than the $967 billion cap that was set to go into place in January, it is also $46 billion less than pre-sequestration levels for FY 2013. Under the deal, mandatory cuts for non-exempt programs as a result of sequestration remain in place and are actually extended for two years. This includes some mandatory funding programs for Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority Serving Institutions. Subcommittee funding allocations are expected to be announced next week. Once those are in place, the appropriations committee will commence work on an FY 2014 omnibus bill. Individual funding levels for discretionary programs will be determined within the omnibus bill. The Senate is expected to begin consideration of the budget deal on Tuesday of next week, however there may be an attempted filibuster on the bill.

The third and final session of gainful employment negotiated rulemaking concluded this evening, and ACCT would like to provide both an update and a correction of the previous alert. While community college negotiators indicated they could support the final regulation with some modifications to protect low-risk and low-cost programs, negotiators from consumer groups and for-profits would not support the proposal. Since consensus was not reached by the committee, it will now be up to the Department of Education to finalize the regulations, which are expected to be released early next year.

Of the 11,735 programs that would fall under the debt measures in the current proposal, a total of 1,496 programs in all sectors of higher education would fail. Of those failing programs, 53 are community college programs. Thousands more gainful employment programs would need to report and disclose information, but would not be subject to the debt measures because the number of students do not meet required data validity thresholds.

Yesterday, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee held a hearing entitled, "Accreditation as Quality Assurance: Meeting the Needs of 21st Century Learning." The committee examined the role of the triad in the process of accreditation, and potential reforms to be considered under the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. Witness testimony, as well as an archived webcast of the hearing may be viewed here:  http://www.help.senate.gov/hearings/hearing/?id=ac694134-5056-a032-5200-5c2409df2cb5.

 

Final Budget Deal Announced

December 11, 2013 – Yesterday, budget conference committee co-chairs, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI) announced they have come to agreement over budget deal that will set spending levels for FY 2014 and 2015, and partially replace sequestration. The deal provides $63 billion towards sequester replacement - $45 billion for FY 2014 and $18 billion for FY 2015. Those funds will be split evenly between defense and nondefense discretionary spending. While discretionary spending will still be less than it was prior to the FY 2013 sequester, the $22.5 billion that nondefense will receive is an 87% restoration. However, since sequestration is a multi-year event, Congress will once again have to address these mandated cuts in FY 2016. Offsets for the deal came from a number of areas, including increased user fees for aviation security and changes to federal retirement. Additionally, savings for the bill were generated by lowering the reimbursement for guaranty agencies that rehabilitated loans under the old Federal Family Education Loan Program, and eliminating mandatory spending for payments to non-profit student-loan servicers. Those loan services payments will now be distributed through discretionary funds in the same manner as other student-loan servicers.

The deal will not be considered by the larger budget conference committee, and is headed straight to the floor. The House Rules Committee is meeting later today, with the expectation that the bill will be voted on by the full House tomorrow. The Senate will likely follow suit before the end of the week. Once the budget bill is passed, the House and Senate Appropriations Committee can establish their subcommittee allocations in order to pass another FY 2014 funding bill.  The current continuing resolution expires on January 15th.

 

Gainful Employment Rulemaking to Continue into December

November 21, 2013  - Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Education's (ED) "gainful employment" negotiated rulemaking committee moved to extend the session to one additional day in mid-December with a date yet to be determined. Negotiators met for three days this week and considered numerous proposals to amend the draft regulations, but were no closer to reaching consensus before the planned adjournment yesterday evening. ED has not provided any data as to the predicted number of programs that would pass or fail the latest version of the rules, as they had done in previous sessions. Officials have pledged to provide this data publicly before the final December session, when negotiators will be asked for a consensus vote.

 

Community college proposals to protect low-risk programs from unrepresentative metrics have not yet been adopted. As the draft rules currently stand, vocational programs would be based on their graduates' debt-to-earnings ratios and past participants' ability to repay their loans – metrics that unfairly look at borrowers alone. As a result, community college negotiators have asked to reinstate protections included in the 2011 rule for low risk programs where few students borrow or that have low tuition and fees. Without reasonable thresholds, community college certificate programs could become at risk based on the borrowing activity of as few as 10 students. ACCT staff will provide more detailed analysis of the gainful employment proceedings and draft rules via the ACCT website and Capitol Connection.

 

Career & Tech Ed and Rulemaking Updates

November 19, 2013 – The Obama Administration is set to announce a new $100 million competitive grant program aimed at high schools who partner with colleges and employers to support students entering high-tech careers. The program will be called Youth CareerConnect and is funded through revenue from the H-1B visa program.  It is expected that the Department of Labor will being the grant awards process in early 2014 with the goal of awarding 25 to 40 applicants for the 2014 – 2015 school year.  This grant is similar to recommendations made in the administration's blueprint for reauthorizing the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education program, and circumvents Congressional action.

Also today, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce held a hearing entitled, "Preparing Today's Students for Tomorrow's Jobs: Improving the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act." Dr. Bryan Albrecht, President & CEO of Gateway Technical College served as a witness.  Much of the focus was on better alignment between employers, secondary, and postsecondary education in order to provide students with the necessary skills to attain jobs in high-need fields. Witness testimony, as well as an archived webcast of the hearing may be viewed here:  http://edworkforce.house.gov/calendar/eventsingle.aspx?EventID=361970.

Today marks day two of the second session for the negotiated rulemaking panel on gainful employment. Yesterday's meeting included discussion over numerous issues relative to the Department's revised draft of proposed regulations, including program level cohort default rates, debt-to-income ratios, completion rates, and repayment rates. Negotiations will continue today and tomorrow, however it looks unlikely that a consensus will be reached. Without consensus the Department is permitted to craft its own proposal.  ACCT will provide a comprehensive update on gainful employment in the next iteration of Capitol Connection.

It was also announced in the federal register that the Department of Education is planning a third round of negotiated rulemaking set for February, March, and April of next year. Topics include: 

* Cash management of funds provided under the title IV Federal Student Aid programs, including the use of debit cards and the handling of title IV credit balances.

* State authorization for programs offered through distance education or correspondence education.

* State authorization for foreign locations of institutions located in a State.

* Clock to credit hour conversion.

* The definition of "adverse credit" for borrowers in the Federal Direct PLUS Loan Program.

* The application of the repeat coursework provisions to graduate and undergraduate programs.

Examination of fraud prevention relating to the Pell Grant program was mentioned as a topic the committee will also examine, but it was noted that the Department has already taken a number of non-regulatory steps to combat fraud. The Department will be accepting nominations for individuals wishing to serve as negotiators.  The full announcement may be viewed here:  https://s3.amazonaws.com/public-inspection.federalregister.gov/2013-27850.pdf.

 

House Holds Hearing on Simplifying Federal Student Aid

November 13, 2013 – Today, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce held a hearing on simplifying federal student aid as part of its ongoing series of hearings preparing for the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. The hearing featured several witnesses who proposed reforms relative to the FAFSA, loan repayment, campus based aid, and grants. Chairman John Kline (R-MN) focused on the idea of streamlining the system so that students are offered "one loan, one grant, and one tax credit." Additionally, the complexity of current federal student loan repayment options was examined with many witnesses and committee members supporting the idea of initially enrolling all borrowers in an income based repayment plan. Other ideas presented included allowing students to only apply once to qualify for the Pell Grant program, and restructuring campus based aid to better target low-income students. Witness testimony, as well as an archived webcast may be viewed here:  http://1.usa.gov/1aQXILV.  Tomorrow, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee will also be holding a similarly focused hearing at 10 am.  http://1.usa.gov/HClSN2

The Budget Conference Committee also met this morning, as part of their ongoing negotiations to present a conference report by December 13th. The meeting was largely dominated by testimony from Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Elmendorf. Indications from conference committee co-chairs Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI) are that they are still trying to work out an overall framework by which negotiations can move forward. Congressional appropriators will utilize the conference report to structure continued funding for FY 2014. The current funding agreement expires on January 15th.

Today, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) held its second of four "open forums" on the President's plan to design a college ratings system, this time at George Mason University. ACCT 's Jee Hang Lee testified on the President's plan and encouraged ED to develop data that fairly and accurately reflect the unique open-access mission of community colleges. Among ACCT's recommendations: measure income diversity beyond Pell Grant recipients alone, present median student loan debts and overall borrowing rates instead of loan averages, disaggregate net price information by dependency status, count transfers towards student success, obtain representative earnings information, and consider limited persistence and credit attainment metrics. A full letter detailing ACCT's recommendations on the ratings system will be available soon.

 

Upcoming Hearings and Meetings on Higher Ed

November 12, 2013 – This week, Congress and the Administration have a bevy of events planned relative to higher education. Both the House and Senate have hearings scheduled for this week looking at Higher Education Act (HEA) reauthorization. The House Committee on Education and the Workforce will hold a hearing entitled, "Keeping College Within Reach: Simplifying Federal Student Aid," tomorrow at 10 am. The hearing is expected to focus on complexity in relation to the FAFSA, federal loan programs, and loan repayment options.  A live webcast, as well as further information may be found here: http://1.usa.gov/1aQXILV.  Similarly, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee will hold a hearing at 10 am on Thursday entitled, "Ensuring Access to Higher Education: Simplifying Federal Student Aid for Today's College Student." Further information on the Senate hearing, as well as a link to the webcast, are posted here: http://1.usa.gov/HClSN2

The House Committee on Education and the Workforce will also hold a hearing on Thursday at 10 am entitled, ""The Effects of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) on Schools, Colleges, and Universities." Among the issues examined will be the impact of the ACA on adjunct professors. Details regarding that hearing are available here:  http://1.usa.gov/19KbAT9

The Department of Education (ED) on Friday issued a revised draft of proposed "gainful employment" regulations prior to next week's meeting of the negotiated rulemaking committee. The revisions include additional, more stringent, and problematic eligibility metrics that will impact community college vocational programs, including a program-level cohort default rate and a "repayment rate" that will judge whether borrowers' loans are being amortized. Both completers and non-completers are included in the new metrics. Community college negotiators plan to clarify and modify the new provisions. ED's revised draft may be viewed under "Pre-Session 2 Materials" here: http://www2.ed.gov/policy/highered/reg/hearulemaking/2012/gainfulemployment.html

ED will be holding its second of four public forums on the President's college ratings plan tomorrow at George Mason University. ED is seeking public comment in a number of areas including factors in determining value of an institution, as well as what information is useful to consumers, and ACCT will provide testimony. Further information on the forums and instructions on submitting institutional comments may be viewed here:  http://www.ed.gov/college-affordability/be-part-conversation.

Finally, tomorrow the Budget Conference Committee is scheduled for its second formal meeting to try and come up with a bipartisan agreement regarding funding levels, and possibly a full or partial replacement for sequestration. CBO Director Elmendorf is scheduled to appear. Thus far, negotiations have not progressed, and the committee has only one more month to present its conference report.

 

Budget Conference Committee Convenes

October 30, 2013 – Today, the bipartisan Budget Conference Committee held its first formal meeting to determine a budgetary framework for the remainder of fiscal year (FY) 2014. The conference committee was established as part of the recent agreement to reopen the government and temporarily extend the debt limit. The conference committee is tasked with producing an FY 2014 budget by December 13th for consideration by each chamber. Congress would then need to adopt FY 2014 appropriations measures before the current government funding measure expires on January 15th.

Budget negotiations are expected to be challenging. The committee may address the next round of sequestration, scheduled to occur in January, which would primarily reduce defense funding. The conference committee may try to temporarily replace sequester cuts with a package that could include other targeted discretionary cuts, changes to entitlement programs, closing tax loopholes, or government fees and sales.

Tomorrow, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing at 10 am entitled, "Attaining a Quality Degree: Innovations to Improve Student Success." Witnesses are expected to discuss innovative models that promote student success, and will examine a wide range of topics from competency-based learning to effective remedial education. Additional hearing information, and a live webcast, is available at: http://1.usa.gov/He3OZw.

The Department of Education has announced dates for upcoming public forums regarding the Administration's proposed college ratings system.  Events will be held as follows:

• Wednesday, November 6, 2013, at The California State University-Dominguez Hills, Los Angeles, CA;

• Wednesday, November 13, 2013, at George Mason University, Arlington, VA;

• Friday, November 15, 2013, at the University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, IA; and

• Thursday, November 21, 2013, at Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA.

Last week, press reports indicated that NewSchools Venture Fund CEO, Ted Mitchell, would soon be named as the next Under Secretary of Education. The post is being vacated by Martha J. Kanter, who announced in August that she would leave the Obama administration and return to academia. Mitchell has served as president of Occidental College, dean of the Graduate School of Education at UCLA, and professor of education at Dartmouth. The nomination has not yet been formally announced, and the position requires Senate confirmation.

 

Rescheduled Dates for Gainful Employment Rulemaking Committee Announced

October 22, 2013 – The Department of Education has announced its makeup dates for the negotiated rulemaking session postponed due to the government shutdown. Negotiators will now be meeting from November 18th through 20th to examine gainful employment (GE) regulations relative to Title IV participation in vocational programs.  The additional time will allow the Department of Education staff to review materials including at least 11 negotiator submitted memos proposing changes to GE regulations. Despite the delay, the Department is still on track to release GE rules early next year.

 

Goverment Reopens After 16-Day Shutdown

October 17, 2013 – This morning, more than 800,000 furloughed federal workers returned to their jobs following the passage of a deal that enacted a three-month continuing resolution (CR) and temporarily raised the debt ceiling. The bill passed the House late yesterday evening by a vote of 285 – 144, following its approval by the Senate a few hours prior by a vote of 81 – 18.  President Obama signed the bill into law immediately.  The agreement maintains government funding through January 15th, and lifts the debt ceiling through February 7th. Funding levels for this temporary FY 2014 CR would be set at $986 billion, which are equal to the sequester levels for FY 2013. The deal also paved the way for the convening of a bicameral budget committee that would be required to develop a joint budget, known as the "conference report," by December 13th. This "conference committee" will likely reexamine sequestration, which is set to cut another $19 billion from federal spending sometime in January. Given differences between the House and Senate budget plans, the conference committee will confront significant disagreement over spending levels and revenue. In addition to a budget resolution, Congress will then need to enact a new appropriations measure before the CR expires on January 15th.

 It is expected that the House and Senate will soon begin to reschedule previously postponed hearings. Additionally, updates regarding the rescheduling of gainful employment negotiated rulemaking should be available soon.

 

Senate to vote on Debt Ceiling / CR deal

October 16, 2013 – It is now day 16 of the government shutdown, and with the deadline for the debt ceiling only hours away it appears that Congress may finally move forward with a bipartisan deal. Senators Harry Reid (D-NV) and Mitch McConnell (R-KY) have finalized an agreement that would reopen the government through January 15th, and lift the debt ceiling through February 7th.  Funding levels for the FY 2014 Continuing Resolution (CR)would be set at $986 billion, which are equal to post-sequester levels for FY 2013. The deal also calls for the development of a bicameral budget committee that would be required to develop a budget conference report by December 13th.  The deal would also deliver back pay to furloughed federal workers, and require income verification for people seeking health-insurance subsidies under the Affordable Care Act.  It also would allow the Treasury Department to use extraordinary measures to pay the nation's bills if Congress doesn't raise the debt ceiling by February 7th.  Even though it was strongly considered, the package will not include language providing federal agencies flexibility on how to implement the sequester cuts.

The Senate is expected to vote on the package this evening. It is unclear how quickly the House may bring up the measure, but the House Republican conference is meeting at 3pm today.  President Obama has indicated his support for the deal. 

 

House Republicans to Offer Six-Week Debt Limit Increase

October 10, 2013 – Today, House Republican leaders announced they will bring forth legislation to temporarily increase the federal government's $16.7 trillion debt limit for six weeks.  Absent Congressional action, the debt limit is currently set to be reached on October 17th, after which the federal government would begin to default on its debt obligations. The proposed six-week extension is not expected to include anything relative to the current federal government shutdown. House Republican leadership is set to meet with President Obama again this afternoon regarding their proposal and the current standoff. In the meantime, the House continues to pass temporary funding extensions for small portions of the government, but the Senate does not plan to consider these measures.

Due to the government shutdown, active duty military tuition assistance (TA) benefits have been suspended. As of right now, the Department of Defense has stated that denied TA requests for classes with start dates during the budget impasse period will not be reinstated or reimbursed. Veterans education benefits continue to be processed and distributed.  The VA has funds available to ensure claims processing and payments in the compensation, pension, education, and vocational rehabilitation programs will continue through late October. However, in the event of a prolonged shutdown, claims processing and payments in these programs will be suspended when funds are exhausted.

Finally, the College Board has released its report, Education Pays 2013: The Benefits of Higher Education for Individuals and Society, which documents the ways in which both individuals and society as a whole benefit from increased levels of education. Among the findings were that Associate's Degree holders will make 27 percent more than those with only a high school diploma. Details on the report may be viewed here:  http://trends.collegeboard.org/education-pays.

 

Government Shutdown Continues - Day 4

October 4, 2013 – Reverberations from the continuing shutdown of the federal government continue to be felt on Capitol Hill and beyond.  The upcoming scheduled negotiated rulemaking session on Gainful Employment now appears to be in jeopardy.  Notice has been sent by the Department of Education (ED) that the session originally set for October 21st through 23rd may be delayed or modified. The current furloughs of ED staff have prevented the review of materials necessary to proceed as scheduled. Negotiators are currently deciding how best to proceed given the circumstances.

In addition to the delay in rulemaking, ED plans to make additional furloughs if the government remains shut down beyond a week. ED previously warned that this would likely cause delays in the processing of Title IV.  Currently, around 90 percent of ED's staff has been furloughed.

There is still no agreement on how to proceed with appropriations bills that would reopen the government. The House has reported out of the Rules Committee several mini-continuing resolutions to temporarily fund small segments of the federal government. However, this piecemeal approach has been rejected in concept by the Senate and President Obama.

 

Impact of Government Shutdown on Higher Ed

October 1, 2013 – At midnight last night fiscal year 2014 began, and with no funding agreement in place the government shuttered its doors for the first time in 17 years.  The shutdown was largely driven by contention over whether or not to strip funding for the Affordable Care Act within a short-term funding extension.  It is unclear how long the shutdown will last, however reports indicate that the House may vote on a series of piecemeal bills to fund the government as early as today.

All federal employees were given either an essential or nonessential designation in regards to working during the shutdown.  In the Department of Education, approximately 90 percent of their employees were declared nonessential.  However, the impact on higher education institutions and students may not be felt too harshly.  Most federal student aid has already been distributed for the semester. For funds not yet distributed, there will be some departmental staff working to address that distribution.  Programs such as SEOG, TRIO, Title III, and Title IV will not have significant staff support.  However, since these are academic year grant programs funding distribution will not be impacted.  Institutions may have difficulty receiving technical assistance related to these and other programs.  Additionally, a lengthy staff furlough could cause future delays in grant distribution.

In light of the shutdown, previously planned hearings in the House and Senate have been postponed.  This includes a hearing schedule for 10 am this morning on simplifying federal student aid.  The hearing is now scheduled for Wednesday, October 9, 2013 at 10am.  Further details regarding the hearing will be posted here:  http://edworkforce.house.gov/calendar/eventsingle.aspx?EventID=351742.

 

Senate Passes FY 2014 CR, House Remains at Odds

September 27, 2013 – Today the Senate passed a continuing resolution (CR) by a vote of 54 to 44 that would keep the government funded through November 15th.  The Senate removed controversial provisions in the CR that passed in the House last Friday, including defunding of the Affordable Care Act and directing U.S. Treasury to prioritize federal debt payments in a breach of the debt ceiling. The Senate version of the CR also shortened the funding extension by one month, but kept the overall funding level passed by the House. At $988 billion, the CR would provide level-funding from current FY 2013 levels under the sequester.  The bill will now go back to the House where there is currently no consensus regarding next steps, including funding levels and whether or not to once again amend the bill to defund the Affordable Care Act. The government will shut down on October 1st if an agreement is not met.

Additionally, Congress will have to address the debt ceiling in the coming weeks. U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has announced that after October 17th the Treasury will have exhausted extraordinary measures that have been used since spring. After this date, the U.S. will begin to default on its debt obligations if action is not taken. House leaders have not yet decided how to proceed, and the President and Senate leaders have stated that they will not negotiate.

On October 1st at 10am the House Subcommittee on Higher Education and the Workforce will hold a hearing entitled "Keeping College Within Reach: Simplifying Federal Student Aid." Further details, as well as a link to the live webcast, may be viewed here: http://edworkforce.house.gov/calendar/eventsingle.aspx?EventID=348909.

The Department of Education has announced $20.1 million in grants for the Strengthening Institutions Program. The Strengthening Institutions Program "helps postsecondary schools expand their capacity to serve low-income students by providing funds to improve and strengthen their academic quality, institutional management and fiscal stability, as well as build a framework to help students complete college."  The announcement as well as a list of awardees may be viewed here: http://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/education-department-awards-201-million-grants-strengthen-39-higher-education-in.

 

House Passes Funding Extension

September 20, 2013 – The House has passed a continuing resolution (CR) package for FY 2014 by a vote of 230 to 189. The package combines FY 2014 funding with other more controversial measures. The CR extends funding till December 15th at $986 billion. This funding is level with current post FY 2013 sequestration appropriations. Also included in the CR are provisions to defund Obamacare, and legislative language regarding the debt limit. Under the bill, once the debt limit is reached the US Treasury is authorized to issue new debt only to pay interest and principal on existing debt.  This would result in all other federal payments being delayed until there is an increase in the debt ceiling.

Yesterday, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a hearing focusing on the higher education triad and accreditation reform in the context of the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA). Witnesses discussed issues ranging from the history and responsibility of the triad to problems experienced under the current system. This hearing was the first in a series of twelve aimed at issues related to HEA reauthorization. During the hearing, HELP Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) stated his goal to have a bipartisan reauthorization bill by early 2014. An archived webcast of the hearing, as well as witness testimony may be viewed here:  http://www.help.senate.gov/hearings/hearing/?id=bced8932-5056-a032-5249-e04bdd2eea5b.

Today, the House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education held a hearing examining career and technical education and training programs. The hearing focused on issues relative to best practices, as well as potential reforms to consider as part of a reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act. Additional information regarding the hearing will be posted here: http://edworkforce.house.gov/calendar/eventsingle.aspx?EventID=348912.

 

New Round of TAA CCCTG Awards Announced

September 18, 2013 – Today, U.S. Secretary of Labor Tom Perez announced 57 new awardees for grants under the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grant (TAA CCCTG) program. The TAA CCCTG program is authorized for $500 million for each of four years, fiscal years 2011 through 2014, to support educational and career-training programs focused on dislocated and unemployed workers.  This marks the third round of grants, however due to sequestration that amount of funds available has been reduced to around $474 million.  A press release regarding the grant announcement, as well as a list of awardees may be viewed via: http://www.dol.gov/opa/media/press/eta/eta20131932.htm.

Both the House and Senate are holding a number of hearings this week on higher education and career training.  The first hearing entitled “Keeping College Within Reach:  Improving Access and Affordability through Innovative Partnerships” occurred earlier today in the House Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training.  The hearing examined various ways that the higher education community is working to increase access and reduce costs though public-private partnerships and technology.  A webcast of the hearing as well as a witness testimony may be viewed here:  http://edworkforce.house.gov/calendar/eventsingle.aspx?EventID=348908

 The House is also scheduled to hold a hearing on Friday morning entitled, “"Preparing Today's Students for Tomorrow's Jobs: A Discussion on Career and Technical Education and Training Programs." Additional details on that hearing, as well as the live webcast maybe viewed here:  http://edworkforce.house.gov/calendar/eventsingle.aspx?EventID=348912.

Tomorrow at 10 a.m. the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee will hold its first hearing in a series of twelve planned hearings on the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. The hearing is entitled, “The Triad: Promoting a System of Shared Responsibility,” and will focus on potential reform to accreditation. Additional details regarding the hearing may be viewed here: http://www.help.senate.gov/hearings/hearing/?id=bced8932-5056-a032-5249-e04bdd2eea5b.

 

Gainful Employment Rulemaking Panel Wraps Up Third Day of Negotiations

September 11, 2013 - Today, the negotiated rulemaking panel convened by the U.S. Department of Education to consider new "gainful employment" regulations wrapped up the first of two rounds of formal negotiations over the 2013 draft rules, released in late August. The proposed rules cover more than 11,300 career training programs at for-profit institutions and community colleges —nearly twice as many as the old rule, due to the inclusion of programs with as few as 10 completers over two years, compared to just 30 with the 2011 version. There are other significant variations from the 2011 rules that were invalidated by a federal district court last year. Negotiators representing the various sectors and stakeholders in higher education, including community colleges, provided feedback to the Department on how to improve the draft rules to work better and consider programs that might be unfairly sanctioned by the draft accountability framework.

Community college negotiators have requested that, like the 2011 rules, programs where less than 50 percent of participants borrow should be considered as passing the accountability metrics. Negotiators representing the Department floated the idea of a program-level cohort default rate (CDR) as an accountability metric to be added in addition to the an annual debt-to-income and discretionary income ratios, but declined to provide further details. Other negotiators continue to advocate for items such as: reinstating a loan repayment rate as a metric, federal uniform standards and requirements for "job placement" rates, upfront GE program eligibility requirements,  a regulatory transition period, and permitting students in programs that become ineligible to receive debt relief. The second of two rounds will take place October 21-23, 2013.

Also today, the House Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training held a hearing entitled, "Keeping College Within Reach: Supporting Higher Education Opportunities for America's Servicemembers and Veterans." The hearing focused on best practices in serving student veterans.  This included everything from the need for strong institutional leadership to support services aimed at veterans. The panel also discussed issues related to the 90 -10 rule, as well as academic credentialing.  Witness testimony as well as an archived webcast of the hearing may be viewed here:  http://edworkforce.house.gov/calendar/eventsingle.aspx?EventID=348071.

Yesterday, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a new report on the need for a new federal research center to enhance the understanding of developmental education at community colleges. The report cited the lack of current information available regarding research and support of successful models of development education. In response to the report, the Department of Education has announced the availability of grant funds for a National Research Center on Developmental Education Assessment and Instruction. The Center will focus exclusively on developmental education assessment and instruction to inform policymakers and instructors on improving student outcomes. The Center is expected to launch in 2014.  The full report may be viewed here:  http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-13-656.

 

Congress Returning Next Week

September 6, 2013 – With August recess wrapping up Congress is set to return to DC for legislative work on Monday and Tuesday of next week. While debate on foreign relations will likely dominate the next couple of weeks, Congress must also address FY 2014 appropriations before October 1st.  Additionally, the U.S. Treasury has announced that "extraordinary measures" utilized since mid-May to prevent a government default will be exhausted by the middle of October. Congress will once again have to address the debt ceiling, with significant contention expected over whether or not to implement further spending cuts.

Yesterday, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) issued a new report on the federal Pell Grant program.  The report detailed trends in program costs, number of recipients, and average awards. Interestingly, despite an increase in the maximum award level, Pell saw a $279 decrease in the average grant from $3,833 in 2010–2011 to $3,555 in 2011–2012.  This is largely due to the elimination of the "summer Pell" award.  CBO stated that this supplemental Pell grants award provided 1.2 million students with an additional $1,700, on average, in 2010–2011. The report also provides cost estimates and estimated student impact regarding several proposed changes to the structure and eligibility of the Pell Grant program.  The full report may be viewed here:  http://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/cbofiles/attachments/44448_PellGrants_9-5-13.pdf.

On Wednesday of next week the House Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training is scheduled to hold a hearing entitled, ""Keeping College Within Reach: Supporting Higher Education Opportunities for America's Servicemembers and Veterans."  Further details, as well as a witness list will be available next week. Details and a live webcast may be accessed here:  http://edworkforce.house.gov/calendar/eventsingle.aspx?EventID=347428.

 

President Announces Plan Aimed at College Affordability

August 22, 2013 – Today, President Obama began his bus tour on college affordability with a speech at the University at Buffalo, and presented a plan aimed at reducing college costs and measuring higher education performance. The plan targets a number of areas of federal higher education policy with some new, and some old, proposals. Most significantly, the President announced that the U.S. Department of Education will design a new 'ratings system' to compare colleges and universities with similar missions based on 'value.' The ratings system will be designed after public hearings around the country, will be implemented by fall 2015, and will include measures such as:  access, such as percentage of students receiving Pell grants; affordability, such as average tuition, scholarships, and loan debt; and outcomes, such as graduation and transfer rates, graduate earnings, and advanced degrees of college graduates.

The President proposes to use these ratings in an unspecified formula to award student aid by 2018, which would require Congressional approval. The plan also includes a legislative proposal for a Pell bonus that gives colleges additional funding based upon the number of Pell students they graduate. It also calls for a more gradual disbursement of student aid for colleges with high dropout rates. Additionally, the plan proposes stronger academic progress requirements for student aid, whereby students must complete a certain percentage of the courses before receiving continued aid.

The plan gives significant attention to innovative leaning models such as competency-based coursework. The President proposes regulatory waivers for "experimental sites" that promote high-quality, low-cost innovations in higher education, as well as easing access to federal financial aid for students enrolled in these programs. The plan also calls for more private investment and partnerships to support innovative educational models.

The President renews his support for expanding the Pay As You Earn program to all borrowers, and additional outreach to borrowers to inform them of income-based repayment options. The plan once again calls for a $1 billion investment in a higher education Race to the Top competition, to support state reforms and investment. The plan points to the impact that state disinvestment in higher education has had on tuition and affordability.

The fact sheet from the White House may be viewed here: FACT SHEET ON PRESIDENT'S PLAN

 

House Set to Vote on Student Loan Interest Rate Bill

July 31, 2013 – Today, the House is expected to consider the Senate amended version of HR 1911, a bill to reform student loan interest rates. Under the bill, all federal student loan interest rates (except Perkins) will be tied to the 10 year treasury note rate.  For undergrads, all loans will be set at the 10 year T-bill plus 2.05 percentage points, and capped at 8.25%.  Additionally, the undergrad rate is no longer divided into subsidized and unsubsidized loan rates.  For graduate Stafford loans, rates will be set at the 10 year T-bill plus 3.6 percentage points, and capped at 9.5%.  For PLUS loans the rate is set at the 10 year T-bill plus 4.6 percentage points, and capped at 10.5%.  For the upcoming school year, this bill will set interest rates at 3.86% for undergrads, 5.41% for graduate Stafford, and 6.41% for PLUS loans.

Today, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee held a markup on S. 1356, the Workforce Investment Act of 2013.  The bill reauthorizes the Workforce Investment Act by making a number of reforms to the current system, rather than the large scale consolidations seen in the House bill.  The bill does include an authorization for the Community-Based Job Training Grants program, whereby competitive grants are available for community college partnerships aimed at training individuals in in-demand industry sectors and occupations.  The bill passed favorably out of committee by a vote of 18 to 3.  It is unknown when it will be considered on the Senate floor.

Yesterday, the President released additional details regarding his new economic plan.  The proposed plan includes tax reform, investments and infrastructure and education, as well as increasing the minimum wage.  The plan once again highlights the need for increased investment in community colleges by promoting the President’s proposed $8 billion Community College to Career Fund.  “The Community College to Career Fund would invest in the nation’s community colleges to train workers for good-paying jobs in high-growth and high-demand industries. The fund would help create a more skilled workforce by linking community colleges with the private sector, supporting programs that invest in apprenticeships, entrepreneurial training and on-the-job training opportunities as well as industry skill consortia that help identify and respond to pressing workforce needs.”  The President’s plan may be viewed here:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/07/30/fact-sheet-better-bargain-middle-class-jobs.

This week the Department of Education announced it’s accepting comments for proposed rulemaking on federal student loans.  The notice includes a large number of technical issues related to the Perkins Loan, FFEL, and Direct Loan programs.  Subjects range from changes to the Participation Rate Index to rehabilitation of loans.  Comments are due by August 28th.  The full announcement may be viewed here: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2013-07-29/pdf/2013-15812.pdf

 

Senate Passes Student Loan Interest Rate Bill

July 25, 2013 – Yesterday, the Senate passed a bipartisan bill to reform student loan interest rates by a vote of 81 to 18.  Under the Senate-passed bill, all federal student loan interest rates (except Perkins) will be tied to the 10 year treasury note rate.  For undergrads, all loans will be set at the 10 year T-bill plus 2.05%, and capped at 8.25%.  For graduate Stafford loans, rates will be set at the 10 year T-bill plus 3.6%, and capped at 9.5%.  For PLUS loans the rate is set at the 10 year T-bill plus 4.6%, and capped at 10.5%.  The bill also calls for a study regarding the actual cost of administering the federal student loan programs.  Two amendments were offered during consideration of the bill: the first set the cap for all Stafford Loans at 6.8 percent and for PLUS at 7.9 percent; and the other amendment called for sun setting the bill after two years.  Both amendments were defeated.  The bill will now head back to the House for consideration next week.

Yesterday, President Obama spoke at Knox College laying out some of the Administration's priorities for the months ahead.  Higher Education was a significant focus during his remarks.  In addition to lauding the deal over student loan interest rates, the President called for reforms to the higher education system.  While much of his remarks focused on college affordability and value, the President did once again tout his proposed Community College to Career Fund.  The President vowed to "lay out an aggressive strategy to shake up the system, tackle rising costs, and improve value for middle-class students and their families" in the coming months.  Later in the day, the President spoke again at the University of Central Missouri where he highlighted the partnership between Metropolitan Community College, the University of Central Missouri, and the local school district.  Their partnership fast tracks students to achieve low-cost college degrees, and allows high school students to enroll in courses for college credit.

 

Senate to Consider Amendment to Partially Restore Ability to Benefit

July 22, 2013 – Tomorrow the Senate is expected to begin consideration of S. 1334, a bipartisan bill revise student loan interest rates.  Under S. 1334, all federal student loan interest rates (except Perkins) will be tied to the 10 year treasury note rate as of June 1st.  For undergrads, all loans will be set at the 10 year T-bill plus 2.05%, and capped at 8.25%.  For graduate Stafford loans, rates will be set at the 10 year T-bill plus 3.6%, and capped at 9.5%.  For PLUS loans the rate is set at the 10 year T-bill plus 4.6%, and capped at 10.5%.

Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Al Franken (D-MN) are planning to offer an amendment to S. 1334 which would redirect the projected $715 million in savings generated from the bill.  $691 million will go into the Pell Grant program, putting a large dent into the projected shortfall for FY 2015.  The remainder will be used for a partial restoration of Pell Grant and Title IV eligibility for Ability-to-Benefit (ATB) students who are participating in career-pathway programs.  These are programs that provide supportive services for individuals co-enrolled in developmental skills courses and job training programs. 

Markup on a Senate version of the reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act has been delayed a week.  The bill is expected to be introduced on Wednesday, July 24th, with markup occurring on the following Wednesday.

 

Senate Close to Finalizing Deal on Student Loan Interest Rates

July 18, 2013 – A week ago the Senate was on the verge of a deal to reform student loan interest rates when a $22 billion cost estimate from CBO stalled negotiations.  Now, there are new details regarding another potential deal in the Senate.  Under the latest compromise rates for undergraduates would be tied to the 10-year Treasury note plus 2.05 percent points.  Loans for graduate students would be set at 3.6 points above the Treasury rate, and loans for parents at 4.6 percentage points above the Treasury rate.  Caps would be set at 8.25 percent for undergrads, 9.5 percent for grad students, and 10.5 percent for parents.  Over 10 years, the new rates would produce an estimated savings of $715 million which would be applied toward deficit reduction.  While the vote could be held as early as today, it could also be delayed till next week.

Yesterday, the Senate held a vote to end debate and proceed with a vote to confirm US Labor Secretary nominee Tom Perez.  With a tally of 60 votes to 40, there were just enough votes necessary for cloture.  The vote comes on the heels of a bipartisan agreement amongst Republican and Democratic leadership in the Senate, whereby Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) agreed to allow Presidential nominees to move forward and Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) agreed not to move towards changing Senate rules regarding filibusters. A final vote on confirmation could come as soon as today.

Also this week, the Senate voted to confirm Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.  Cordray was originally nominated almost three years ago, and appointed by President Obama to head the agency via a recess appointment.  Under Cordray the CFPB has worked to the develop the College Score Card and Financial Aid Shopping Sheet, and has begun working on new consumer protections for private student loan borrowers.

We could see a markup on a Senate Workforce Investment Act reauthorization bill as early as next Wednesday.  There are still a few outstanding points of contention which may hold the committee markup.

 

Senate Student Loan Deal Runs into Roadblock

July 12, 2013 – Last night, a tentative bipartisan deal on student loan interest rates collapsed after the Congressional Budget Office's (CBO) preliminary cost estimate said it would reduce federal revenue by $22 billion over 10 years. The price tag was reported to be too high to win Republican support. Although the current loan program provides a subsidy from students to the taxpayers, it has long been expected to become more costly to operate if interest rates increase as expected over the next few years. The proposed deal would have lowered rates in the near-term while capping interest rates on all new loans to buffer against expected increases in the 10-year Treasury yield, both of which would reduce federal revenue relative to current law (the new 6.8 percent rate on subsidized Stafford loans).

While the House-passed bill raises federal revenue, Senate Republicans have said they at least want a final deal in the Upper Chamber that would not increase the deficit. Negotiators are expected to meet again today to begin reworking the plan, but no new cost estimates are expected until Monday at the earliest.

Yesterday, the FY 2014 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations bill passed out of the Senate Appropriations Committee via party-line vote.  Included in the amendments considered during yesterday's markup was one offered by Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Susan Collins (R-ME) which sought to increase funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) by $150 million.   The amendment offset the LIHEAP increase by reducing funds for the Race To the Top Higher Education program (funded at $400 million in the bill).  This amendment passed by voice vote.  Appropriations Chair Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) has stated her intent to bring this bill to the Senate floor before the end of the fiscal year.  It is still unclear if the House will release or markup their own version of the FY 2014 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations bill.

 

Senate Subcommittee Holds Markup on LHHS-ED Approps Bill

July 9, 2013 – Yesterday the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education held a markup on their FY 2014 appropriations bill.  The Senate Appropriations Committee has opted to fund their bills at a level that assumes sequestration will be fixed or rescinded, hence the overall allocation for the LHHS-ED bill is set at $164.33 billion.  This is $14.7 billion higher than post-sequester funding levels for FY 2013, and $42.5 billion higher than the House allocation for FY 2014.  The Pell Grant program sees a $140 increase to the maximum award bringing it to a total of $5,785.  Most higher education programs saw a restoration to pre-sequestration levels.  However, Federal Work Study sees an additional $50 million increase, and TRIO receives an additional $10 million under the bill.  Also, there is new funding in the bill devoted to dual enrollment programs in the amount of $22 million.  A full committee markup will be held tomorrow at 10am.  A summary of the bill may be viewed here:  http://www.appropriations.senate.gov/news.cfm?method=news.view&id=8b1f1173-ed7e-43b8-a21f-389953ebc961.

Today, the Senate voted on whether or not to proceed with debate on S. 1238 , a bill to extend for one year the 3.4 percent interest rates for new subsidized Stafford loans.  The cloture vote failed by a tally of 51 to 49.  It is unclear what the Senate's next move will be to address the interest rate hike.

Yesterday, the House Education and Workforce Committee held a hearing entitled "Keeping College Within Reach: Improving Higher Education through Innovation." Testimony was provided from representatives of public and private providers of online education and prior-learning assessments who cited competency-based education as potential cost-saver to students, institutions, and taxpayers. Witnesses consistently called for the Department of Education to conduct a demonstration project in competency-based education that would measure learning instead of seat-time while evaluating outcomes for students. An archived webcast of the hearing, as well as witness testimony may be viewed here:  http://edworkforce.house.gov/calendar/eventsingle.aspx?EventID=341174.

Today, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) released a new report on postsecondary education and training entitled, "A Skills beyond School Review of the United State."  The report focuses on quality and value of career and technical education programs in the US, as well as recommendations for improvements.  The full report may be viewed here:  http://www.oecd.org/edu/skills-beyond-school/skills-beyond-school/ASkillsbeyondSchoolReviewoftheUnitedStates.pdf

 

Stafford Loan Rates Have Doubled, Congress Works Toward Fix

July 8, 2013 – It has been a week since interest rates on new subsidized Stafford loans rates rose from 3.4% to 6.8%, and with Congress returning from recess the issue will once again be on the legislative forefront.  Many believe that Congress will come to a retroactive agreement before it once again recesses for August, however the terms of that agreement remain unclear.  Senate Democratic leadership is still calling for a one or two-year extension of the 3.4% rate.  President Obama and House and Senate Republicans are pushing for a market based rate.  Even if all sides can agree on a variable rate, the level of that rate as well as the implementation of interest rate caps remain contentious. 

Tomorrow at 10 am, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce will hold a hearing entitled, ""Keeping College Within Reach: Improving Higher Education through Innovation."  The hearing will examine "new initiatives and policies, such as competency-based education, online coursework, and prior learning assessments, that are helping expand higher education access and allowing students to earn a degree more efficiently, while accumulating less debt."  Further details, as well as a webcast may be viewed here:  http://edworkforce.house.gov/calendar/eventsingle.aspx?EventID=341174.

Also tomorrow, the Senate will hold a subcommittee markup of its FY 2014 Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations bill at 11am.  Live audio of the hearing may be accessed via www.appropriations.senate.gov.  

Members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, led by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), are currently working on a bill reauthorizing the Workforce Investment Act.  Stakeholder groups have received a copy of the draft, and ACCT has provided a fact sheet to preview current topics in the bill that impact community colleges.  While details may change before a final bill is released, the draft bill fact sheet may be viewed here:  http://www.acct.org/files/Advocacy/Factsheets%20and%20Summaries/senate%20wia%20draft%20fact%20sheet.pdf.

 

Senate Crafts Student Loan Compromise

June 26, 2013 – Next Monday, July 1, the interest rates on Subsidized Stafford student loans are set to double from 3.4 to 6.8 percent. As the date nears, a compromise on student loan interest rates that would set market-based rates is moving forward slowly. However, Congress also seems increasingly likely to miss the July 1 deadline and pass a retroactive fix to the rates sometime after returning from the July 4 recess.

A bipartisan compromise proposal is currently being crafted in the Senate by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Tom Coburn (R-OK), Richard Burr (R-NC), and Angus King (I-ME). Their bill would base all undergraduate Stafford interest rates on the 10-year Treasury note plus 1.9 percentage points. Rates would vary from year to year for new loans, but remain fixed over the life of the loan. Based on today's 10-year Treasury note, that would lead to undergraduate loans with an interest rate of about 4.5 percent. Graduate and Parent PLUS loans would have higher rates. The full text and specifics of the bill are being adjusted based on Congressional Budget Office scoring and have not yet been released. Senate HELP Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) is also circulating a market-based proposal of his own.

Any Senate compromise would also need to be adopted by the House, which may be difficult depending on the budgetary impact of the bill. The House previously passed H.R. 1911 which would peg the loan rate to the 10-year Treasury note plus 2.5 percent, with the rate varying over the life of the loan. Senate Democrats also tried to pass a two-year extension of the current 3.4 percent rate with S. 953, but that bill fell nine votes short of the 60-vote threshold needed for consideration.

 

Senate Votes to Move Forward With Consideration of Immigration Reform Bill

June 12, 2013 – Yesterday, the Senate voted to proceed with consideration of S. 744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act by a vote of 82 – 15.  While the motion to proceed passed with strong support, the bill still faces an uphill battle with numerous amendments and Senators expressing concern with various provisions.  Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) is expected to offer an amendment that would require that students to graduate before they could be placed into the pool for an expedited 5-year pathway to citizenship.   Currently the bill allows for a student to move forward once they've satisfactorily completed 2-years of their postsecondary education.  ACCT will be sending a letter with other higher education groups opposing this amendment.

The U.S. Department of Education has selected North Seattle Community College President Mark Mitsui to serve as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Community Colleges.  President Mitsui will take the post on Aug. 12, 2013.  He will work in the Office of Vocational and Adult Education, which focuses on career, technical, adult and correctional education across the country, with a special emphasis on programs involving community colleges.  His role supports the President's, the Secretary's and the Department's agenda on community college access and completion.

Additionally, President Obama has nominated Catherine Lhamon to serve as the Department of Education's assistant secretary for civil rights.  Catherine Lhamon is the Director of Impact Litigation at Public Counsel Law Center, a pro bono firm in Los Angeles.  This nomination will require Senate confirmation. 

 

ACCT and Single Stop USA Release Policy White Paper

June 11, 2013 – Yesterday, the Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT) and Single Stop USA released a joint white paper entitled "Clearing the Path to a Brighter Future: Addressing Barriers to Community College Access and Success."  The release was held in conjunction with a briefing on Capitol Hill that highlighted the Single Stop program and its partnership with ACCT.  Presentations were made by ACCT President and Chief Executive Officer  J. Noah Brown, Single Stop USA CEO and Co-Founder Elisabeth Mason, Miami Dade College (MDC) President Eduardo Padron, the paper's principal author and University of Wisconsin-Madison Associate Professor Sara Goldrick-Rab, Kresge Foundation Senior Program Officer Caroline Altman Smith, and community college students from the City University of New York (CUNY) and MDC.  The full white paper, including policy recommendations, may be viewed here.

On Thursday, the House Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training will hold a briefing entitled "Keeping College Within Reach:  Discussing Program Quality through Accreditation."  The hearing will consider a variety of topics, including "delinking accreditation from student aid programs and moving to more student outcome-focused metrics."  Additional information regarding the hearing, including a link to the webcast, may be  viewed here.

Today, the Department of Education announced its intent to establish a negotiated rulemaking committee to reexamine proposed regulations related to gainful employment.  They are currently solicitation nominations for individuals wishing to serve on that committee.  This announcement is a follow-up to the public hearings that were held over the past several weeks regarding higher education negotiated rulemaking.  Within the notice, the Department stated that they could form additional committees to examine some or all of the following topics:  cash management of funds provided under Title IV Federal Student Aid programs; regulations designed to prevent fraud; state authorization for programs offered through distance education or correspondence education; state authorization for foreign locations of institutions located in a state; clock to credit hour conversion; changes made by the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 to the campus safety and security reporting requirements in the HEA; the definition of "adverse credit" for borrowers in the Federal Direct PLUS Loan Program; and campus-based federal student aid program reforms.  The full notice may be viewed here.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee is holding a markup today on the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.  Further details regarding the reauthorization bill may be viewed here

 

Senate Unable to Gain Enough Votes to Proceed with Student Loan Interest Rate Bills

June 6, 2013 – Today, the Senate held two cloture votes on whether or not to proceed with two bills addressing the impending July 1st rate increase for new subsidized Stafford loans.  Introduced by Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Tom Harking (D-IA), S. 953 would provide a two-year extension of the current rate of 3.4% for subsidized Stafford loans.  The second bill, S. 1003 the Comprehensive Student Loan Protection Act was introduced by Senators Tom Coburn (R-OK), Richard Burr (R-NC), and Lamar Alexander (R-TN).  S. 1003 would make all newly-issued Stafford (both subsidized and unsubsidized), and PLUS loans set to the 10-year Treasury bill rate plus 3 percentage points.  There is no rate cap under this proposal.  Neither bill reached the 60 vote threshold necessary to end debate and proceed to a vote on passage. 

ACCT with AACC submitted comments to the U.S. Department of Education regarding the upcoming higher education negotiated rulemaking session.  The comments may be viewed here.

On Monday, ACCT will be holding a briefing on Capitol Hill in conjunction with Single Stop USA to present the release of a new white paper titled, "Clearing the Path to a Brighter Future: Addressing Barriers to Community College Access and Success." The event will be held from 12:30 pm – 2 pm in room B340 of the Rayburn House Office Building.  Speakers include:  J. Noah Brown, President & CEO, Association of Community College Trustees; Elisabeth Mason, CEO & Co-Founder, Single Stop USA; Sara Goldrick-Rab, Associate Professor of Educational Policy Studies and Sociology, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Caroline Altman Smith, Senior Program Officer, The Kresge Foundation; students from The City University of New York (CUNY) and Miami Dade College (MDC); and Eduardo J. Padrón, President, Miami Dade College.  The event is open to the public.  To RSVP or receive further information, please email kmiller@acct.org.  The white paper will be available via the ACCT website following the event.

 

House Passes Student Loan Interest Rate Bill

May 23, 2013 – Today, the House considered and passed H.R. 1911, the Smarter Solutions for Students Act.  The bill addresses the impending July 1st rate increase on subsidized Stafford loans by moving all federal student loans (except Perkins) to a variable rate.  Under this bill, subsidized and unsubsidized Stafford loans would be calculated using  the 10-year Treasury Note plus 2.5 percent.  Graduate and parent PLUS loans would be an additional 2 percentage points higher than Stafford.  Loans would be recalculated yearly, and rates could increase or decrease yearly throughout the life of the loan.  An interest rate cap is set at 8.5 percent for Stafford and 10.5 percent for PLUS and graduate loans.  No amendments were made in order under the consideration of this bill.  The final vote was 221 to 198.  Senate Democratic leadership has indicated they do not support this bill, and will likely vote on an alternative measure in the next couple weeks. 

The House also passed H.R. 1949, the Improving Postsecondary Education Data for Students Act.  H.R. 1949 directs the Department of Education to convene a committee to conduct a study on the factors students and families want, need, and already consider when choosing a higher education institution.

The House appropriations committee finalized its 302(b) appropriations subcommittee caps for fiscal year (FY) 2014 this week.   The Labor-HHS-Education bill would receive $121.8 billion — this is $27.8 billion below post-sequestration funding levels, and $34.7 billion below pre-sequestration levels for FY 2013.  While the Senate has not yet made their 302(b) allocations public, they are expected to be much higher than these levels.

 

Senate Committee Passes DREAM Act Related Amendment

May 21, 2013 – Yesterday, the Senate Judiciary Committee proceeded with its fourth markup of S. 744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act.  Many amendments were offered during the markup, including an amendment to expand benefits for DREAM Act students within the bill.  Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI) initially offered an amendment that would extend all Title IV benefits to DREAM students including Pell Grants.   However, facing opposition, the Senator offered a second degree amendment that would permit DREAM students to qualify for federal student loans and the federal work study program.   This compromise also mirrored legislative language included in the most recent versions of the DREAM Act.  This second degree amendment passed by voice vote. 

Today, the Department of Education will hold its first in a series of public hearings on higher education negotiated rulemaking.  This round of rulemaking will encompass a number of issues including revisiting gainful employment and state authorizations.   It will continue with the hearings held last year concerning Pell Grant program integrity.  ACCT provided a detailed write up about this new round of negotiated rulemaking in the May Capitol Connection, which may be viewed here.

Also today, U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan is testifying in front of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce to discuss the President's fiscal year (FY) 2014 budget request.  The hearing began at 10 a.m., and details as well as a webcast may be viewed here.

 

House Committee Moves Forward With Student Loan Interest Bill

May 16, 2013 – Today, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce held a markup approving two bills:  H.R. 1949, the Improving Postsecondary Education Data for Students Act and H.R. 1911, Smarter Solutions for Students Act.  H.R. 1949, which passed by voice vote, directs the Department of Education to convene a committee to conduct a study on the factors students and families want, need, and already consider when choosing a higher education institution.  H.R. 1911 addresses the impending July 1st rate increase on subsidized Stafford loans by moving all federal student loans (except Perkins) to a variable rate.  Under this bill, subsidized and unsubsidized Stafford loans would be calculated using  the 10-year Treasury Note plus 2.5 percent.  Graduate and parent PLUS loans would be an additional 2 percentage points higher than Stafford.  Loans would be recalculated yearly, and rates could increase or decrease yearly throughout the life of the loan.  An interest rate cap is set at 8.5 percent for Stafford and 10.5 percent for PLUS and graduate loans.  H.R. 1911 passed out of committee by a vote of 24 to 15, and will likely move to the House floor in the coming weeks.  Information on both bills, as well as an archived webcast of the markup may be viewed here.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee voted along party lines to move forward with the nomination of Thomas Perez for U.S. Secretary of Labor.  Thomas Perez  is currently the assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice.  His nomination will now move to the Senate floor where he will likely need 60 votes to overcome Republican opposition.

 

House to Markup Student Loan Interest Rate and Data Bills

May 15, 2013 – Tomorrow, at 10 a.m. the House Committee on Education and the Workforce will markup the Smarter Solutions for Students Act (H.R. 1911) and the Improving Postsecondary Education Data for Students Act (H.R. 1949).  H.R. 1911 moves all federal student loans (except Perkins Loans) to a variable interest rate tied to the 10-year Treasury Note.  Under this proposal, subsidized and unsubsidized Stafford loans would be calculated using  the 10-year Treasury Note plus 2.5 percent.  Graduate and parent PLUS loans would be an additional 2 percentage points higher than Stafford.  An interest rate cap is set at 8.5 percent for Stafford and 10.5 percent for PLUS and graduate loans.   H.R. 1949 directs the Department of Education to convene a committee to conduct a study on the factors students and families want, need, and already consider when choosing a higher education institution. Additional information on the markup may be viewed here.

Today, the Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP) Tom Harkin (D-IA), along with Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) introduced legislation aimed at curbing an impending hike in subsidized Stafford Loan interest rates which are set to double from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent beginning July 1, 2013.   The bill, The Student Loan Affordability Act of 2013 (S. 953), would temporarily freeze need-based loan interest rates at current levels until a future long-term solution is reached, possibly in upcoming efforts to reauthorize the Higher Education Act.  In doing so, the legislation would offset the associated costs by closing loopholes in the tax code.  The cost of a two-year extension is approximately $8.3 billion.  Further details on the legislation may be viewed here.

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved an amendment yesterday to the comprehensive immigration reform legislation known as the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act (S. 744).  The amendment would provide $100 million annually for STEM education.  This funding would be paid for through fees on certain green card applications and would be allocated to support STEM in both K-12 and higher education institutions.   Notably, the Department of Education would receive 20 percent to support STEM activities at Minority-Serving Institutions of higher education and 3 percent to support the creation of American Dream Accounts to support college tuition for low-income students studying in STEM fields.  The Department of Labor would also receive 5 percent for STEM related job training.

 

Student Loan Interest Rate Bills Introduced in House and Senate

May 13, 2013 – House Education and Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) and Higher Education and Workforce Subcommittee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) have introduced a bill to address the impending July 1st rate increase on unsubsidized Stafford loans by moving the federal student loan system to a variable rate.  H.R. 1911, the Smarter Solutions for Students Act, would move all federal student loans (except Perkins Loans) to a variable interest rate tied to the 10-year Treasury Note.  Under this proposal, subsidized and unsubsidized Stafford loans would be calculated using  the 10-year Treasury Note plus 2.5 percent.  Graduate and parent PLUS loans would be an additional 2 percentage points higher than Stafford.  Loans would be recalculated yearly, and rates could increase or decrease yearly throughout the life of the loan.  An interest rate cap is set at 8.5 percent for Stafford and 10.5 percent for PLUS and graduate loans. 

Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Richard Durbin (D-IL) have also introduced a bill aimed at a long-term solution for student loan interest rates.  The Responsible Student Loan Solutions Act of 2013 sets interest rates annually based on the 91-day Treasury bill, plus a percentage determined by the Secretary of Education to cover program administration and borrower benefits.  Subsidized Stafford loan interest rates are capped at 6.8 percent, and parent and unsubsidized rates are capped at 8.25 percent.   It would also allow borrowers who have higher fixed-rate federal student loans to refinance.  Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has also introduced a bill, the Bank on Student Loans Fairness Act, that would provide a one-year fix to the impending interest increase by setting the rate for federal subsidized Stafford loans at the primary interest rate offered to banks through the Federal Reserve.  This would set rates at 0.75 percent.

However, despite these proposals it currently remains the position of Senate Democrats that a straight 2-year extension of subsidized Stafford loan interest rates at 3.4 percent is necessary in order to have time to negotiate a long-term solution.  Latest predictions are that this extension would cost $8.3 billion.  Senate Democrats have not yet announced what offset they plan to use for this extension. 

 

Senate Holds Markup on Immigration Reform

May 9, 2013 – Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee is holding the first of several markups on S. 744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act.  This bill, which is the bipartisan immigration reform package presented by the "Gang of 8" includes amongst its many provisions legislative language similar to recent versions of the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act.  In addition to providing a pathway to citizenship, the DREAM provisions go further than recent versions of the bill by reversing the ban preventing states from offering in-state tuition to DREAM students.  However, the bill fails to include an option that allows DREAM students to obtain a federal student loan or participate in the federal work study program. This had been included in previous iterations of the DREAM Act.  Over 200 amendments are expected to be offered at today's markup which began at 9:30 am.  Further information on the markup and amendments may be viewed here.

ACCT has sent letters to Senate Judiciary Committee commenting on the aspects of the bill for DREAM students, as well as other higher education aspects of the bill.  The letters may be viewed here: Adobe PDF  and Adobe PDF.

 

House Education Committee Calls for Feedback on HEA Reauthorization

April 26, 2013 – House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman Kline, Ranking Member Miller, Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC), and Ranking Member Rubén Hinojosa (D-TX), have issued a request to students, parents, college leaders, and higher education stakeholders to share their views on policies and amendments that should be included in the upcoming reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.

The committee is particularly interested in examining ways to:

• Empower students as consumers in higher education • Simplify and improve the student aid and loan programs • Increase college accessibility, affordability, and completion • Encourage institutions to reduce costs • Promote innovation to improve access to and delivery of higher education • Balance the need for accountability with the burden of federal requirements

To submit your feedback, email HEA.Reauth@mail.house.gov.

Follow this link to view the committee request letter.

 

IRS Holds Forum for Comments on Adjunct Hours Under ACA

April 25, 2013 – Yesterday, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) held a public hearing to receive comments regarding how to calculate work hours for adjunct faculty with respect to the mandated coverage under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA).  Prior to the forum the IRS received over 500 written comments on the subject from interested parties.  Under ACA, employees working 30 hours a week or more are mandated to receive health benefits beginning January of 2014.  Since adjuncts and other teaching faculty spend hours working outside the classroom, in addition to their time spent teaching, it is challenging to determine who is or is not working 30 hours.   The IRS is working on further guidance, but has instructed institutions to "use a reasonable method for crediting hours of service" in the meantime.

Six higher education groups provided testimony at yesterday's hearing.  Advocates for the adjunct faculty were largely against using a universal formula for calculating hours, such as 1 hour of preparation for every hour spent in the classroom.  This left many supporting the idea of having an adjunct qualify for health benefits under ACA based on parity of course-load with other full-time teaching faculty.   However, additional dissent came over whether or not to compare them to tenure-track faculty.  Public comments may be viewed here.

Yesterday, the House Subcommittee on Higher Education and the Workforce held a hearing entitled "Keeping College Within Reach: Enhancing Transparency for Students, Families and Taxpayers."   The hearing focused on current information provided to students and families in regards to college cost and value.  An archived webcast and written witness testimony may be viewed here.

 

Notice for TAA Community College and Career Training Grants

April 22, 2013 - The Department of Labor has posted an official solicitation for grant applications for a new round of Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grants (TAA CCCTG).  This third round, which was announced on Friday at Contra Costa College provides $474.5 million in new awards.  Press releases by the Department of Education and Department of Labor indicate that the priority of this round will focus on local business partnerships and sector-based strategies.  The grant solicitation announcement may be viewed here.  The deadline for Single institution applicants is June 18th, with consortium applications due July 3rd. The press release from the Department of Education may be viewed here.

Wednesday, the House Subcommittee on Higher Education and the Workforce will hold a hearing at 10 am entitled "Keeping College Within Reach: Enhancing Transparency for Students, Families and Taxpayers."   The hearing will examine the functionality of several tools the federal government currently offers students, including college navigator, financial aid shopping sheets, and net price calculators.  Details regarding witnesses as well as a link to the live webcast may be viewed here.

 

New Round of TAA Community College and Career Training Grants Announced

April 19, 2013 – Today, U.S. Under Secretary of Education Martha Kanter, Acting U.S. Secretary of Labor Seth Harris, and Congressman George Miller (D-CA) toured a job training program at Contra Costa College as part of an event to announce a new round of grants for the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grant (TAA CCCTG) program.  The TAA CCCTG program is authorized for $500 million for each of four years, fiscal years 2011 through 2014, to support educational and career-training programs focused on dislocated and unemployed workers.  Acting Secretary Harris stated during the press event that this round of grants would focus on programs designed to meet local labor market needs.  This marks the third round of grants, however due to sequestration the amount of funds available has been reduced to around $474 million.  Each state will be guaranteed a minimum of 0.5% of the total funding.  A news release regarding today's announcement may be viewed here.

The formal solicitation for applications has yet to be posted, however updates will be available via this link.  ACCT will provide further information as it becomes available.

On Wednesday, April 24th, the House Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training will hold another hearing related to the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.  The hearing entitled "Keeping College Within Reach: Enhancing Transparency for Students, Families and Taxpayers" will occur at 10 am.  Further information regarding the hearing will be posted here.

 

Secretary Duncan Testifies in Senate on Budget

April 17, 2013 – Today, U.S, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan testified in front of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education in regards to the President's fiscal year (FY) 2014 Budget Request.  The Secretary's testimony denounced education cuts under sequestration, but also focused on a number of new proposals the Administration set forth in their budget request.   This included the President's proposed $1 billion higher education Race to the Top competition, as well as a new First in the World grant program.  ACCT has created a fact sheet on the President's budget which may be viewed here: Adobe PDF.  A webcast of the Senate hearing may be viewed here.

The Senate's so-called 'Gang of 8' introduced a comprehensive immigration reform bill today.  The legislation includes a provision addressing DREAM Act students whereby undocumented children who were brought her by their parents can gain a pathway to citizenship under certain circumstances.  Those who enroll in college or the military may be eligible for a green card within five years.  The provision goes beyond the DREAM Act legislation seem in recent years in that it removes the cap on age for eligible individuals.  Additionally, if enacted, the legislation would repeal the federal ban on in-state tuition for undocumented students, leaving the issue for individual states to decide. 

Tomorrow, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for U.S. Secretary of Labor nominee Thomas Perez.  The hearing is expected to be a contentious one as Senators will question the current Assistant Attorney General on a number of topics.

 

House and Senate Hold Higher Ed Hearings

April 16, 2013 – Today both the House and the Senate held hearings addressing college affordability and student aid.  The first hearing, held by the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee was entitled “The Challenge of College Affordability:  The Student Lens.”  Today’s Senate hearing and testimony may be viewed here.

Additionally, the House Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training held a hearing entitled “Keeping College Within Reach:  The Role of Federal Student Aid Programs.”  The hearing focused on reform to student aid programs and providing additional consumer information to parents and students.  Both hearings are seen as a precursor to the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.  Testimony from today’s House hearing may be found here.

Meanwhile, the Department of Education announced today in the Federal Register that it is creating a negotiated rule making committee to prepare proposed regulations for the Federal Student Aid programs.  Last month, the Department experienced a significant setback in its effort to implement gainful employment regulations when a federal District Court judge ruled against its Motion to Amend last summer’s holding which, at its core, invalidated the system of measurement by which programs at for-profit institutions would be deemed as leading to gainful employment.  In addition to gainful employment, new topics will be examined by the committee including: cash management, state authorization for distance education, state authorization for foreign locations of institutions located in a state, clock to credit hour conversion, campus safety, and definition of “adverse credit” for the Direct Plus Loan program.    The Department announced three public hearings: the first on May 21st in Washington, DC, the second on May 23rd in Minnesota and the third on May 30th in California.  For more information, visit: http://www2.ed.gov/policy/highered/reg/hearulemaking/2012/index.html

 

Secretary Duncan Testifies on FY 2014 Budget Request

April 12, 2013 – Yesterday, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan offered testimony to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education.  The hearing centered around the President's fiscal year (FY) 2014 budget request with Secretary Duncan outlining and answering questions regarding the Department of Education's priorities.  His testimony highlighted a number of new initiatives offered by the Administration, including a Race to the Top competitive grant for higher education, reform to federal student loan interest rates, and other proposals aimed at college affordability.  Secretary Duncan's testimony may be viewed here:  Adobe PDF.

ACCT has created a fact sheet on the President's FY 2014 budget request which may be viewed here:  Adobe PDF.

Next Tuesday, there are two hearings occurring on Capitol Hill aimed at addressing higher education reauthorization.  The first, entitled "Keeping College Within Reach: The Role of Federal Student Aid Programs"  will be held by the House Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training at 11 am on Tuesday.  The hearing will focus on student aid, tuition costs, and consumer information.  Further details regarding the hearing will be posted here.  Additionally, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee will be holding a hearing at 10 am that morning entitled "The Challenge of College Affordability: The Student Lens."   Further details regarding that hearing may be viewed here.

In further news, Senate Appropriations Chair Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) has announced that the Senate appropriations topline number, or 302(a) allocation will be $1.058 trillion.  This number reflects pre-sequestration funding levels, even though sequestration is still in effect.  The Chairwoman justified this course by reiterating the need to replace the sequester.  Additionally, the number falls in line with what was allocated under the Senate Budget resolution.  This number diverges greatly from the House 302(a) cap of $966 billion. 

 

President Obama Releases FY 2014 Budget Request

April 10, 2013 - Today, President Barack Obama released his FY2014 Budget Request. The budget totals $3.77 trillion.  The House and the Senate have already passed their separate budget resolutions and the President's budget will allow all the parties to negotiate a final budget.  The President's budget includes $71.2 billion for the Department of Education and $12.1 billion for the Department of Labor.  

A number of notable provisions were included:

·  Provides funding to support an increase in the maximum Pell Grant award. The projected maximum for AY 2014 - 2015 is $5,735.

·  Increases funding for the Work Study Program by $150 million

·  Creates a Community College to Career Fund which will be administered by the Depts. of Labor and Education, funded at $8 billion

·  Makes permanent the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC)

·  Alters the Federal Student Loan interest rate so that the rate on new loans would be set each year based on a market interest rate, which would remain fixed for the life of the loan

·  Creates a higher education Race to the Top program which will provide competitive grants to States that commit to driving comprehensive change in their higher education policies and practice, funded at $1 billion

· Creates a new high school program to strengthen college- and career-readiness by redesigning high school to focus on providing students with challenging, relevant learning experiences, and rewarding schools that develop new partnerships with colleges and employers, funded at $300 million

· Creates a First in the World program which will provide competitive grants to spur the development, validation, and scaling-up of cutting-edge innovations to reduce college costs, improve productivity, and boost postsecondary attainment rates, funded at $260 million for the First in the World program

 

President's Budget Request to be Released Next Week

April 5, 2013 – The White House has announced that President Obama's fiscal year (FY) 2014 budget request will be released on Wednesday, April 10th.  While the final details remain unknown, it is anticipated that the budget request will propose a replacement for the March 1st sequester through a combination of spending cuts and tax reforms.  The Department of Education is expected to hold a briefing that same day in regards to their request.  U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan will testify in front of the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations Subcommittee on April 17th regarding the budget request.

The House Education and Workforce Committee will be holding a field hearing on Tuesday, April 9th at Monroe County Community College in Michigan.  The hearing which will occur at 9 a.m. is entitled, "Reviving our Economy: The Role of Higher Education in Job Growth and Development."  According to the committee, "the field hearing will feature two panel discussions. The first panel will examine the local economy and job opportunities, while the second panel will highlight how higher education institutions in the community are preparing graduates for the workforce."  The witness list is to be announced.  Updates regarding the hearing may be viewed here.

Registration Is Now Open - The Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE) of the U.S. Department of Education, in collaboration with the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) and the Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT), is hosting a series of community college webinars in 2013 to highlight the important work of these institutions and the many contributions they make to the communities they serve. Each webinar will bring together experts from the field and local practitioners to discuss some of the key challenges these institutions face and highlight promising institutional practices and policy changes from around the country that aim to increase postsecondary student success.

The second event in this series, which will be held on Wednesday, April 10 from 1:30 to 3:00 p.m. ET, will focus on promising community college correctional and re-entry education models.  Registration information is forthcoming.  If you have any questions regarding the webinar series, please contact Matthew Valerius in the Office of Vocational and Adult Education:  Matthew.Valerius@ed.gov<mailto:Matthew.Valerius@ed.gov>. 

 

Senate Passes Budget Resolution

March 25, 2013 – The Senate passed a fiscal year (FY) 2014 Budget Resolution early Saturday morning by a vote of 50 to 49.  The passage marks the first time in four years the Senate has passed a separate budget resolution.  The Senate plan increases funding over the next decade in exchange for increases in tax revenue.  It would also revise sequestration, moving the cuts to other areas while calling on congressional tax writers to raise taxes by $975 billion over the next decade.  For higher education, the Senate plan calls for a permanent extension of the American Opportunity Tax Credit, and continued increases for the Pell Grant program.  However, one of the potential tax reform items mentioned in the plan was to limit itemized deductions, including the charitable giving deduction.  ACCT has provided a fact sheet on the Senate budget which may be viewed here:  Adobe PDF.  The committee report on the Senate resolution may be viewed here.

The Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE) of the U.S. Department of Education, in collaboration with the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) and the Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT), is hosting a series of community college webinars in 2013 to highlight the important work of these institutions and the many contributions they make to the communities they serve. Each webinar will bring together experts from the field and local practitioners to discuss some of the key challenges these institutions face and highlight promising institutional practices and policy changes from around the country that aim to increase postsecondary student success.

The second event in this series, which will be held on Wednesday, April 10 from 1:30 to 3:00 p.m. ET, will focus on promising community college correctional and re-entry education models.  Registration information is forthcoming.  If you have any questions regarding the webinar series, please contact Matthew Valerius in the Office of Vocational and Adult Education:  Matthew.Valerius@ed.gov.

 

 

House Passes Continuing Funding Resolution

March 21, 2013 – Today, the House passed the Senate Amendment to HR 933, the Department of Defense, Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2013 by a vote of 318 to 109.  The Senate Amendment to H.R. 933 funds government operations through the end of the fiscal year on September 30, 2013. The bill contains a full-year FY 2013 Defense Appropriations bill and a full-year FY 2013 Military Construction-Veteran Affairs Appropriations bill, like the House passed version did, but it also includes full-year FY13 Agriculture, Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) and Homeland Security bills.  For the other seven bills, funding is set at FY 2012 levels, and then decreased by sequestration.  The Senate amendment also reinstates funding for the Military Tuition Assistance program.  The bill will now head to the President for his signature.  ACCT has provided a funding chart, which may be viewed here:  Adobe PDF

Another legal blow to the Department of Education's "gainful employment" rule came yesterday when a U.S. District Court ruled against the department's request to amend last summer's court decision.  The Court has previously ruled that department had failed to adequately justify the loan repayment threshold used in determining a program's effectiveness in preparing students for gainful employment.  By vacating this portion of the rule, it inhibited the department from enforcing the rule on several fronts.  The department had asked the court to modify its decision to allow for data collection and reporting.  However, the court denied that motion, and went a step further stating that this type of data collection was in violation of a 2008 ban on a student unit record system.  This not only complicates any further appeal the department may wish to make on reinstating the gainful employment rule, but could also have ramifications on other federal higher education data reporting.  The Department of Education is consulting with the Department of Justice in regards to future legal options.

Today, the House passed Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's FY 2014 Budget Resolution by a vote of 221 to 207.  ACCT has provided a fact sheet on the budget which may be viewed here: Adobe PDF.  The Senate is also slated to pass its FY 2014 Budget Resolution before leaving for recess next week.  The Senate fact sheet may be viewed here:  Adobe PDF.

 

 

Senate Passes CR and Includes Restoration of Military Tuition Assistance

March 20, 2013 – Today the Senate passed H.R. 933, a Continuing Resolution to keep the government funded for the remainder of fiscal year (FY) 2013.  The CR, which passed the House a couple of weeks ago includes detailed bills for Defense and Military Construction / VA.  The Mikulski – Shelby substitute amendment, which also passed by a vote of 70 to 29 includes additional detailed bills for Agriculture, Homeland Security, and Commerce-Science-Justice.  The Mikulski - Shelby substitute also included an amendment offered by Senators Inhofe and Hagan to restore funding for the Military Tuition Assistance program.  The Military Tuition Assistance program had been suspended by the Marine Corps, Army, Air Force and Coast Guard as a result of sequestration.  The program restoration was added to the Mikulski – Shelby substitute under unanimous consent.  The bill will now go back for consideration by the House.  Since the current CR is set to expire on March 27th, the House will have to act quickly to move the bill prior to next week's recess.

The Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE) of the U.S. Department of Education, in collaboration with the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) and the Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT), is hosting a series of community college webinars in 2013 to highlight the important work of these institutions and the many contributions they make to the communities they serve. Each webinar will bring together experts from the field and local practitioners to discuss some of the key challenges these institutions face and highlight promising institutional practices and policy changes from around the country that aim to increase postsecondary student success.

The second event in this series, which will be held on Wednesday, April 10 from 1:30 to 3:00 p.m. ET, will focus on promising community college correctional and re-entry education models.  Registration information is forthcoming.  If you have any questions regarding the webinar series, please contact Matthew Valerius in the Office of Vocational and Adult Education:  Matthew.Valerius@ed.gov.

 

 

President Obama to Nominate New Secretary of Labor

March 18, 203 – Today, President Obama is set to officially nominate Tom Perez to serve as U.S. Secretary of Labor.  Perez is currently an Assistant Attorney General, and is the top official for the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division.  He previously served as Secretary of Maryland's Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.  His nomination will be considered by the Senate.  Perez's bio may be viewed here. 

Further details regarding the House's FY 2014 Budget proposal were released over the weekend through the committee report on the resolution.  The report disclosed additional proposed changes to Pell Grants and other higher education programs.  These include: the elimination of Pell Grant eligibility for less-the-half-time students; the removal of mandatory funding for the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grant program;  the elimination of administrative fees for Pell Grants and Campus-Based Student Aid programs; and the removal of in-school interest subsides for undergraduate students.  An updated ACCT Fact Sheet on the House budget may be viewed here:  Adobe PDF.

Last week, the Senate voted their budget resolution out of committee by a vote of 12 to 10.  The budget may be considered on the Senate floor as early as this week.  However, the Senate must first finish its work on the FY 2013 continuing resolution.  The Senate budget takes a vastly different approach from the House budget.  It replaces sequestration through a series of spending cuts, and yet-to-be-determined changes to the tax code.  Highlights, include calling for the permanent extension of the American Opportunity Tax Credit,  and a $10 billion investment in a workforce training program.  The ACCT Fact Sheet on the Senate Budget Resolution may be viewed here:  Adobe PDF.

 

 

House Passes WIA Reauthorization Bill

March 15, 2013 – Today, the House considered HR 803, the Supporting Knowledge and Investing in Lifelong Skills (SKILLS) Act.  The bill, which would reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) passed by a vote of 215 to 202.   The SKILLS Act consolidates 35 existing workforce programs, gives states greater discretion in designating funding and services, and restructures workforce investment boards.  ACCT with AACC sent a letter to members of the House today commenting on aspects of the bill.  The letter may be viewed here: Adobe PDF

This week the Air Force and Coast Guard joined with the Marine Corps and Army in suspending the Tuition Assistance Programs.  This move was made in order to bear some of the defense cuts under sequestration.  Active military current receiving tuition assistance under this program will be allowed to complete their current semester, however all benefits are suspended indefinitely moving forward.  

The Senate will continue consideration of the FY 2013 continuing resolution (CR) next week.  Ninety-nine amendments have been offered to the CR, delaying a final vote.  The House will be considering its FY 2014 budget resolution on the floor next week.  ACCT has provided a fact sheet on the House budget which may be viewed here:  Adobe PDF

 

House and Senate Actions on Appropriations and Budget

March 14, 2013 – Today, the Senate is considering a continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government operating for the remainder of the fiscal year.  Current FY 2013 funding expires on March 27th.  The bill expands upon the continuing resolution (CR) passed by the House last week.  In addition to detailed bills on Defense and Military Construction/VA, the Senate also includes detailed bills for Homeland Security, Commerce-Science-Justice, and Agriculture.  The package reflects FY 2012 funding levels for the other bills not mentioned minus 5 percent across the board under sequestration. 

The Senate voted down further consideration of the Harkin Amendment by a vote of 54 to 45.  The amendment would have provided a detailed Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education bill for the remainder of FY 2013.  It would have also included a partial restoration of Pell Grant eligibility for Ability-to-Benefit students.  This means that under the Senate CR for FY 13 all non-exempt education programs will be frozen at their FY 12 levels and then subject to the sequester cuts.

Last night, the House Budget Committee completed its markup and reported the House FY 2014 budget on a party line vote of 22-17.  The Budget is expected to be considered on the floor next week.  ACCT has created a factsheet regarding the House budget that may be viewed here:  Adobe PDF

The Senate is also marking up its FY 2014 budget today.  Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-WA) took a vastly different approach from the House Budget.  Over the next 10 years, the Senate budget would cumulatively spend $4.9 trillion more than House's proposal. The Senate plan also calls for increases in tax revenue.  The Senate plan would also revise sequestration, moving the cuts to other areas while calling on congressional tax writers to raise taxes by $975 billion over the next decade.

The House has begun consideration of the rule for HR 803, the SKILLS Act which would reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act.  Consideration is expected to be completed tomorrow.  ACCT with AACC sent a letter to members of the House today commenting on aspects of the bill.  The letter may be viewed here: Adobe PDF

 

Senate to Vote on CR this Week

March 12, 2013 – This week the Senate will vote on a fiscal year (FY) 2013 funding extension package to keep the government running for the remainder of the fiscal year.  The bill expands upon the continuing resolution (CR) passed by the House last week.  In addition to detailed bills on Defense and Military Construction/VA, the Senate also includes detailed bills for Homeland Security, Commerce-Science-Justice, and Agriculture.  The package reflects FY 2012 funding levels for the other bills not mentioned minus 5 percent across the board under sequestration. 

Senator Harkin will be offering an amendment to the CR that would insert a more detailed bill for Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education.  The amendment would also include funding increases for several accounts, including TRIO, Title I, IDEA and a new First in the World program aimed at higher education affordability and completion.  It would also include a partial restoration of Pell Grant and Title IV eligibility for Ability-to-Benefit (ATB) students who are participating in career-pathway programs.  These are programs that provide supportive services for individuals co-enrolled in developmental skills courses and job training programs.   The amendment would be paid for through elimination of increased funding for the Affordable Care Act, as well as an overall  0.127 percent across-the-board cut.  This cut would be 0.029 percent greater than the one proposed in the House bill.  ACCT has sent out an Action Alert asking individuals to write their Senator in support Ability-to-Benefit students. 

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) released his budget today for FY 2014.  The budget maintains the new maximum for the Pell Grant program at $5,645, but calls for it to remain at this level at least through 2023.  It also removes mandatory funding for the program, stating that it should solely be funded through discretionary dollars.  The plan also calls for changes to how Pell Grant awards are calculated by reverting back to older formulas used for Income Protection Allowance and Expected Family Contribution.  The House Budget is expected to be marked up tomorrow.

Also on the floor this week is HR 803, the Supporting Knowledge and Investing in Lifelong Skills (SKILLS) Act.  The bill would reauthorize and reform the Workforce Investment Act through a series of changes and consolidations.  The SKILLS Act consolidates 35 existing workforce programs, gives states greater discretion in designating funding and services, and restructures workforce investment boards.  ACCT and AACC have sent a joint letter to committee leadership regarding the SKILLS Act, which may be viewed here:  Adobe PDF

Also tomorrow, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce will hold a hearing entitled "Keeping College Within Reach: Examining Opportunities to Strengthen Federal Student Loan Programs." The hearing will take place at 10 AM.  Additional details, and a link to the webcast may be viewed here:  Adobe PDF

 

House Committee Moves WIA Reauthorization Bill

March 7, 2013 – Yesterday, the House Education and Workforce Committee passed a Workforce Investment Act (WIA) reauthorization bill out of committee with the expectation that it'll be considered on the House floor next week.  The bill, known as the Supporting Knowledge and Investing in Lifelong Skills (SKILLS) Act, would reauthorize and reform the Workforce Investment Act through a series of changes and consolidations.  The SKILLS Act consolidates 35 existing workforce programs, gives states greater discretion in designating funding and services, and restructures workforce investment boards.  While the bill passed out of committee by a vote of 23 to 0, it did so in absence of any votes from the committee Democrats.  They had left the hearing earlier in protest from being left out of the bill writing process. 

ACCT and AACC have sent a joint letter to committee leadership regarding the SKILLS Act, which may be viewed here:  Adobe PDF

Text of the SKILLS Act may be viewed here:  Adobe PDF

Yesterday, the House also passed a continuing funding (CR) resolution for the remainder of fiscal year (FY) 2013 by a vote of 267 - 151.  HR. 933, the Department of Defense, Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act of 2013, conforms to spending caps set under the revised Budget Control Act.  In order to stay under the $1.043 trillion cap, the bill provides for an across-the-board cut to reduce security spending by 0.109% and non-security spending by 0.098%.  On top of that, the bill would then be subject to sequester where non-exempt discretionary programs would be cut by an additional 5.0 percent on the nondefense side, and 7.8 percent on the defense side. 

The Senate is also working on their own version of a FY 2013 CR.  The bill will likely include more full-year bills than the House version, however it is looking unlikely that a FY 2013 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations bill will be a part of that package.  Both bodies will have to come to some type of agreement prior to March 27th if they wish to avoid government shutdown.

 

House to Mark Up WIA Reauthorization Bill Tomorrow

March 5, 2013 – Tomorrow, the House Education and Workforce Committee will hold a mark up on H.R. 803, the Supporting Knowledge and Investing in Lifelong Skills (SKILLS) Act.  The bill would reauthorize and reform the Workforce Investment Act through a series of changes and consolidations.  The SKILLS Act consolidates 35 existing workforce programs, gives states greater discretion in designating funding and services, and restructures workforce investment boards.  This bill is expected to be voted out of committee on a partisan basis.  Committee Democrats will likely offer their WIA reauthorization bill, the Workforce Investment Act of 2013, as a substitute amendment during the mark up.  ACCT with AACC have sent letters to committee leadership on both bills, which may be viewed here:  Adobe PDF

The House is planning to vote this week on a continuing resolution for fiscal year (FY) 2013.  The bill, HR 933 would include a full-year bill for Defense Appropriations, as well as Military Construction/Veterans Affairs Appropriations.  For the other 10 bills, the bill would extending funding at a level very close to current post-sequestration.  It extends the FY 12 funding for the remainder of the year, minus an across-the-board cut of 0.098%. 

Register for the OVAE Community College Webinar!  - The Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE) of the U.S. Department of Education, in collaboration with the Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT) and American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), is hosting a series of community college webinars in 2013 to highlight the important work of our institutions. Each webinar will bring together experts from the field and local practitioners to discuss some of the key challenges our institutions face and highlight promising institutional practices and policy changes from around the country that aim to increase postsecondary student success.

The first webinar, which will be held on Thursday, March 7 from 1:00 to 2:30pm EST, will focus on transforming adult education to better prepare adult learners to successfully transition to postsecondary education.  You can register for this event at the following link: Adobe PDF

 

Senate Rejects Plans to Alter Sequestration

February 28, 2012 – With sequestration on the horizon, the Senate made one last attempt today to change the nature of the impending cuts.  This afternoon, the Senate voted on and rejected competing partisan plans to stop the sequester.  Both bills fell short of the 60 votes needed to move forward all but ensuring that the automatic cuts will go into place tomorrow.

The Democrats' plan would have reduced spending by $55 billion and raised taxes by $55 billion. Most of the tax revenues would have come from increasing the tax rate on incomes between $1 million and $5 million. The bill also cut agricultural subsidies by $27.5 billion and defense programs by $27.5 billion.  The Republican alternative would have given the President more flexibility to manage the cuts and limited the impact on national security. It would have allowed President Obama to shift cuts slated for defense programs to other areas.  It also explicitly prohibited tax or fee increases.  President Obama is set to meet with Congressional Leadership tomorrow to discuss plans for addressing the sequester. 

The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators has put together a list of estimated institutional impacts of sequestration on Federal Work Student and Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants.  It may be viewed here:  Adobe PDF

Today, House Majority Leader Cantor announced that the House will vote next week on the continuing resolution (CR) that will keep the government funded for the remainder of fiscal year 2013. It is reported that the CR is at the post-sequester level of $974 billion, contains full-year bills for Defense and Mil-Con/VA, and has straight funding extensions for the remaining bills.  The CR will not contain any policy riders.  Hence reinstatement of eligibility for ability-to-benefit students, and adjustments to the Pell cost-calculation for distance education students will not be part of this package.  The bill will contain language to allow the Department of Labor to set aside up to three percent of funds provided for the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) Community College and Career Training program for FYs 2013 and 2014 for evaluation and technical assistance.

 

House Holds Hearing on WIA Reform

February 26, 2013 – Today, the House Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training held a hearing entitled "Putting America Back to Work: Reforming the Nation's Workforce Investment System."  The hearing focused on the reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), with a particular emphasis on two competing bills introduced by the Republicans and Democrats on the subcommittee.  The Republican bill, known as the Supporting Knowledge and Investing in Lifelong Skills (SKILLS) Act is expected to be marked up next week.  Much of the hearing focused on the merits of consolidations, as proposed under the SKILLS Act, as well as better integration of training services.  President Obama's proposed Community College to Career Fund was also mentioned during the hearing, as well as the success of the $2 billion TAA Community College and Career Training Grant program.  Witnesses included Dr. Scott Ralls, President of the North Carolina Community College System.  Witness testimony may be viewed here:  Adobe PDF

Registration Open for OVAE Community College Webinar!  - The Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE) of the U.S. Department of Education, in collaboration with the Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT) and American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), is hosting a series of community college webinars in 2013 to highlight the important work of our institutions. Each webinar will bring together experts from the field and local practitioners to discuss some of the key challenges our institutions face and highlight promising institutional practices and policy changes from around the country that aim to increase postsecondary student success.

The first webinar, which will be held on Thursday, March 7 from 1:00 to 2:30pm EST, will focus on transforming adult education to better prepare adult learners to successfully transition to postsecondary education.  You can register for this event at the following link: Adobe PDF

 

White House Releases State By State Sequestration Data

February 25, 2013 – The White House has released a new report detailing the impact of sequestration on a state-by-state basis.  The report, which covers everything from national parks to military readiness, assumes a cut of 5% for nondefense discretionary programs, and 5.1% for nondefense mandatory spending.  Details on each state may be viewed here:  Adobe PDF  If Congress fails to act, these automatic spending cuts are set to take effect on Friday.

Tomorrow, the House Subcommittee on Higher Education and the Workforce will be holding a hearing entitled, "Putting America Back to Work: Reforming the Nation's Workforce Investment System."  The hearing will examine the reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act, and in particular will focus on a bill recently introduced by Subcommittee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC).  The bill, known as the Supporting Knowledge and Investing in Lifelong Skills (SKILLS) Act, consolidates many existing workforce programs, gives states greater discretion in designating funding and services, and restructures workforce investment boards.  Witnesses include Dr. Scott Ralls, President of the North Carolina Community College System.  The webcast may be viewed live via this link:  Adobe PDF

Save the Date! - The Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE) of the U.S. Department of Education, in collaboration with the Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT) and American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), is hosting a series of community college webinars in 2013 to highlight the important work of our institutions. Each webinar will bring together experts from the field and local practitioners to discuss some of the key challenges our institutions face and highlight promising institutional practices and policy changes from around the country that aim to increase postsecondary student success.

The first webinar, which will be held on Thursday, March 7 from 1:00 to 2:30pm EST, will focus on transforming adult education to better prepare adult learners to successfully transition to postsecondary education.  Registration information is forthcoming.  In the meantime, If you have any questions regarding the webinar series, please contact Matthew Valerius in the Office of Vocational and Adult Education: (202) 245-7859 or Matthew.Valerius@ed.gov.

 

WIA Reathorization Bills Introduced in the House

February 22, 2013 – Yesterday, Higher Education and Workforce Training Subcommittee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) re-released a proposal to reform and reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act (WIA).  The bill is largely similar to last year's reauthorization plan, but comes under a new name.  It is now known as the Supporting Knowledge and Investing in Lifelong Skills (SKILLS) Act, and will be formally introduced on February 25th.  The bill consolidates many existing workforce programs, gives states greater discretion in designating funding and services, and restructures workforce investment boards.  The Republican proposal comes on the heels of the reintroduction of the House Democrats' plan for WIA reauthorization.  The subcommittee will hold a hearing to examine WIA reauthorization on Tuesday, February 26th at 10 a.m. 

Details regarding the SKILLS Act may be viewed here:  http://edworkforce.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=320580.  Details regarding Democrats' bill may be viewed here:  http://democrats.edworkforce.house.gov/bill/workforce-investment-act-wia-2013, and information regarding the hearing may be viewed here:  http://edworkforce.house.gov/calendar/eventsingle.aspx?EventID=320417.

 

Deal to Avert Sequester Appears Unlikely

February 21, 2013 – With a little more than a week to go before across-the-board cuts hit most federal programs, Congress appears far from a deal that would avert the impending sequester.  Last week, the Senate Democrats did unveil a $110 billion sequester replacement package.  The bill would raise nearly $55 billion in taxes by implementing the Buffett Rule and changing the tax treatment of oil extraction from tar sands. Additionally, the bill would save $27.5 billion by eliminating agricultural subsidies and another $27.5 billion though defense cuts.  It may be voted on as early as Monday, along with a yet-to-be determined Republican alternative.  It's unlikely that either package will gain bipartisan support.

Last week the Senate Appropriations Committee held a hearing on the impact of sequestration.  Among those who testified was U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.  Included in the Secretary's testimony was concern over cuts to the administrative funds for Student Aid programs.  These cuts will likely impact FAFSA processing, Pell Grant disbursements, loan originations, and collections.  Secretary Duncan's testimony and others may be viewed here:

http://www.appropriations.senate.gov/news.cfm?method=news.view&id=02f63d44-4541-4e04-bbb0-75ae7c780e3a

Democrats on the House Education and Workforce Committee have reintroduced their bill from last year that would reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act.  The bill would preserve many of the programs that had been consolidated under last-year's Republican plan, as well as maintain the community college slot on the Workforce Investment Boards (WIBs).  It would also authorize President Obama's proposed $8 billion Community College to Career Fund.  Details regarding the bill may be viewed here:  http://democrats.edworkforce.house.gov/bill/workforce-investment-act-wia-2013

A new study has been released by the University of Alabama outlining how eligibility changes to the federal Pell Grant program has impacted community college enrollment in Alabama, Mississippi, and Arkansas.  The report may be viewed here:  http://uaedpolicy.weebly.com/uploads/6/1/7/1/6171842/3_state_pell_2013_study_embargoed.pdf

 

Updates from the Community College National Legislative Summit

February 15, 2013 – The 2013 Community College National Legislative Summit (NLS) was held over this past week with over 1,000 participants descending upon Washington, D.C. to advocate on behalf of their institutions.  In conjunction with NLS, ACCT with AACC released legislative priority documents for participants and supporters of community colleges.   To view the "Green Sheet" which summarizes our joint funding and legislative priorities, click here:  http://www.acct.org/files/Advocacy/2013GreenSheet%20FINAL.pdf.  A more comprehensive document providing background and description of these priorities may be viewed here:  http://www.acct.org/files/Advocacy/backgrounder%202013%20updated.pdf.

 

President Obama Gives State of the Union Address

February 13, 2013 – Last evening, President Obama gave his annual State of the Union Address to Congress and the nation.  Amongst his many priorities included several education reforms.  The President's "Plan for a Stronger Middle Class and a Strong America" was released in conjunction with the State of the Union, and included additional details regarding proposals heard in his address.  The President once again called for Congress to pass his proposed $8 billion Community College to Career fund, which would focus on training additional workers in high need fields through partnerships with business and industry.   The President also called for reforms to career and technical education (CTE) that would better align programs with employer needs.  Additionally, he called for reforms to high schools that would create new partnerships with colleges and employers in order to focus on skills needed in today's workforce.

For higher education, the President once again has outlined a plan whereby federal investments in higher education would reward institutions that offer a good value relative to affordability and student outcomes.  According to the plan, this would be achieved "either by incorporating measures of value and affordability into the existing accreditation system; or by establishing a new, alternative system of accreditation that would provide pathways for higher education models and colleges to receive federal student aid based on performance and results."  The President also mentioned in his plan the new "College Scorecard" which will likely be revealed soon.  This will be a web-based tool offered by the Consumer Financial Protection Board that outlines, among other items: college cost, graduation rates, and default rates.  The plan in its entirety may be viewed here:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/uploads/sotu_2013_blueprint_embargo.pdf.

Last week, the Congressional Budget Office revised its figures regarding cost projections for the Pell Grant program.  The analysis shows that in fiscal year (FY) 2012 there will be a Pell surplus of $6.652 billion.  In FY 2013, assuming Pell is funded at the current level, there will be a cumulative surplus of $9.374 billion.  That surplus would be carried over to FY 2014.  However, the Pell Grant program is slated for a shortfall in FY 2015 and beyond.  The shortfall starts at $1.366 billion in FY 2015 and totals $51.4 billion between FY 2015 and FY 2023.

 

President Announces Plan to Delay Sequestration

February 5, 2013 –President Obama has announced today a plan to temporarily delay across-the-board  cuts that are set to occur on March 1st under sequestration.  While details surrounding the plan may be forthcoming, the President is calling for a mix of spending cuts and tax reforms that will delay the sequester for "a few months."  In response, Speaker Boehner (R-OH) announced that he is opposed to the parameters of the President's plan.

Under the sequester, cuts to nondefense discretionary programs (of which most educational programs are included) will be approximately 5 percent.  The federal Pell Grant program is exempt from sequestration in FY 2013.  However, both unsubsidized and subsidized Stafford loans, as well as PLUS loans would see a small increase in loan origination fees.  Ultimately, it will be up to Congress to pass legislation to delay sequestration, or they may choose to realign the cuts later in March as part of a continued funding agreement for FY 2013.

 

Senate Passes Bill to Raise the Debt Ceiling

February 1, 2013 – Yesterday, the Senate passed a bill that will waive enforcement of the debt ceiling until May 18th.  After that waiver expires, the debt ceiling will be automatically raised to a higher level to reflect the additional borrowing.  The bill does not include any spending cuts, nor does it address the automatic spending cuts set to occur on March 1st under sequestration.  The bill does include a provision requiring the passage of a budget resolution by both the House and Senate by April 15th.  The bill passed by a vote of 64 tpo34, and it is expected to be quickly signed into law by the President.

This week, a bipartisan group of 8 Senators released a framework for comprehensive immigration reform.  Among the items included in their proposal is a pathway to citizenship for DREAM students.  While the exact details on how this will be achieved will not be released till a bill is drafted, it signals that there is a strong bipartisan desire to address the challenges surrounding DREAM students in 2013.  The detailed framework proposal may be viewed here: 

http://durbin.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/files/serve?File_id=c28d0c8f-01c1-4e3b-bbe7-86a4abb56674

 

House to Vote on Plan to Extend Debt-Limit

January 23, 2013 – Today, the US House of Representatives will vote on a bill that will waive enforcement of the debt-limit until May 18th.  After that waiver expires, the debt-limit will be automatically raised to a higher level to reflect the additional borrowing.  The bill does not include any spending cuts, nor does it address the automatic spending cuts set to occur on March 1st under sequestration.  The bill does include a provision requiring the passage of a budget resolution.  It withholds pay for Members of the House and/or Senate if that respective chamber has not passed a FY 2014 budget resolution by April 15.  Pay will continue to be withheld until that chamber passes a budget resolution, or if it does not , until the end of the 113th Congress.  While the White House has not endorsed the plan, it also will not oppose it.  If the legislation passes if will be sent to the Senate for consideration, and possible amendments.  If no action is taken, the country is set to default on its financial obligations beginning in mid-February.

Yesterday, the House Committee on Education and Workforce held its full-committee organizational meeting, whereby committee members agree to a rules package and subcommittee members are named.  Congresswoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) and Congressman Ruben Hinojosa (D-TX) were officially named the Chair and Ranking Member for the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training.  New Republican Members on the subcommittee, include: Tim Walberg (R-MI); Matt Salmon (R-AZ); Brett Guthrie (R-KY); Lou Barletta (R-PA); Joseph J. Heck (R-NV); Susan Brooks (R-IN); Richard Hudson (R-NC); and Luke Messer (R-IN).  New Democratic Members on the subcommittee, include: John Yarmuth (D-KY); Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR); Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY); and Rush Holt (D-NJ).  A full list of all committee and subcommittee members may be viewed here:  http://edworkforce.house.gov/committee/subcommitteesjurisdictions.htm

 

State of the Union Date Announced

January 11, 2013 – Today, the White House announced that February 12th will be the date for the Presidential State of the Union Address. This will mark the President's fourth State of the Union Address.  The address will happen two and a half weeks before automatic spending cuts are set to occur, and around the time the US will default on its debts barring action to increase the debt limit.  These subjects will likely dominate the address, as well as policy related to immigration and gun-control.  For education, the President may once again prioritize plans to invest in community colleges as a means to train more individuals in high need fields.

This week, US Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis announced that she will be stepping down from her position.  Solis is the fifth Cabinet Member to announce her departure, joining: Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton; Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta; Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner; and EPA Director, Lisa Jackson.  Speculation as to who may replace Secretary Solis is in the beginning stages.  The Senate will be dealing with several impending confirmation hearings for Chuck Hagel (defense), Jack Lew (treasury), and John Kerry (state).

 

Congress Passes Bill to Avert Fiscal Cliff

January 2, 2013 – Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed a bill to avert the fiscal cliff by a vote of 257 to 167.  The legislation, also passed by the Senate early Tuesday, will now go to the President to be signed.  Under the deal, tax rates will permanently increase for households that make more than $450,000 a year, and individuals who make more than $400,000.  Dividends and capital gains tax rates would also increase for this group.  Current rates for incomes below that level are extended permanently.  However individuals making over $250,000 and couples making over $300,000 would face additional limitations on the number of personal exemptions and itemized deductions.

For higher education, the bill extends the American Opportunity Tax Credit for 5 years.  It also permanently extends the expanded exclusion for employer-provided educational assistance, the expanded Coverdell Education Savings Accounts, and the expanded student loan interest deduction.  The Qualified Zone Academy Bonds will remain at $400 million in bond volume per year for 2012 and 2013. The bill also extends the expanded Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit and emergency unemployment insurance benefits. 

While outstanding tax issues were largely addressed in the bill, Congress chose to kick the can regarding automatic cuts that were to occur under sequestration.  Automatic spending cuts that were scheduled to occur today have been delayed by two months.  The bill reduces that amount of the sequester cut by $24 billion over nine years.  Hence, if the sequester occurs, there would be a total cut of $107.5 billion rather than $109 billion. The March 1st deadline will also coincide with the expiration of fiscal year 2013 funding, and the nation will again reach its debt limit.  Congress will have to address these thorny issues in the months ahead. 

Tomorrow marks the start of the 113th Congress, whereby new and returning Members will be sworn in.  The House Appropriations Committee has named its subcommittee chairs for the 113th Congress.  Representative Jack Kingston (R-GA) will be taking over as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education.  Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) is expected to remain as Ranking Member for that Subcommittee.

 

Boehner's Fiscal Cliff "Plan B" Fails to Move Forward

December 21, 2012 – Last evening, Speaker Boehner pulled his "Plan B" fiscal cliff bill from the floor after it became evident the bill did not have enough votes to pass.  The House Democratic Caucus stood united in its opposition to the bill, and a number of conservative Republican Members also vowed to vote against the measure.  Both President Obama and Senate Democrats also opposed the bill, which would have extended many of the Bush-era tax cuts for those making $1 million or less. 

The "Plan B" bill does not address the automatic spending cuts that will occur on January 2nd under sequestration.  The House passed a secondary bill last night to address the automatic spending cuts.  The bill, entitled the Spending Reduction Act, passed by a vote of 215 to 209.  The Spending Reduction Act would terminate automatic cuts for defense spending.  Automatic cuts to non-defense spending would remain, and the non-defense account would be reduced by an additional $19 billion.  The bill will not be considered in the Senate.

The Senate will reconvene on December 27th, and House Leadership has announced they will come back if necessary.  In the meantime, with 10 days left negotiations continue.

 

Negotiators Inch Closer Towards Deal to Avert Fiscal Cliff

December 18, 2012 – The lines of communication are open as Speaker Boehner (R-OH) and President Obama continue to present offers and counteroffers in an attempt to avert January's fiscal cliff.  Barring action, the country will face significant tax increases and automatic spending cuts in 13 days.  Any deal would take the form of a framework where both sides would agree to a targeted level of savings or cuts that would be generated by reforms to taxes, entitlements, and spending. Yesterday, the White House made a counteroffer.  Some details of the plan include:

   * Raise revenue by $1.2 trillion (down from original offer of $1.6 trillion; Boehner's last offer was for $1 trillion).

   *Raise tax rates to pre-Bush tax cut levels for those with incomes over $400,000 (up from original offer to raise rates for those with incomes over $250,000. Boehner offered to raise rates for those with incomes over $1 million).

   * Extend Bush tax cuts for those under $400k.

   * Extend the debt ceiling for two years (Boehner reportedly had offered a one-year debt ceiling increase).

   * Cut defense and nondefense discretionary spending by $100 billion each over 10 years.

   * Turn off the first year sequester. Sequester would be repealed once tax reform is enacted.

   * $400 billion in health care cuts.

   * $200 billion in other mandatory savings.

While a deal appears to be closer, it is unknown if it can be achieved before the end of the year.  Sticking points remain on tax rate increases, changes to socials security, and the ratio of tax increases to spending cuts.  Because of this, Speaker Boehner has announced that he plans to put forth a "Plan B" tax bill that keep taxes from rising for "most" Americans.  Details of the bill are not yet known, but the bill is expected to be considered by the House this week.  Speaker Boehner has emphasized that offering this bill is not in lieu of continued negotiations with the White House to reach a boarder deal.

In sad news, yesterday marked the passing of U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI).  At 88, he was the Senate's most senior member, and third in line of presidential succession.  It is anticipated that Senator Patrick Leahy will take over as appropriations chair in the wake of his death.  Senator Inouye had reportedly recommended Representative Colleen Hanabusa be named as his successor.  Hawaiian Governor Neil Abercrombie will name an interim successor in the coming weeks, followed by a special election in 2014 to fill the remainder of the late-Senator's term.

 

Congress Returns from Break to Address Fiscal Cliff

November 28, 2012 - Congress returned this week from the Thanksgiving holiday to continue negotiations to avert early January's fiscal cliff.  Progress thus far is slow with only 34 days before the Bush-era tax cuts expire and subsequent automatic spending cuts occur.  While several Republican leaders have offered the possibility of increasing revenue through closing tax loopholes and reducing individual deductions, a sticking point remains on the President's pledge to end tax breaks for those making over $250,000 per year.  Another sticking point appears to be over entitlement reform.  While Republicans are calling for savings to be generated through reforms to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, many Democrats have rebuffed including this in any negotiation.  Any proposal will need bipartisan support to move forward.

This week Republican senators introduced their alternative to the DREAM Act, called the Achieve Act.  The bill, S. 3639, was introduced by Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), Jon Kyl (R-AZ), and John McCain (R-AZ) and allows individuals who were brought here by their parents at a young age to obtain legal standing while they pursue higher education or military service.  The largest difference between the DREAM Act and the Achieve Act is that the Republican alternative does not offer a direct path to full citizenship.  Just as under the DREAM Act, states would still decide whether or not to offer in-state tuition.  It is unlikely this bill will be considered by the Senate this year.

 

Congressional Leadership to Remain Largely Unchanged for the 113th Congress

November 15, 2012 – Yesterday, current House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced she will once again seek the position of Minority Leader for the 113th Congress.  The announcement ended weeks long speculation that Leader Pelosi intended to step down.  It is expected she will be reelected by the Democratic Caucus when leadership elections are held later this month.  Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) is expected to remain as the Democratic Whip, and Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) is expected to remain as the Assistant Minority Leader.  House Republicans held their leadership elections yesterday choosing once again John Boehner (R-OH) as Speaker of the House, Eric Cantor (R-VA) as Majority Leader, and Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) as Republican Whip.  Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) will also join the leadership team as chair of the House Republican conference, and Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) was announced as the new chair of the House Rules Committee.

The Senate Republicans and Democrats also held their leadership elections yesterday, and again chose Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) as the Republican Minority Leader.  Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) will step into the role of Republican Whip with the retirement of current whip Jon Kyl (R-AZ).  For the Democrats, Harry Reid (D-NV) will remain as Democratic Majority Leader, and Dick Durbin (D-IL) will serve again as Democratic Whip.

Yesterday, President Obama held a press conference to discuss, among other items, the impending fiscal cliff that may result from January's sequestration and expiring Bush-era tax credits.  During the press conference, the President once again stated his support for investing in education, and not cutting in this areas.  The President reiterated his stance not extend tax cuts for those making over $250,000, but expressed a desire to negotiate on other tax reform and attain a deal to avert the sequester.  While most Republicans appear willing to negotiate on ending some tax cuts, ending or altering cuts for those making over $250,000 still appears to be a sticking point.  To complicate matters, Senate Democrats have stated that entitlement reforms are off the table in negotiations, and are calling for stimulus measures  to be passed in conjunction with any deficit reduction package.  While all sides appear willing to negotiate, it may be some time before a deal is reached.

 

Congress Returns This Week for Lame Duck Session

November 12, 2012 – On Tuesday both the House and Senate will reconvene for a post-election lame-duck session to close out the 112th Congress.  They will be facing a challenging agenda in dealing with the expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts, as well as the impending sequestration.  Failure to act on or punt these items will result in  a fiscal cliff come January.  While both sides have agreed to negotiate, they remain far from agreement on many of the tax extensions.  It is widely thought that any deal to avert the sequester will also encompass a tax extension package.  

Congressional makeup for the 113th Congress remains similar to that of the 112th, with Democrats making slight gains in the House and Senate.  In the House, the balance is 234 Republicans to 195 Democrats with 7 outstanding races.  In six of those races the Democratic candidate is leading in the vote count.  The seventh race is a Republican run-off in Louisiana's 3rd Congressional District.  If all vote counts remain the same, Democrats are expected to pick up eight seats in the House.  In the Senate, Democrats retained control by a tally of 53 to 45 with 2 Independents.  This is a net gain of two seats for Senate Democrats.

Congress will also be addressing committee assignments and leadership roles post-eleciton.  While the Republicans retained control of the House and the Democrats of the Senate, retirements and losses will impact committee assignments.  Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY), the current Ranking Member of the Senate's Health, Educations, Labor & Pensions (HELP) Committee is term-limited.  The new Ranking Member for the HELP Committee is expected to be Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN).  Senator Alexander is also expected to take over as Ranking Member on the Labor- HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee.  Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) is Chair of the HELP Committee and the Labor- HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee, and is expected to remain in those roles.

In the House, both Congressmen John Kline (R-MN)  and George Miller (D-CA) are expected to retain their spots as Chair and Ranking Member of the House's Education and Workforce Committee.  While Hal Rogers (R-KY) is expected to retain Chairmanship of the House Appropriations Committee, there will be a new Ranking Member following the retirement of Norm Dicks (D-WA).  Currently, Representatives Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) and Nita Lowey (D-NY) are vying for that Ranking Member slot.  There will also be a new Chair on the Appropriations Subcommittee for Labor-HHS-Education, as current Chair Dennis Rehberg (R-MT) ran for Senate.

In the Senate, both Harry Reid (D-NV) and Mitch McConnell (R-KY) are expected to stay atop their leadership posts.  The House Republicans will be holding their leadership elections this week, were John Boehner (R-OH) and Eric Cantor (R-VA) are expected to once again be chosen as Speaker and Majority Leader.  House Democrats have postponed their leadership elections untill after Thanksgiving leading to speculation that Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) will not run again for Minority Leader.  If this were to occur, Steny Hoyer (D-MD) would be the next in line for leadership, however other contenders may emerge for that position.

 

Congress Set to Pass Six-Month Funding Extension

September 21, 2012 - After some delays the Senate is set to pass a six-month funding extension this weekend. The bill, H.J.Res. 117 passed in the House last week, and is expected to be signed into law by the President before the fiscal year ends on September 30th. With an overall funding level set at $1.047 trillion the bill is $8 billion above FY 2012 levels, and reflects levels agreed to in last year's bipartisan Budget Control Act. Discretionary nondefense programs will see a 0.612% increase under the continuing resolution which will run through March 27th, 2013. A chart detailing funding levels may be viewed here: Appropriations Chart.

Passage of the continuing resolution will likely be the last major Congressional action before the elections. The House is set to leave town after tonight, beginning a seven-week recess for the elections. There is a strong possibility the Senate will do the same following this weekend's votes.

Yesterday, the House Education and Workforce Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training held a hearing entitled, "Assessing College Data: Helping to Provide Valuable Information to Students, Institutions, and Taxpayers." Witnesses discussed data collection by institutions of higher education, and what areas may be scaled back or improved. The hearing was designed as a precursor for future discussions on the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. Additional details on the hearing may be viewed here: http://edworkforce.house.gov/calendar/eventsingle.aspx?EventID=308347.

Earlier this week, U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis announced a new round of award recipients for the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grant (TAA CCCTG) program. This $500 million in grants is the second round of a four-year $2 billion program created in 2009. Funds are targeted at training and workforce programs at community colleges. The announcement and list of grant award recipients may be viewed here: http://www.dol.gov/opa/media/press/eta/ETA20121885.htm.

 

DoL Announces New Award Recipients for TAA Community College and Career Training Grant

September 19, 2012 - Today, U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis will announce the award recipients for the second round of the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grant (TAA CCCTG) program. This $500 million in grants is the second round of a four-year $2 billion program created in 2009 under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and mandatorily funded within the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010. Funds may be used for community colleges around the country for targeted training and workforce development to help economically dislocated workers who are changing careers. The grants support partnerships between community colleges and employers to develop programs that provide pathways to good jobs, including building instructional programs that meet specific industry needs. Each state will be guaranteed a minimum of 0.5% of the total funding, or $2.5 million per state per year.

The announcement is set to occur at approximately 12:30pm at St. Petersburg College in Clearwater, Florida. Details on awards may be viewed on the Department of Labor's Employment and Training Administration website: http://www.doleta.gov

 

OMB Releases Report on Sequestration

September 17, 2012 - The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has released a report providing additional details on the impact of the sequester set to take place on January 2nd, barring Congressional intervention. The report was required under passage of the Sequestration Transparency Act of 2012, which was signed into law in August. The January 2nd sequestration was triggered by the failure of Congress and the "Super Committee" to reduce the deficit by $1.2 trillion, as required by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA). The report may be viewed here: http://democrats.budget.house.gov/sites/democrats.budget.house.gov/files/stareport.pdf.

It estimates that the across-the-board cut for nondefense discretionary programs (of which education and labor are part of) will be 8.2 percent. However, this percentage was based on the assumption that fiscal year (FY) 2013 funding would be level to that of FY 2012. This is no longer the case, as the continuing resolution for FY 2013 includes a 0.612 percent across-the-board increase. This increase will change that 8.2 percent projection slightly.

The Pell Grant program is exempt from sequestration. Department of Education programs would be cut by $4.113 billion under the sequester. Student loans are under a special rule that requires that loan origination fees be increased by the same percentage as cuts to nondefense mandatory programs, which is projected to be 7.6 percent. Since the current fee is 1 percent for undergraduate Stafford loans, the new fee would be 1.076 percent.

Last week, the House passed H.J.Res. 117, a six-month funding extension to keep the government funded by a vote of 329 - 91. The current fiscal year expires on September 30th, and the six-month continuing resolution is aimed at avoiding a last-minute funding showdown right before the elections. With an overall funding level set at $1.047 trillion the bill is $8 billion above FY 2012 levels, and reflects levels agreed to in last year's bipartisan Budget Control Act. Discretionary programs will see a 0.612% increase under the continuing resolution which will run through March 27th, 2013. The Senate is expected to pass the bill during the middle of this week. A chart detailing funding levels may be viewed here: http://www.acct.org/files/legacy/pdf/2013%20CR%20FEDERAL%20APPROPRIATIONS%20CHART.pdf

House leadership has indicated that they plan to recess this Friday till after the elections. They plan on reconvening in November for a post-elections lame duck session. The Senate has not yet announced their plans, but it is likely they will follow suit.

 

Senate Holds Hearing on College Affordability

September 13, 2012 - Today the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions held a hearing entitled, "Improving College Affordability: A View From the States." Witnesses included Dr. Camille Preus, Commissioner of the Oregon Department of Community Colleges and Workforce Development. Much of the hearing focused on the declining investment in higher education that is occurring in many state budgets, and the strategies states and institutions have utilized to be more efficient with less funding. Additional information regarding the hearing may be viewed here: http://www.help.senate.gov/hearings/hearing/?id=1760d191-5056-a032-52d9-3e5ced47037e.

Today the House will consider a six-month funding extension to keep the government running well into the New Year. The current fiscal year expires on September 30th, and the six-month continuing resolution is aimed at avoiding a last-minute funding showdown right before the elections. The bill, H.J.Res. 117 passed out of the Rules Committee last evening, and will be considered on the floor under a closed rule. With an overall funding level set at $1.047 trillion the bill is $8 billion above FY 2012 levels, and reflects levels agreed to in last year's bipartisan Budget Control Act. Discretionary programs will see a 0.612% increase under the continuing resolution which will run through March 27th, 2013. The Senate is expected to take up the bill next week.

 

Congress Returns from Recess

September 10, 2012 - This week Congress returns from a five-week recess to address expiring items before they once again recess for elections. On top of that to-do list is to pass a continuing resolution to fund the government past September 30th. In August, Congressional leaders agreed to a deal to continuing funding the government through March, 2013 at a level of $1.047 trillion. The bill was introduced in the House yesterday, and will likely be voted on later this week. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has scored the continuing resolution as coming in at $8 billion more than FY 2012 levels. Those funds will likely be used to address some funding anomalies, as well as provide a 0.612% across the board increase to all discretionary programs. For the Department of Education this represents an aggregate increase of $416.8 million. It is expected that the Senate will also consider this bill on the floor in the near-term. It is unknown whether or not the Senate will make any additions to the bill. A bill summary, as released by House Appropriations Committee Chairman, Hal Rogers (R-KY) may be viewed here:http://appropriations.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=307883.

The U.S. Department of Education has released preliminary data regarding the cost of the Pell Grant program for the most recent academic year, and while enrollment has increased by 58,000 students, program costs have actually decreased. The overall cost fell by $2.2 billion from $35.6 billion down to $33.4 billion. There is speculation that the cost reduction is a result of underestimating the savings that occurred due to the elimination of "Summer Pell." Additionally, enrollment in proprietary institutions decreased over this period. While it is the March baseline numbers that are used to calculate programmatic costs for the purposes of federal spending, these preliminary numbers are a good sign that the fiscal cliff that the Pell Grant program was expected to face in FY 2014 may not be as large as anticipated.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee is set to hold a hearing this week entitled "Improving College Affordability: A View From the States." The hearing will take place on Thursday, September 13th at 10:30am. One of the witnesses testifying at the hearing is Dr. Camille Preus, Commissioner, Oregon Department of Community Colleges and Workforce Development. More information on the hearing may be viewed here: http://www.help.senate.gov/hearings/hearing/?id=1760d191-5056-a032-52d9-3e5ced47037e.

 

Congress Strikes Deal for 6 Month Funding Extension

July 31, 2012 - Congressional leaders have reached agreement on a deal that would provide continued funding for the federal government well into the new year. The agreement would put into place a six month continuing resolution that would begin on October 1st; the first day of fiscal year 2013. Funding would be consistent with what was agreed to under last summer's Budget Control Act (BCA). This was a point of contention as the House had passed a budget that was $19 billion below the BCA level of $1.047 trillion. Based on these levels, it can be assumed that programs will largely be level funded under this agreement. This continuing resolution is expected to be brought to the floor for consideration in September.

The Department of Education has issued a dear colleague letter aimed at clarifying state authorization regulations related to distance education students. The state authorization regulation seeks to federally enforce state requirements that distance education programs obtain authorization for every state in which they enroll at least one student. In June, an appeals court upheld a decision that said the department had overstepped its authority during a negotiated rule-making session, hence vacating this regulation. The letter states that while institutions are still bound by certain authorization requirements per states, the federal government will no longer seek to enforce those requirements. This does not preclude the department from pursing this issue again in the future. The dear colleague letter may be viewed here: http://ifap.ed.gov/dpcletters/attachments/GEN1213Attach.pdf

 

Senate LHHS-ED Subcommittee Holds Hearing on Sequester

July 26, 2012 - Yesterday, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS-ED) held a hearing examining the impact of sequestration on education programs. Sequestration is an across the board cut of most funding programs triggered by actions set forth under the August 2011 Budget Control Act. Barring Congressional intervention this across the board cut will occur in January 2013, and is estimated to be between 7.8 and 9 percent for nondefense discretionary programs. Accompanying the hearing was a report released by subcommittee chairman, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) specifying the effects of sequestration. The report may be viewed here: Harkin Sequester Report. Hearing witnesses included U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan. An item of note is that Secretary Duncan stated the discretionary portion of the Pell Grant program would be exempt from sequestration. The exemption of Pell had previously been called into question by Congressional leaders and the Office of Management and Budget. A webcast of the hearing and testimony may be viewed here: education sequester hearing.

Today, President Obama signed a new Executive Order establishing the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans. The Executive Order will create a presidential commission on educational development for black students, and is expected to work in tandem with the White House Initiative on HBCUs. The goal will be to "work across Federal agencies and with partners and communities nationwide to produce a more effective continuum of education programs for African American students." The Executive Order may be viewed here: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/07/26/executive-order-white-house-initiative-educational-excellence-african-am.

 

Department of Education Unveils Student Aid Shopping Sheet

July 24, 2012 - Today, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau unveiled their new "shopping sheet" aimed at standardizing information that institutions send to prospective students regarding financial aid. The shopping sheet would include, for each student, total costs of enrollment broken down into tuition, housing, books and transportation; grants and scholarships broken down by type; the school's overall graduation, loan default, and median borrowing rates, in addition to loan options. Participation is voluntary, however institutions wishing to sign onto the Principles of Excellence for Educational Institutions Service Services Members, Veterans, Spouses, and Other Family Members must also agree to implement the shopping sheet. The shopping sheet may be viewed here: http://collegecost.ed.gov/shopping_sheet.pdf.

Tomorrow, the Senate Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee will hold a hearing to examine the impact of sequestration on education. The hearing will occur at 10 am, and the U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan is expected to testify. Barring Congressional intervention, an across the board cut (estimated to be somewhere between 7.8 and 9 percent) of nearly all federal programs will occur in January 2013. This sequester was part of the August 2011 Budget Control Act, which set forth a series of spending caps and cuts in exchange for raising the debt limit. Additionally, the Senate Committee on Finance will be holding a hearing tomorrow at 10 am on Education Tax Incentives and Tax Reform. Testimony and further information regarding the hearing will be posted here: http://www.finance.senate.gov/hearings/hearing/?id=16f8c6bf-5056-a032-52e8-40c42f7c9a5f.

The full committee markup on the House FY 2013 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education appropriations bill has been postponed. This is likely an indefinite postponement, which means the bill report language will not be released. Without the report, some of the funding levels for individual programs will remain unknown. House leadership has indicated the intent to pass a continuing resolution at levels similar to FY 2012 at least through November's elections.

 

Senate Holds Hearing on College Affordability

July 20, 2012 - Yesterday the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) held a hearing entitled "Making College Affordability a Priority: Promising Practices and Strategies." Witnesses who including Jim Murdaugh , President of Tallahassee Community College and Thomas J. Snyder, President of Ivy Tech Community College, discussed strategies that have been implemented at their institutions to maintain affordability while still providing quality educational programs. The hearing also examined the importance of student aid and the Pell Grant program in providing access to higher education. The hearing and witness testimony may be viewed here:http://www.help.senate.gov/hearings/hearing/?id=771d2600-5056-9502-5dd7-a8bf4f40f911.

Today, the Department of Education released a new website and several social media tools to make it easier for students and families to navigate the financial aid process. The redesigned http://studentaid.gov/ features instructional videos and infographics to help answer the most frequently asked questions about financial aid. This is part of a larger plan by the Department of Education to provide more information via the internet to students when choosing a college and applying for financial aid.

The House Appropriations Committee may hold a full committee markup on its fiscal year (FY) 2013 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS-ED) as early as next week. Indications are that the committee may consider the bill on Wednesday, July 25th. Report language that provides additional details on programmatic funding levels would be released prior to markup.

 

House Subcommittee Passes Labor-HHS-Education Funding Bill

July 18, 2012 - Today the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS-ED) passed their FY 2013 appropriations bill by a vote of 8 to 6. Funded at $6.8 billion less than FY 2012 levels, the bill makes significant cuts to a number of areas. In particular, programs related to the Affordable Care Act and Obama Administration K-12 proposals saw the axe. There were also a number of policy riders added to the bill, including language that stripped authority from the Department of Education to implement regulations dealing with Gainful Employment, defining credit hour, and intervening with state authorizations for distance education. Amendments offered during the markup to strip these and other policy riders from the bill failed.

While forthcoming report language will reveal more regarding programmatic funding levels, funding for higher education programs, Pell Grants and student aid were largely spared from vast reductions. The Pell Grant maxium award under the bill is $5,635 (this is an automatic statutory increase) with no apparent changes in eligibility. Overall, higher education received a funding reduction of approximately $60 million. Indications are that federal work study and supplemental grants are level funded under the bill. While only speculative, that increases the possibility that programs such as TRIO and GEAR UP may see cuts under the report language. Funding levels for Minority Serving Institutions and Historically Black Colleges and Universities remain unknown. The Workforce Investment Act saw minor cuts under its adult and dislocated worker programs. The report language detailing funding levels for individuals programs is exptected to be released just prior to the full committee markup.

While the full committee may hold a markup on the FY 2013 LHHS-ED bill, it is not expected to see floor consideration before the end of the fiscal year (Sept. 30th). Congress will need to pass a continuing resolution for this and any other funding bill that is not signed into law by October 1st. House Republican Leadership has indicated they would be ameanable to passing an omnibus extension at levels set by the Budget Control Act in order to avert a funding showdown just prior to November's elections.

Today the House Committee on Education and Workforce held a hearing entitled "Keeping College Within Reach: Exploring State Efforts to Curb Costs." Witnesses included Dr. Joe May, President of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System. Testimony and a webcast of the hearing may be viewed at:http://edworkforce.house.gov/Calendar/EventSingle.aspx?EventID=302660.

 

House Releases Labor-HHS-Ed Draft

July 17, 2012 - The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS-ED) has released a draft of their FY 2013 funding bill. The release is in preperation for tomorrow's markup scheduled at 10 am. With an overall funding level that is $7 billion less than FY 2012, the bill makes cuts in a number of areas. Health and Human Services saw the greatest share of cuts aimed at the Affordable Care Act.

While Education and Labor also experience funding reductions under the bill, it's less severe than what was proposed under the Ryan Budget. Overall, higher education receives an approximate $60 million cut from FY 2012 levels. For the Pell Grant program, the maximum award is increased to $5,635 (this is an automatic statutory increase). Perkins CTE and Adult Education and Family Literacy are both level funded. The bill also takes steps to strip the authority of the Department of Education to proceed with regulations related to Gainful Employment, defining credit hour, and state authorizations. Programs under the Employment and Training Administration are cut by $269 million. This includes the elimination of the Workforce Innovation Fund. Small cuts are made to adult and dislocated worker programs under the Workforce Investment Act (WIA).

The Department of Education (ED) has released additional guidance to institutions regarding the implementation of Executive Order (EO) 13607, Establishing Principles of Excellence for Educational Institutions Service Services Members, Veterans, Spouses, and Other Family Members. This guidance includes Q&As based on inquiries ED has received in a number of areas, including: standardized cost form, Federal aid information, aggressive and fraudulent recruiting, accreditation, readmission, refund, individual education plans, and academic and financial counseling point(s) of contact. The Q&As may be viewed at: http://www.ifap.ed.gov/dpcletters/attachments/GEN1210POE13607QA.pdf.

The original deadline for institutions to sign an intent to comply with the EO was extended till August 1st. Many institutions have expressed concern about signing due to the sparse details regarding what compliance would involve. The guidance was issued in hopes of alleviating those concerns. Additionally, ED has indicated that they will likely release their standardized student aid form, or "shopping sheet" prior to the August 1st deadline. A number of the changes proposed by the EO will require further action by either the Departments of Education, Defense, or Veteran Affairs (VA). In fact, recommendations such as changing the way tuition is refunding to the VA, may take years to implement.

Signing an intent to comply is voluntary. Institutions can sign on by sending an email to:principles.excellence@va.gov. Colleges and universities that have notified VA of their intent to comply will be identified on www.gibill.va.gov.

This week both the House and Senate are expected to hold hearings addressing the issues of college cost. On Wednesday, July 18 at 10:00 a.m., the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training will hold a hearing entitled, "Keeping College Within Reach: Exploring State Efforts to Curb Costs." On Thursday, July 19 at 10:00 am, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions will hold a hearing entitled "Making College Affordability a Priority: Promising Practices and Strategies."

 

House Schedules LHHS Markup for Next Week

July 13, 2012 - The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS-ED) has announced that the markup of their FY 2013 bill will occur at 10am on Wednesday, July 18th. With an overall allocation that is $7 billion less than last fiscal year, the House's FY 2013 LHHS-ED bill is expected to make program cuts in a number of areas. The bill is not expected to be considered on the House floor prior to the end of the fiscal year (September 30th). Additionally, Senate leadership has announced that they will not consider appropriations bills before the end of the fiscal year, almost ensuring that Congress will need to pass a continuing resolution for FY 2013 appropriations. With the upcoming presidential elections, the continuing resolution will likely run until mid-November or December.

This week, the Department of Education launched a new online tool for students to manage their loan debt. The Financial Awareness Counseling Tool provides students with five interactive tutorials covering topics ranging from managing a budget to avoiding default. Students are able to access their individual loan history and receive personalized feedback that can help them better understand their financial obligations. In addition, college financial aid professionals can monitor a student's progress in using the tool and provide assistance if necessary. The Financial Awareness Counseling Tool can be accessed through StudentLoans.gov athttps://studentloans.gov/myDirectLoan/financialAwarenessCounselingLanding.action.

 

Dept. of Education Issues Guidance on Gainful Employment Court Decision

July 9, 2012 - The U.S. Department of Education has issued a statement providing additional guidance in relation to last week's Gainful Employment court ruling. The ruling stated that while the Department had the authority to issue regulations for career college programs, the 35 percent repayment rate threshold was arbitrary and hence invalid. Since the 35 percent measurement is intertwined with most of the regulation, many of the requirements under Gainful Employment have been vacated. All indications are that the Department will reevaluate the repayment rate threshold, and proceed with the regulations at a future date.

In the meantime, the Department has issued the following guidance in relation to the court decision:

  • Institutions are not required to submit gainful employment reports for the just ended 2011-2012 award year.
  • Institutions may voluntarily submit corrections to previously reported gainful employment information. The National Student Loan Data System will be updated in late July to make it easier for institutions to update previously reported gainful employment information.
  • Institutions do not have to provide the Department with the 90 day notice of intent to offer a new gainful employment program. Institutions wishing to offer new programs should refer to relevant regulations that existed prior to July 1, 2011.

The Court left in place regulations that require institutions to disclose certain information about each of their Gainful Employment Programs. The Department is reviewing the disclosure template, and will announce further information later this month. Institutions are not required to update their disclosures until further information is provided.

The official statement issued by the Department may be viewed here.

Additionally, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education had previously suggested that they would be marking up their FY 2013 bill this week. That markup will likely not occur this week, but the committee has indicated they plan proceed with a markup this month.

 

Court Overturns Major Portion of Gainful Employment Regulations

July 2, 2012 - A Federal District Court has struck down a major portion of the Department of Education's "gainful employment" regulations. Issued last year, gainful employment rules were aimed at restricting career training programs that are not providing students with successful outcomes. The regulations set forth three parameters by which career training programs are measured: at least 35 percent of the program's former students are repaying their loans; the estimated annual loan payment of a typical graduate does not exceed 12 percent of his or her total earnings; and the estimated annual loan payment of a typical graduate does not exceed 30 percent of his or her discretionary income. Programs must meet one of these three metrics in at least three out of four consecutive years. Those who fail to do so will lose their eligibility for federal student aid.

On Saturday, a Federal District Court ruled that the 35 percent loan repayment measurement was arbitrary, and had no expert study or industry standard tying this rate to program success. While the court ruled that the other two metrics regarding debt-to-income were based on supporting studies, they too were vacated because they are interlaced with the repayment measurement. Additionally, two other portions that rely on the debt repayment measurement were also vacated: one which requires institutions to receive prior approval from the department on new career training programs, and another requiring institutions to provide data to the department to collect debt measurements. Reporting requirements on a vocational program's costs, on-time graduation rate, placement rate, and median loan debt remain in place. While the authority to issue gainful employment regulation remains in place, the Department of Education will need to have to reexamine the justification surrounding benchmarks for loan repayment rates.

On Sunday, a number of changes to federal student aid went into effect for new loans issued on or after July 1st, 2012. These changes occurred last year in order to generate savings to be applied to the Pell Grant programs.

Changes to Pell Grant eligibility include: elimination of new Ability-to-Benefit (ATB) students, reducing the maximum income for an automatic zero Expected Family Contribution from $32,000 to $23,000, eliminating students who receive 10 percent or less of the maximum award amount, and reducing the maximum number of full-time semesters from 18 to 12.

Additional changes to student aid, include: termination of repayment incentives to Direct Loan borrowers, except an interest rate reduction for auto payment; elimination of the six month post-graduation interest subsidy grace period for subsidized Stafford loan borrowers; and elimination of subsidized loans for graduation students (they are still eligible for unsubsidized).

 

House and Senate Pass Student Loan Interest Rate Extension

June 29, 2012 - After months of negotiations, the House and Senate agreed to extend the current interest rate of 3.4 percent for new federally subsidized Stafford loans for an additional year. The extension is part of a larger package with the base vehicle being a two year reauthorization of federal highway, transit and other surface transportation programs. The bill passed this afternoon by a vote of 373-52 in the House and 74-19 in the Senate. The President is expected to sign the measure into law very shortly. Had an agreement not been in place, new borrowers of subsidized loans would have seen their interest rates double to 6.8 percent on July 1st. This is estimated to impact 7.4 million student borrowers.

The offsets to cover the $6 billion cost of the extension comes from a few areas. The largest portion comes from changes to the federal pension system that increase premiums for pension insurance, and change employers' contribution levels. These changes were largely supported by the business community. An additional offset comes from a change in in-school interest subsidies for some borrowers. Starting July 1st, 2013, new borrowers will be limited in the amount of time they can receive an in-school interest subsidy. Students will lose eligibility for that subsidy once they have reached 150% of the published length of their education program. Originally, the Senate L-HHS-Education FY 2013 Appropriations bill used this offset to decrease the projected Pell Grant shortfall for FY 2014. With the passage of the student loan bill, Congress can no longer utilize this offset going forward. The bill also requires the Secretary of Education to issue regulations governing how the 150% limit will apply to part-time students. The President is expected to sign the bill into law shortly.

 

Deal on Student Loan Interest Rate Extension May Be Near

June 22, 2012 - With subsidized Stafford loan interest rates set to double in a little over a week, it appears a deal for a one-year extension may be forthcoming. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Chairman, Tom Harkin (D-IA) has stated that negotiators are very close to coming to an agreement. While both parties support an extension, divergence has come over how to pay for the $6 billion cost. The Senate will likely move forward with two pension-related proposals to generate the savings: one would increase premiums for pension insurance; and the other would allow employers to compute their pension liabilities within a 25-year stabilization range. The later has also been proposed as an offset for a surface transportation bill. Another pay-for which may be on the table is a provision which would limit the duration of a student borrower's in-school interest subsidy to 150 percent of the normal time required to complete the educational program. This offset was also used in the Senate's fiscal year (FY) 2013 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education appropriation bill to reduce the projected Pell Grant shortfall for FY 2014. Without an extension, new subsidized Stafford loans will see interest rates jump from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent on July 1st.

The Department of Education has released to institutions their 2011 Gainful Employment Informational Debt Measures and their 2011 Gainful Employment Loan Medians for Disclosures. This release is for informational purposes so that institutions may assess programs that will be subject to gainful employment debt measures. For more information follow this link.

 

House Postpones Labor-HHS-ED markup

June 20, 2012 -It was believed that the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS-ED)would mark up its fiscal year (FY) 2013 appropriations bill this week. That markup has been postponed until after the July 4th recess. With an overall allocation that is $7 billion less than last fiscal year, the House's FY 2013 LHHS-ED bill is expected to make program cuts in a number of areas, but especially under HHS. Last week, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed their FY 2013 LHHS-ED appropriations bill out of committee. ACCT has created a fact sheet on the bill which can be seen here.

With the current subsidized Stafford loan interest rates set to double to 6.8 percent on July 1st, the House and Senate have a short time frame to negotiate an extension. Changes to the current pension system seem to be the most likely offset for the $6 billion extension. Yet, the desire to also pass a surface transportation bill using the same offset remains an obstacle.

 

Administration Announces New Policy for DREAM Students and Others

June 15, 2012 - Today, the US Department of Homeland Security issued a memorandum calling for the prosecutorial discretion regarding deportations of individuals who came to the US as children. This action was taken by the Administration in lieu of Congress passing the DREAM Act or other immigration reform. The memorandum does not address or eliminate federal restrictions on states that wish to offer in-state tuition for DREAM students.

For individuals who meet a set of criteria, their deportation will be deferred for two years (subject to renewal), and they will be eligible to apply for a work permit during their deferment.

The following criteria have been set forth for an individual to qualify:

  • came to the United States under the age of sixteen;
  • has continuously resided in the United States for a least five years preceding the date of this memorandum and is present in the United States on the date of this memorandum;
  • is currently in school, has graduated from high school, has obtained a general education development certificate, or is an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States;
  • has not been convicted of a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor offense, multiple misdemeanor offenses, or otherwise poses a threat to national security or public safety; and
  • is not above the age of thirty.

The official memorandum may be viewed here.

In other news, the Senate's fiscal year (FY) 2013 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education bill has been designated as S. 3295. An accompanying committee report is now available, and may be viewed here.

 

Senate Appropriations Full-Committee Marks Up LHHS-ED

June 14, 2012 - Today, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed by a party-line vote of 16-14 its version of the fiscal year (FY) 2013 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education bill. ACCT is pleased to announce that the Committee adopted a provision to restore Pell Grant eligibility for Ability-to-Benefit (AtB) students participating in career pathway programs. The AtB eligibility language was included in the Manager's amendment during markup.

Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) has championed the effort to restore Pell Grant and Title IV eligibility for students participating in career pathway programs. These programs co-enroll participants in connected adult education and eligible postsecondary programs; provide counseling and supportive services; provide structured course sequences; provide opportunities for acceleration to attaining recognized postsecondary credentials; are organized to meet the needs of adults; are aligned with the education and skill needs of the regional economy; and collaborate with partners in business, workforce development, and economic development. This eligibility change will expire in seven years but it will allow Congress as it reauthorizes the Higher Education Act to permanently extend and/or broaden eligibility to a larger number of AtB students.

The bill includes an $85 increase for the maximum Pell Grant award. This is an automatic statutory increase triggered by level funding of the discretionary portion of Pell. Additionally, there is new language in the bill under Title IV banning colleges or universities from using Federal educational resources on marketing, recruitment, and advertising.

Below are the FY 2013 funding amounts for community college priorities in the bill. The notations in the parentheses refer to comparison of FY 2012 funding levels.

Pell Grants discretionary - $22.8 billion (level funding)

Pell Grant Maximum award - $5,635 (increase of $85)

Career and technical education State grants - $1,123,659,000 (increase of $29 million)

Adult basic and literacy education State grants - $595 million (level funding)

Supplemental educational opportunity grants - $734.6 million (level funding)

Work-Study - $976.7 million (level funding)

Federal TRIO programs - $839.4 million (level funding)

Gaining early awareness and readiness for undergraduate programs (GEAR UP) - $302.2 million (level funding)

Child care access means parents in school - $15.97 million (level funding)

First in the World (newly proposed program) - $40 million

Strengthening Institutions - $80.6 million (level funding)

Developing Hispanic-serving institutions - $100.4 million (level funding)

Strengthening predominately Black institutions - $9.26 million (level funding)

Strengthening Asian American- and Native American Pacific Islander-serving institutions- $3.1 million (level funding)

Strengthening tribally controlled colleges and universities - $25.7 million (level funding)

Strengthening Native American-serving nontribal institutions - $3.1 million (level funding)

Strengthening Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian-serving institutions - $12.86 million (level funding)

Strengthening HBCUs - $228 million (level funding)

At present, there is no timeframe for the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education appropriations bill to be considered by the full Senate. Meanwhile, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education is slated to mark up its bill on June 20th.

 

WIA Reauthorization Bill Passes out of House Committee

June 8, 2012 - Last evening, the House Education and Workforce Committee passed HR 4297, the Workforce Investment Improvement Act of 2012 by a party-line vote of 23 to 15. The vote followed a day-long markup that was at times contentious. Introduced by Higher Education and Workforce Training Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC), HR 4297 focuses on consolidating a number of workforce training programs into a single funding stream. This new "Workforce Investment Fund" will allow states greater flexibility unto which they designate the consolidated funds. A number of amendments were considered during markup, but the principles of the underlying bill remained largely intact. It is unclear whether the full House will bring this bill to the floor. An ACCT bill summary on HR 4297 may be viewed here .

The Senate Appropriations Committee appears to still be on track to markup their FY 2013 Labor-Health and Human Services-Education (LHHS-ED) Appropriations bill next week. While it was previously announced that the House LHHS-ED Subcommittee bill would not be released till after the Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act, that plan has appeared to shift. House LHHS-ED Committee Chairman Denny Rehberg (R-MT) has announced his desire to markup their bill on June 20th. With 302(b) funding levels that are $7 billion less than FY 2012, the House bill is expected to contain significant cuts to a number of programs.

Negotiations to extend the current subsidized Stafford loan interest rate at 3.4 percent for an additional year have heated up. Last week House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) sent to President Obama some newly proposed offsets to cover the near $6 billion cost of an extension. While less controversial than previously proposed offsets aimed at the Affordable Care Act, they have since been rejected by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). However, yesterday Senator Reid offered two new potential offsets that may be able to garner bipartisan support; both involve reforms to the pension system. With rates set to double on July 1st, Congress will need to act quickly regarding an extension.

This week President Obama released a memorandum aimed at helping educate more students about their loan repayment options and streamline the IBR application process. The document may be viewed here.

 

House Schedules WIA Markup for Thursday June 7, 2012

June 6, 2012 - The House Education and Workforce Committee has announced plans to markup HR 4297, the Workforce Investment Improvement Act of 2012 tomorrow at 10 AM. The bill, introduced by the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) seeks to consolidate 27 existing workforce training programs into a single funding stream. This newly formed "Workforce Investment Fund" will allow states greater flexibility unto which they designate the consolidated funds. Additionally, the bill places greater emphasis on business engagement and designates the structure of current Workforce Investment Boards. The new structure must include a two-thirds business representation, and eliminates all other mandatory slots on the board - including community college representation. The ACCT factsheet on HR 4297 may be viewed here. Additionally, ACCT with AACC sent a letter to House Education and Workforce leadership expressing views on the bill. It can be viewed here.

The Senate has announced their markup schedule for their Labor-Health and Human Services-Education (LHHS-ED) Appropriations bill for FY 2013. The subcommittee markup will occur on Tuesday, June 12th, and the full committee is expected to markup on Thursday, June 14th. The Senate plans to set a 302(b) funding level of $157.7 billion for LHHS-ED, which is $7.7 billion more than the House appropriators have designated for LHHS-ED in FY 2013. The House is expected to proceed with markup of their bill later this summer following the Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act.

The departments of Defense, Veterans Affairs and Education, in conjunction with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission, will present two webinars to discuss the recent executive order on Establishing Principles of Excellence for Educational Institutions Serving Service Members, Veterans, Spouses, and Other Family Members. The agencies will host two separate webinars:

June 7 from 2:00-3:30 p.m. EDT

June 8 from 11:00 a.m.-12:30 p.m. EDT

The executive order may be viewed here.

 

Student Loan Interest Rate Bills Stall in Senate

May 25, 2012 - Yesterday the Senate voted on whether or not to proceeded with consideration of two bills that would keep the current subsidized Stafford loan interest rate at 3.4 percent for an additional year. Under current law, the interest rate is set to double on July 1st to 6.8 percent unless Congress intervenes. The Senate considered two versions of this extension: S. 2343, introduced by Senator Harry Reid (D-NV), would offset the $6 billion cost by eliminating a tax loophole for Subchapter S Corporations; and an alternative proposed by Senator Alexander (R-TN) which would remove funding from the Prevention and Public Health Fund created under the Affordable Care Act. Both proposed offsets have significant partisan opposition, respectively. Unable to get the 60 votes needed to proceed with consideration, Senator Reid's bill failed by a vote of 51 to 43. Senator Alexander offered his proposal as a substitute amendment, which also failed by a vote of 34 to 62. Senator Reid has indicated that this issue will be brought up again on the Senate floor sometime in June.

The Senate Appropriations Committee has announced dates for its subcommittee and full committee markup of the fiscal year (FY) 2013 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS-ED) Appropriations bill. The subcommittee markup will occur on June 12th, followed by a full committee markup on June 14th. This is a week later than previously announced.

This week Governor Romney announced his education advisory committee. Romney's higher education co-chairs are Phil Handy, former chairman of the Florida Board of Education, and Bill Hansen, a former deputy education secretary. For vocational education, Romney chose Carol D'Amico, a former assistant education secretary and executive vice president of Ivy Tech Community College, and Emily DeRocco, a former assistant secretary for employment and training at the Labor Department. Governor Romney also released a white paper this week detailing his vision on education policy and reform. The plan may be viewed here

 

Markup for Senate LHHS-ED bill to occur early June

May 23, 2012 - The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS-ED) has a tentative markup date of June 5th for its fiscal year (FY) 2013 appropriations bill. The bill sets a 302(b) funding level of $157.7 billion, which is $7.7 billion more than the House appropriators have designated for LHHS-ED in FY 2013. This gap will prove challenging for negotiators in agreeing to and passing a final bill. House LHHS-ED Subcommittee Chairman Dennis Rehberg (R-MT) has announced that they will not proceed with introducing or marking up a bill until after the Supreme Court rules on the status of the Affordable Care Act. That is expected to occur in late-June.

The debate on how to maintain the current subsidized Stafford loan interest rates at 3.4 percent continues in both the House and Senate with neither side able to agree upon an offset for the $6 billion needed for a one-year extension. Without an extension, interest rates will double to 6.8 percent on July 1st. House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) has stated his desire to reexamine a variable rate for subsidized Stafford loans. While this may become a factor in negotiations, Ranking Member George Miller (D-CA) and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) have stated that an extension must be put in place before substantive negotiations over loan structure can begin. It is possible that a vote will occur later this week or the first week of June on differing Democratic and Republican proposals, neither of which will have the 60 votes needed to invoke cloture.

 

House passes Sequester Replacement Reconciliation Act

May 11, 2012 - Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 5652, the Sequester Replacement Reconciliation Act, by a 218-199 party-line vote. The legislation would eliminate sequestration for FY 2013 and change the formula of cuts put into effect by the bipartisan Budget Control Act. Currently, sequestration will occur on January 2, 2013, automatically cutting $109 billion from the budget divided equally between defense spending and non-defense spending. This would amount to a 10% cut to defense because it makes up a smaller portion of overall spending compared to non-defense spending. The Sequester Replacement Reconciliation Act would change the agreed upon caps to protect defense spending and move most of the needed spending cuts to non-defense discretionary spending. FY 2013 defense spending would be allowed to increase $8.2 billion, and non-defense discretionary spending would be cut an additional $27 billion below the FY 2013 cap put in place by the Budget Control Act. This will maintain the $1.028 trillion dollar budget baseline for discretionary spending under the Ryan Budget, which is $19 billion below the FY 2013 BCA cap, and is what the House will use as they proceed through appropriations.

Although the levels of funding for discretionary spending for FY 2013 are slightly higher than they would be after sequestration, under this plan, FY 2014 non-defense discretionary spending would be cut to a level that is 19% below current funding. These cuts would amount to more than double the amount that would be cut under the Budget Control Act for FY 2014, and would have a significant effect on federal programs impacting community colleges. The White House issued a veto threat saying that they believe the equal cuts between defense and non-defense discretionary funding established under the Budget Control Act should stay in place.

In other news, ACCT and other higher education organizations submitted a testimony to the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Select Revenues expressing strong support for several expiring tax measures, including an extension of the American Opportunity Tax Credit. To read the testimony, please click here.

 

Senate Blocks Consideration of Student Interest Rate Bill

May 8, 2012 - Today, the Senate blocked consideration of S. 2343, "Stop the Student Loan Interest Rate Hike Act of 2012," by a 52-45 (1 present) vote. Sixty votes would have been required for the Senate to consider the bill, which would have prevented interest rates on subsidized Stafford loans from doubling on July 1st. In order to fund the cost of S. 2343, the bill would have changed current tax code by requiring S Corporations with three or fewer shareholders who declare income of at least $250,000 a year to pay employment taxes. Late last month, the House passed H.R. 4628, the "Interest Rate Reduction Act," by a 215-195 vote. The House bill offsets the cost by cutting mandatory funding for the Prevention and Public Health Fund (which helps prevent chronic diseases) in the Affordable Care Act.

Negotiations over the offset necessary to support the estimated $6 billion cost are ongoing. With July 1st quickly approaching, Congress and the Administration will need to work out their disagreements rapidly in order to reach a consensus on extending the interest rate.

ACCT joined other education organization in support of enacting legislation to keep the interest rates at 3.4%. The letter can be viewed here.

 

Department of Education Announces Negotiated Regs to Address Pell Runners

May 2, 2012 - The Department of Education has announced its intent to create a negotiated rule-making panel to address the issue of student aid fraud. Specifically, the panel will propose regulations to address organized crime rings that use distance learning programs to collect numerous Pell grants. A report on these so called "Pell runners" was released last fall. The panel is also expected to propose regulations related to the disbursement of federal student aid funds via debit cards and other banking mechanisms in order to prevent abuse and fraud. In addition, the panel may propose modifying and streamlining existing regulations in response to the retrospective regulatory report the Department issued last August. The Department is currently accepting comments and plans on holding two public hearings regarding the regulatory proposals, one of which will be held at South Mountain Community College in Phoenix, AZ.

The announcement in the federal register may be viewed here.

 

President Signs Executive Order on Veterans Education

April 30, 2012 - Last week, President Obama issued an Executive Order aimed at increasing oversight for higher educational programs and institutions serving veterans. The Executive Order focuses on increasing data on program affordability and value, establishing a national system to report fraud and abuse, and curbing aggressive and fraudulent practices in recruiting veterans and military service members. While the Executive Order is aimed at bad actors in the education sector, it has the potential to impact all institutions of higher education serving veterans. As the agencies present their required action plans, ACCT will continue to provide updates on institutional and regulatory impact. ACCT has prepared afact sheet on this Executive Order.

Today the College Board Advocacy and Policy Center held a webinar on their newly released online tool aimed at measuring community college completion and success. ACCT President & CEO, J. Noah Brown, participated in the event. The "Completion Arch" sets forth a set of metrics related to Enrollment; Developmental Education Placement; Progress; Transfer and Completion; and Workforce Preparation and Employment Outcomes. The report may be viewed here. An archived rebroadcast is forthcoming, and may be accessed in the near future here.

 

Appropriations Committee Markups in House and Senate

April 19, 2012 - Both the House and Senate have begun early this year the process to set forth appropriations for fiscal year (FY) 2013. Today, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Science and Justice (CJS) and the Senate Appropriations full committee approved 302(b) allocations and held markups on their version of CJS, as well as Transportation - HUD (THUD). Most notably is the bipartisan support for the Senate Appropriations Committee's 302(b) allocations. In a vote of 27-2 and 28-1, CJS and THUD 302(b) allocations passed nearly unanimously and gained the support of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). This signifies that the Senate has strong bipartisan support for the budgetary allocations set forth in last summer's Budget Control Act, which contrasts the Ryan Budget. The House-passed Ryan Budget, which passed along a party-line vote, rejected the caps set forth in the Budget Control Act and opted for a 302(a) allocation that was $19 billion less. The differences between the 302(a) and 302(b) set by the House and Senate will have to be resolved at some point to pass appropriations for FY 2013.

Today, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan held an event at Des Moines Area Community College to release and promote Investing in America's Future: A Blueprint for Transforming Career and Technical Education. The blueprint outlines the Obama Administration's proposal for reauthorizing the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act. The plan focuses on increased collaboration between secondary and post-secondary schools and institutions; better alignment with industry to ensure training meets occupational demand; the establishment of common performance measures; and competitive funding opportunities to reward success and innovation. The Blueprint may be viewed here and the Summary here.

 

House Holds WIA Reauthorization Hearing

April 18, 2012 - Yesterday, the House Education and Workforce Committee held a legislative hearing to examine bill proposals surrounding the reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA). The hearing comes on the heels of the introduction of two competing reauthorization proposals - the Republican's H.R. 4297, the Workforce Investment Improvement Act of 2012 and the Democrat's H.R. 4227, the Workforce Investment Act of 2012. Witnesses discussed flaws in the current WIA programs, the need to have more uniform reporting requirements, and the importance of tailoring training programs to industry needs. Dissent occurred around H.R. 4297's proposed consolidation of 27 training programs, protections for hard-to-serve populations, and the makeup of state and local Workforce Investment Boards (WIBs). Prior to the hearing, ACCT with AACC sent letters to House Education and Workforce Committee leadership detailing our associations' pros and cons with each bill. The letters may be viewed here and here.

Testimony and a webcast of the hearing may be viewed here. The Republican's bill, H.R. 4297, is expected to be marked up as early as next week with possible floor consideration in May. ACCT continues to work with committee staff to address concerns in both bills.

Yesterday, the Senate Subcommittee on Competitiveness, Innovation, and Export Promotion held a hearing entitled American Competitiveness: Filling Jobs Today and Training Workers for Tomorrow. Witnesses in this hearing included Martha Kanter, the Under Secretary for the US Department of Education, and Jane Oates, the Assistant Secretary of Employment and Training Administration. The hearing focused on the current skills gap that exists nationally and the need to train millions of workers in high-demand industries, such as manufacturing; increasing the role of community colleges in manufacturing training was highlighted in the discussion. Testimony and a webcast of the hearing may be viewed here:

The Senate Budget Committee is planning to move forward with 302(a) allocations set forth in last summer's bipartisan Budget Control Act. Speculation had risen over the past couple weeks that the Budget Committee may bring to the floor a formal budget resolution. However, Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND) has instead opted to offer a deficit reduction plan modeled after the report produced by the President's 2010 fiscal commission. There will be a markup but no amendments or votes. Notably, the Budget Control Act's overall allocation of $1.047 trillion is $19 billion more than the House-passed Ryan Budget, which sets up a potential showdown over what will be the final agreed upon number.

 

House Republicans Introduce WIA Reauthorization

April 2, 2012 - House Education and Workforce Republicans have introduced their comprehensive Workforce Investment Act (WIA) reauthorization bill. H.R. 4297, the Workforce Investment Improvement Act of 2012 combines three previous bills introduced by Congresswoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC), Congressman Buck McKeon (R-CA), and Congressman Joe Heck (R-NV). The bill consolidates many existing workforce programs, enables states to designate funding and services, and restructures workforce investment boards. The bill would take 25 of the 47 workforce training programs identified in a January 2011 GAO report as serving like populations and consolidate them into a single funding stream - the Workforce Investment Fund. The Workforce Investment Fund would provide formula funds to state and local workforce investment boards (WIBs) to create universal employment and training programs for all adults, unemployed workers, and youth. Overall, the bill moves toward a system where states and local entities have a large amount of authority in determining how to distribute federal dollars. ACCT has put together a summary on H.R. 4297, which can be viewed here.

The bill counters the WIA reauthorization introduced earlier by the House Education and Workforce Democrats. H.R. 4227, the Workforce Investment Act of 2012, seeks to reform the current system and programs. It also creates new competitive funding streams with the goal of incentivizing and rewarding programs that are effective. H.R. 4227 also includes the authorization of the $8 billion Community College to Career Fund as proposed by President Obama. ACCT has also put together a summary on H.R. 4227, which can be viewed here.
As previously mentioned in Thursday's LAW E-Alert, the House has passed its FY 2013 Budget Resolution. ACCT has prepared a factsheeton the Ryan Budget for your reference.

 

House Passes Ryan Budget

March 29, 2012 - Today, the US House of Representatives debated and passed the FY 2013 Budget Resolution proposed by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) by a vote of 228 to 191. Education programs saw significant cuts under the Ryan Budget, including Pell, which saw an elimination of over $105 billion in mandatory funding over the next 10 years and significant changes that limit student eligibility. The Ryan Budget sets forth an overall cap for federal spending at $1.028 trillion; this figure is $19 billion below what the Senate is expected to use as its 302(a) allocation. This disparity requires both bodies to rectify the spending differentiation before any joint appropriations bills can be passed. However, the $19 billion gulf is larger than it appears in that subcommittees, such as the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Subcommittee, will likely bear a bulk of the cuts. The gap between the House and Senate on appropriations sets forth a scenario where it may be quite difficult to pass all 12 appropriations bills before the current fiscal year expires on September 30th, and it may even prove difficult to pass a continuing resolution. Coupling this with the expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts and sequestration set to occur in January, we can expect a very contentious lame-duck session later this year.

Yesterday, US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan testified in front of the House Education and Workforce Committee on the President's FY 2013 Budget request. Similar to last week's hearing in front of the appropriations subcommittee, a central theme emerged surrounding opposition to some of the Administration's competitive-based funding proposals; this dialogue does not bode well for the slate of new competitive-based higher education proposals included in the President's budget. With a House 302(b) allocation that is likely to be far below the President's request, these new competitive programs may be the first to see the axe. Additionally, skepticism arose around the President's request to prevent the interest rates on direct Stafford loans from doubling on July 1st from 3.4 to 6.8 percent. Indications from the hearing are that House Republicans may not be eager to spend the $6 billion necessary to halt the increase for one year. Click here to view a webcast of the hearing or read testimony.

 

Action Alert: Ryan Budget Education Cuts Hurt Community Colleges

On Thursday, March 29th, the House of Representatives will be voting on the FY 2013 Budget proposed by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI). The Ryan Budget contains massive cuts to Pell, student aid, and workforce programs. It eliminates over $105 billion in mandatory funding for the Pell Grant program over the next 10 years and makes significant changes to student eligibility. Less-than-half-time students would no longer be eligible to receive Pell, and proposed changes to Pell's income protection allowance and expected family contribution formulas would disproportionately hurt working and nontraditional students. The budget proposal also rescinds $1.5 billion in mandatory funding for the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grant program. The Budget would allow the interest rate on subsidized Stafford loans to double in July, and it would institute a new cost calculation for the federal student loan program, the result of which could greatly increase loan rates for students.

Contact your Representative today to let them know that cuts to student aid hurt community college students.

Follow the link to contact your US Representative: http://action.acct.org/6471/oppose-education-cuts/

 

Committee Report Details Ryan Budget Cuts to Education

March 27, 2012 - Additional details have emerged regarding proposed cuts to education funding included in the FY 2013 Ryan Budget. The release of the report language accompanying the budget details significant cuts to student aid. Cuts include:

  • Elimination of all mandatory funding for Pell. The Congressional Budget Office projects total mandatory Pell funding between FY 13-FY 22 to be $105.8 billion. There is no increase on the discretionary side to offset this elimination.
  • Elimination of all mandatory funding for the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grant Program. This would eliminate the program, since there is no corresponding increase in discretionary funds.
    Elimination of Pell eligibility for less-than-half-time students.
  • Changes to Pell's income protection allowance formula and lowering income thresholds for zero expected family contribution.
  • An undefined maximum income cap for Pell eligibility.
  • Elimination of the automatic increases in the Pell maximum above $5,550.
  • Elimination of administrative fees for both Pell and campus-based aid paid to participating institutions.
  • Allowance for interest rates on subsidized Stafford loans to double from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent on July 1st.
  • Elimination of in-school interest subsidies for undergraduate students.

The bill also calls for a change in the way the Congressional Budget Office calculates the cost of the federal student loan program. Moving to a fair value calculation would drastically increase the cost of the program. In effect, the interest rate for the government to break even on a loan would be calculated at a much higher rate, which some estimate to be around 12 percent. Therefore any interest rate offered below that would cost the government money.

Overall, the proposal cuts aggregate non-defense discretionary spending in FY 13 by 5.4% and in FY 14 by $19%, which is more than double the cut that would occur under sequestration. The House is expected to begin consideration on the Ryan Budget tomorrow.

Additionally, US Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan will be testifying in front of the House Education and Workforce Committee tomorrow at 10 am regarding the Department's FY 2013 budget request.

 

Ryan Budget Passes out of Committee

March 22, 2012 - Last night, the House Budget Committee narrowly approved Chairman Ryan's $1.028 trillion FY 2013 Budget Resolution by a vote of 19 to 18. The Budget proposes significant cuts to education and other nondefense spending. According to the Office of Management and Budget, the cuts to nondefense discretionary funding would be 5 percent in FY 2013 and balloon to 19 percent in FY 2014, and the Pell Grant program would be included in those reductions. The Budget seeks to turn Pell into a program funded solely by discretionary dollars - and not a combined pot of mandatory and discretionary funding - starting in FY 2013, which would make it significantly more vulnerable to cuts. For FY 2013 - 2018, Pell has mandatory outlays totaling $104.2 billion. This funding has been eliminated, and it does not appears as though there is a discretionary increase to make up for the elimination of mandatory funds. Hence, it would be difficult to maintain award levels and eligibility for Pell's projected 9.75 million students. The Budget would also block the automatic mandatory increase of $95 for the Pell Grant program. The committee has stated that the maximum award would be maintained, but it is unclear if they view the maximum as $5,550 or $4,860 - the latter being the current maximum before mandatory add-ons.

The budget also includes a potentially troubling scoring rule for student loans which would estimate the government's cost of making student loans using a fair value system. This would reassess the cost of making loans based on a certain level of default and drastically increase the calculation of costs to the government by billions of dollars. This could potentially impact how the House calculates the fiscal cost of changes to the student loan system, including any legislation to prevent the student loan interest rate from doubling in July. The Budget would also halt the President's plan to lower the student loan income-based repayment plan that lowered the annual repayment to 10% of one's discretionary income and reduced the total repayment time period from 25 to 20 years.

The Ryan Budget is slated to be considered on the House floor next week. The Senate is not expected to take up a Budget Resolution this year, but it may pass a deeming resolution that would set overall funding levels at $1.047 trillion. This is the funding cap that was agreed to during last August's bipartisan debt ceiling compromise. From that deal, Congress passed the Budget Control Act (BCA), which established spending caps, set forth required deficit cuts, and established triggers for raising the debt ceiling. The Ryan Budget opted to go $19 billion below the BCA cap.

Today, Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan testified in front of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education regarding the President's FY 2013 Budget proposal. Community colleges were highlighted by the Secretary as part of the President's plan to invest in education. Secretary Duncan's testimony can be viewed here.

 

House Releases Its 2013 Budget Proposal

March 20, 2012 - Today, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) released the FY 2013 Budget Resolution. The bill sets forth all federal spending at a level of $1.028 trillion - a level that is $19 billion below the cap set under the Budget Control Act and $15 billion less than FY 2012. While additional details are forthcoming on the plan, the initial language is not dissimilar from last year's budget proposal. Federal job training and workforce programs are highlighted as duplicative, and the proposal calls for a consolidation or streamlining. Additionally, the Pell Grant program is targeted regarding sustainability. Details are forthcoming regarding any specific cuts that may be proposed for the Pell Grant program. The budget proposal seeks to circumvent sequestration through the budget reconciliation process. However, reconciliation is unlikely, as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has previously stated that the Senate plans to accept the budgetary levels set in the Budget Control Act and will not pursue a separate budget resolution.

In additional news, House Education and Workforce Democrats released their version of Workforce Investment Act (WIA) reauthorization today. The Workforce Investment Act of 2012 - introduced by Reps. John Tierney (D-MA), Ruben Hinojosa (D-TX), and George Miller (D-CA) - is similar to a bipartisan WIA draft considered by the Senate last year and is seen as a counterpoint to Congresswoman Virginia Foxx's (R-NC) Streamlining Workforce Development Programs Act. A notable addition, however, is the authorization of President Obama's $8 billion Community College to Career Fund. Overall, the bill seeks to streamline the current system but stops short of mandatory consolidation. It focuses on career pathways and enhances services for adult education. Details of the proposal can be viewedhere.

ACCT with AACC has submitted a joint letter to the House Labor, Health and Human Service, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee Leadership outlining funding priorities for fiscal year 2013.

 

Congressional Budget Office Releases Budget Baseline and PELL

March 15, 2012 - The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released their annual March baseline projections for deficits and revenues for the next ten years, including projections for the Pell Grant program. For FY 2013, the CBO estimates a greater surplus for the Pell Grant program than initially anticipated. Congress must abide by this baseline to fund Pell for fiscal year (FY) 2013; in order to maintain the current discretionary maximum base of $4,860, Congress would need to fund the discretionary portion of the program at $20.985 billion, which is $1.839 billion less than last year. For FY 2013, the Pell Grant program is set for an automatic increase in mandatory funding under the statutory formula set in the Health Care and Education Reconciliation act of 2010. The new mandatory add-on would be $785, bringing the total maximum award to $5,645. This increase is $10 larger than the estimate the White House had presented two months ago.

While the Pell Grant program has a projected surplus for FY 2013, the picture for 2014 is much more problematic. Due to a large decrease in mandatory funding available for the program, Pell is projected to have a $7.842 billion shortfall in FY 2014. Congress will need to address this shortfall next year by either infusing additional dollars into the program, reducing the award amount, or changing the structure of the program to generate savings.

Additionally, the Department of Education put out a new call-to-action for their Summer Jobs + initiative. With the goal of having 25,000 jobs in their database for youth employment, the Department has asked businesses, schools, and non-profits to help provide a pathway to summer employment for low-income and disconnected youth. Information on the outreach can be viewed here.

 

President Announces Plan to Revamp Job Training and Employment Services

March 13, 2012 - Today, President Obama provided details on two proposals to reform federal job training and employment services. The first, the Universal Displaced Worker Program would consolidate displaced workers under Trade Adjustment Assistance and other unemployed workers under the Workforce Investment Act into a singular training program. The new Universal Displaced Worker Program would provide training awards of up to $4,000 a year for two years to eligible workers who wish to pursue training in technical fields. These workers would also be eligible for a stipend to provide for childcare, transportation, and other expenses, as well as 26 weeks of unemployment insurance. Older workers would be eligible for wage insurance.

The second proposal is the creation of a streamlined American Job Center. This would provide uniformity within current workforce system resources by rebranding one-stop career centers, providing online tools, and increasing outreach. The proposal also includes a $50 million investment into expanding the American Job Center network, which would include satellite programs and virtual centers at community colleges and other public locations. Some aspect of these proposals can be accomplished through executive authority, but much would need the approval of Congress.

The White House announcement can be viewed here.

 

House Passes Bill Blocking Higher Education Regulations

February 29, 2012 - Yesterday, the House passed legislation that would repeal two regulatory proposals set forth by the Department of Education. HR 2117, a bill introduced by Congresswoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC), passed by a vote of 303 to 114. It prohibits the Secretary of Education from promulgating or enforcing any rule that defines "credit hour." It also repeals the so called "state authorization" regulation aimed largely at distance-learning programs, which requires that Title IV-receiving institutions remain in compliance with individual state authorization requirements. ACCT has joined with several other higher education organizations in supporting this repeal. The Senate has not given an indication whether they plan to proceed with consideration of this bill.

This week, President Obama addressed the National Governors Association (NGA) and emphasized the need for states to invest in education. Accompanying the President's speech was the release of a new White House blueprint emphasizing education. The proposal includes support for the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grant program, the newly proposed $8 billion Community College to Career Fund, and continued support for the Skills for America's Future initiative.

 

New Round of TAA Community College and Career Training Grants

February 27, 2012 - Today the US Department of Labor posted the formal announcement for the second round of Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grants (TAA CCCTG). The solicitation for applications, which can be viewed here, will remain open till May 24th. Last Friday, the new round of grants was announced during Second Lady Jill Biden's "Community College to Career" bus tour during a stop at Davidson County Community College in North Carolina.

The TAA CCCTG Program is authorized for $500 million for each of four years, fiscal years 2011 through 2014, to support educational and career-training programs focused on dislocated and unemployed workers. Each state will be guaranteed a minimum of 0.5% of the total funding, or $2.5 million per state per year. Starting March 9th, the Department will provide a webinar on applying for the grant.

This week the House will be voting on HR 2117, a bill introduced by Congresswoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC), that will repeal two regulatory proposals set forth by the Department of Education. The first would prohibit the Secretary of Education from promulgating or enforcing any rule that defines "credit hour." The second repeals of the so call "state authorization" regulation is aimed largely at distance-learning, requiring that Title IV-receiving institutions remain in compliance with individual state authorization requirements. ACCT has joined with several other higher education organizations in supporting this repeal. While the bill will likely pass in the House, its prospects for consideration in the Senate remain dim.

 

Announcement for New Round of TAA Community College and Career Training Grants

February 24, 2012 - Today, Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis announced a solicitation for a new round of grant applications for the $2 billion Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grant (TAA CCCTG) Program. The announcement was made in conjunction with Second Lady Jill Biden's "Community College To Career" bus tour. The tour concluded today at Davidson County Community College in North Carolina where Dr. Biden was joined by Secretary Solis and Vice President Joe Biden.

The TAA CCCTG Program is authorized for $500 million for each of four years, fiscal years 2011 through 2014, to support educational and career-training programs focused on dislocated and unemployed workers. Each state will be guaranteed a minimum of 0.5% of the total funding, or $2.5 million per state per year. The Administration has emphasized the program as a key component of President Obama's goal of having the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020 and helping to increase the number of workers who attain degrees, certificates, and other industry-recognized credentials.

Please follow this link to view a preview of the grant solicitation. The actual notification will be printed in the Federal Register on February 27th and is subject to change from the version linked above. President to Release FY 2013 Budget on Monday

February 10, 2012 - On Monday, President Obama is expected to release the details of his fiscal year (FY) 2013 budget request. This begins the Congressional appropriations process and serves as the baseline to which the House and Senate appropriations bills will be developed. The Budget Control Act, which was passed last summer, sets new spending caps for FYs 2012- 2021 and appropriators may not exceed these caps. For FY 2013, the discretionary cap is set at $1.047 trillion, which is $4 billion over the FY 2012 appropriations package.

The President is set to announce the budget during a town hall event at Northern Virginia Community College. In addition to an overview of his spending plan, the President may also provide further details regarding his State of the Union proposal to provide additional funds for job training partnerships between business and community colleges. This and all other funding proposals are subject to Congressional approval through the appropriations process.

 

Senate HELP Committee Holds Hearing on College Affordability

February 2, 2012 - Today the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions held a hearing entitled "Innovations in College Affordability." The hearing was keeping with the President's recent proposal to further examine ways to keep down college costs. Witnesses included: Charlie Earl , Executive Director, Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges; Martha Kanter , Under Secretary, U.S. Department of Education; Kevin Carey , Education Policy Director, Education Sector; Robert Mendenhall , President, Western Governors University; and Carol Quillen , President, Davidson College. Please view this link to read hearing testimony.

 

President Promotes College Affordability Proposal

January 30, 2012 - In conjunction with President Obama's State of the Union Address, the White House has produced a blueprint plan detailing the President's proposals and priorities. On Friday, the President spoke in Ann Arbor, Michigan to promote and provide further detail on plans to address college affordability. Follow this link to view details and excerpts of the President's proposal.

A key portion of the President's higher-education plan includes funding devoted to community colleges to forge business partnership to train and place two million skilled workers. It is anticipated that the President will provide further details and promote the community college proposal in the weeks to come.

Most of these proposals will require Congressional action, but they will also be reflected in the President's FY 2013 budget plan expected to be released February 13th.

 

SOTU Focuses on Community Colleges, Education, and Training

January 25, 2012 - Last night, President Obama delivered his State of the Union (SOTU) address to Congress and the nation. The speech laid out his vision for economic growth with a focus on job creation and taxes. Part of his plan includes significant investment in community colleges. The President proposed a new initiative to train and place two million Americans in good jobs through partnerships between businesses and community colleges that give workers the skills employers explicitly need. Sitting in the First Lady's box was Jackie Bray, a graduate of Central Piedmont Community College in North Carolina. Currently a Process Operator at Siemens, Jackie obtained her education and employment based on a partnership between Siemens and Central Piedmont Community College. The President's plan involves an expansion of this type of training partnership, where programs are tailored to industry needs.

The President also called for a permanent extension of the American Opportunity Tax Credit and called on Congress to prevent interest rates on Stafford loans from increasing on July 1st. He also proposed doubling the number of work-study jobs over the next five years. The President expressed that passing the DREAM Act is a priority.

The President also addressed workforce training programs for unemployed and displaced workers. The President indicated that the current system needs to be streamlined to be more effective. While the President did not explicitly address the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) in his speech or blueprint, the statement indicates that the White House would be open to some level of WIA consolidation.

New ideas that were mentioned included calling upon states to address drop-out prevention by requiring high school students to stay in school until they turn 18. Additionally, he addressed high tuition costs by proposing to shift Title IV funding away from institutions that do not keep tuition costs down.

Please click here for a transcript of the President's speech and here for his "Blueprint for an America Built to Last."

 

House Begins Second Session of the 112th Congress

January 18, 2012 - Yesterday, the House of Representatives convened for first time in 2012, marking the beginning of the Second Session of the 112th Congress, and the Senate is set to convene next week. Today, the House will vote on whether to prevent the President from once again raising the debt ceiling. The vote is seen as largely symbolic, as the resolution will not pass in the Senate.

The House will soon begin work where it left off - negotiating a year-long extension to the payroll tax break, unemployment benefits, and Medicare doctor reimbursements. The current two month extension expires on February 29th. Given the contentious negotiations, coming to agreement on an extension package will likely remain Congress's main focus for several weeks.

In other items of note, the President is set to give his State of the Union speech on January 24th. The speech is expected to focus on the economy and the middle class. The President will also be releasing his fiscal year 2013 budget proposal in early February. This budget will reflect new spending caps set by the Budget Control Act, which will result in some suggested spending cuts.

Additionally, the Department of Education has posted its draft strategic plan for fiscal years 2011 through 2014 on its website for public comment.

 

Congress Passes Omnibus with No Additional Offsets

December 21, 2011 - Despite numerous roadblocks, the House and Senate have agreed to pass a $915 billion omnibus appropriations package containing nine annual spending bills. Passed by the Senate on Saturday, the bill is in the process of being enrolled and will soon be sent to the President for his signature. Earlier last week, it appeared that broken-down negotiations over the pay-roll tax extension would delay passage of the omnibus. The House moved to put forth a bill that largely mirrored the omnibus conference report but then withdrew it from the calendar when the Senate formally filed the omnibus ending the stalemate.

Even though the House version of the omnibus and the conference report were largely similar, there are notable differences. The House had passed an additional 1.83% across-the-board cut for education and labor programs (including Pell) to pay for disaster aid funding. The Senate did not pass this additional cut, and the final bill includes a smaller 0.189% across-the-board cut for education and labor programs. Updated appropriations program numbers can be viewed here.

Additionally, the conference report made a fourth change in Pell Grant eligibility by removing students who receive 10% of the maximum award. Other changes include: elimination of ability-to-benefit students; changes in income to qualify for zero expected family contribution; and reduction in the maximum number of full-time semesters from 18 down to 12. ACCT has prepared a summary of the eligibility changes, which can be viewed here.

 

Updated FY 2012 Funding Numbers - Omnibus to be Considered Today

December 16, 2011 - The House and Senate have brokered a deal to proceed once again with the FY 2012 omnibus appropriations package. Despite the House filing a near identical omnibus bill yesterday, both the House and Senate will consider the bipartisan conference report. Both bodies must move swiftly, as the government will shut down at midnight tonight without passage of the omnibus or another continuing resolution.

ACCT has updated appropriations numbers that can be viewed here.

Even though the omnibus package maintains the Pell Grant max at $5,550, it does so at the expense of Pell eligibility changes. With a more than $1.3 billion shortfall to the program, eligibility changes and a temporary suspension of the 6-month interest subsidy grace period for Stafford Loans helped fill in the funding gap. Eligibility changes include the following: the elimination of Ability-to-Benefits students; a reduction in the maximum semesters awarded from 18 full-time down to 12; and income reduction for students qualifying for zero Expected Family Contribution (EFC). It was previously reported that this change in eligibility for zero-EFC would reduce income allowance from $30,000 to $20,000, but the omnibus places the number at $23,000.

While the House was originally prepared to consider the omnibus bill in tandem with a disaster funding bill, that may no longer be the case. The disaster bill included a offset that would have provided an additional 1.83% across the board cut to education and labor programs. This cut would include the Pell Grant program.

 

Omnibus Package Unveiled

December 15, 2011 - Overnight, the House released an FY 2012 omnibus spending package mimicking the yet-to-be released bipartisan omnibus conference report. This was done to prevent the Senate from holding the report back as a negotiating chip over payroll tax and unemployment insurance extensions. An additional sticking point is language the House wishes to include regarding a reinstatement of the Cuban travel ban. However, late today it appeared the House was willing to remove the Cuba language in order to have the Senate proceed with the omnibus.

As previously speculated, Pell Grants are maintained at the $5,550 max, but changes have been made to eligibility in order to generated $11 billion in savings for the program over the coming years. Eligibility changes include the following: the elimination of Ability-to-Benefits students; a reduction in the maximum semesters awarded from 18 full-time down to 12; and income reduction for students qualifying for zero Expected Family Contribution (EFC). It was previously reported that this change in eligibility for zero-EFC would reduce income allowance from $30,000 to $20,000, but the omnibus places the number at $23,000.

The House bill includes a 1.89% across-the-board reduction in funding levels to education and labor programs from what is stated in the bill (Pell is exempt from this cut). Additionally, the House plans to consider a second bill in tandem with the omnibus, which would provide disaster funding. The disaster funding bill would be paid for with an additional 1.83% across-the-board cut to most programs in the omnibus. Defense, Military Construction - VA, and Pell would be exempt from the second 1.83% cut. Follow this link to view a chart of programmatic cuts under the omnibus.
Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (SEOG), Federal Work Study, Career Technical and Adult Education, and GEAR UP were all level funded prior to the 1.89% across-the-board cut. TRIO, while receiving an additional $15 million in funding allocation before the across-the-board cuts, also saw a loss of $57 million in mandatory funds that expired this year. WIA State Grants saw a $182 million reduction in the base bill, and will be subject to the 1.89% cut on top of that. We are still awaiting the Manager's Statement to view additional numbers for programs such as Hispanic Serving Institutions and other Minority Serving Institutions. All indications are that there are no large-scale cuts in addition to the across-the-board cuts to those programs. One other funding item of note is a $75 million reduction in the Workforce Innovation Fund.

Appropriators also issued additional cuts to 2012 advanced funding that was appropriated in FY 2011. CTE, IDEA and Title I all operated on an advanced funding schedule, since they operate on a school year schedule. This bill would rescind the 1.5% advanced funding cut that was issued in the previous three continuing resolutions and instead issue a larger 1.89% cut. This means that for this current school year, IDEA would see an additional cut of $162 million; Title I would see an additional cut of $204 million; and CTE would see an additional cut of $15 million.

The House plans to consider this package on Friday. It remains unknown if the Senate will also move to take up the package as current fiscal year funding expires at midnight tomorrow. The White House is pressing for another short-term continuing resolution to give both bodies time to consider the bill without facing government shutdown.

 

Final Omnibus Delayed, Federal Funding Runs out Friday

December 14, 2011 - On Monday, it was announced that a compromise on the nine remaining appropriations bills had been reached, although the bill has not yet been finalized. The point of contention appears not to be with the omnibus package but rather with the payroll tax extension package. Yesterday, the House passed a largely partisan payroll tax extension package, which included controversial language to proceed with the Keystone XL pipeline. The President has stated that he will veto this bill, the Senate does not plan to consider this measure because of how the bill is paid for. Democrats have sought to use the omnibus package as leverage in negotiating the payroll tax extension, knowing that it is a Republicans priority to pass the appropriations bill. With the current FY 2012 continuing resolution (CR) expiring Friday, Congress will need to pass another short-term CR to avert a government shutdown. This will likely be another week-long CR. It is expected that next week Congress will consider the omnibus and a yet-to-be finalized payroll tax package.

It is expected that the omnibus package will include eligibility changes for the Pell Grant program. This includes: elimination of awards for Ability-to-Benefit students; a reduction in the number of times a student can receive a Pell Grant award from 18 full-time semesters down to 12; and changes to the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) where income to qualify for zero EFC is reduced from $30,000 down to $20,000.

Last week, the Republicans on the House Education and Workforce Committee introduced two bills dealing with workforce training and WIA reauthorization - H.R. 3611, the Local Job Opportunities and Business Success Act and H.R. 3610, the Streamlining Workforce Development Act. The bills consolidate 33 existing workforce programs in 4 funding streams, enable states to designate funding and services, and restructure workforce investment boards. The House Education and Workforce Committee may consider these bills early next year. ACCT has prepared background on the legislation, available here.

 

Appropriations Agreement Tentatively Reached

December 12, 2011 - Over the weekend Democratic and Republican Appropriators came to an agreement on the remaining nine spending bills, including the contentious Labor-HHS appropriation. Details are forthcoming, but it is clear that significant cuts have been made in order to reach the spending cap of $1.043 trillion for discretionary spending that was set in August. Included in these cuts will most likely be eligibility changes to the Pell Grant Program which will amount to at least $1.3 billion to make up for the shortfall. Details on what changes have been made are not yet available. But likely changes to Pell include semester limitations to 12 full time semesters and restricting access to Pell for students who fall under Ability to Benefit.

In addition to cuts, many policy "riders" have apparently been attached in order to garner support from members of the House. While these are not all known at this time, the bill will contain legislative directives for multiple government functions. The bill has yet to be made public and will go to the Congressional Budget Office this evening for scoring. Action must be taken soon as current government funding ends on this Friday, December 16th. Due to the many moving parts of the agreement and length of the proposal, it is possible that a few day short term CR to fund the government over the weekend may be taken up by Congress before Friday.

In other news, the Aspen Institute announced that Valencia Community College in Orlando, Florida won the first Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence. The purpose of the prize is to recognize community colleges with outstanding academic and workforce outcomes in both absolute performance and improvements over time. Congratulations to Valencia and all of the finalists for their perseverance and innovation!

 

House Republicans Introduce Workforce Training Overhaul

December 8, 2011 - Today, the Republicans on the House Education and Workforce Committee introduced two workforce training reform bills. Congresswoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) introduced the first bill, H.R. 3610, the Streamlining Workforce Development Programs Act, which consolidates 33 workforce training programs into 4 funding streams. The second bill, H.R. 3611, the Local Job Opportunities and Business Success (JOBS) Act, introduced by Congressman Joe Heck (R-NV), addresses workforce investment boards. The bill removes many federal directives regarding board makeup and requires that at least two-thirds of each board is comprised of business representatives. It also strikes provisions that require board representation from community colleges and other educational entities.

The House and Senate are currently conferencing the nine remaining FY 2012 appropriations bills into a larger omnibus. With many hurdles facing remaining for the Labor-HHS-Education bill, a year-long continuing resolution for that bill remains probable. With a $1.3 billion shortfall in the Pell Grant program, indications are that negotiators will seek to make Pell eligibility changes within a continuing resolution to address the shortfall. Thus far, FY 2012 continuing resolutions have addressed the shortfall through an across-the-board cut of all Labor-HHS-Education programs. Negotiators appear less likely to accept an across-the-board-cut scenario to protect Pell in a year-long continuing resolution.

Today, the White House hosted the first board meeting of the Startup America Partnership, where board members announced $1 billion in private sector investment to assist startups over the next three years. This meeting came as part of a larger announcement focused on job creation and entrepreneurship. The White House announced its continued commitment to entrepreneurial education and transformation through the new National Education Startup Challenge and the Presidents for Entrepreneurship Forum. The National Education Startup Challenge, invites middle school, high school, and college students to develop an innovative solution to an education problem and prepare a business plan for a new company or non-profit organization to deliver that solution. The National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship (NACCE) is launching the Presidents for Entrepreneurship Forum, through which community college presidents make specific commitments to advance entrepreneurship and the impact these colleges have on the economic well-being of their communities. Over 100 community college presidents have signed on at launch.

 

Congress Prepares for Endgame on Appropriations and Expiring Programs

December 7, 2011 - With the end of the first session of the 112th Congress fast approaching, the House and Senate have a significant number of legislative items to consider before the end of the year, the highest priority of which include the nine remaining FY 2012 appropriations bills, the unemployment insurance extension, the payroll-tax cut extension, and the Medicare "doc fix." Multiple plans are being proposed on both sides of the aisle, with negotiations continuing in hopes of reaching bipartisan agreements.

Of continued concern in the higher education community remains how Congress will address the $1.3 billion Pell Grant shortfall in the FY 2012 appropriations process. The House has proposed significant eligibility changes to the program, which would result in cutting $4 billion in FY 2012 despite only needing $1.3 billion to cover the shortfall. While negotiations continue on this and several other contentious health and workforce issues, it appears less and less likely that there will be a bipartisan agreement on the perennially challenging Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill. With Congress reportedly near agreement on the other eight remaining appropriations bills, it is probable that the FY 2012 omnibus will include these eight bills plus a year-long continuing resolution for Labor-HHS-Education. This would likely result in an across-the-board cut for multiple Labor-HHS-Education programs, but it could involve other funding scenarios.

Yesterday, Senators Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Susan Collins (R-ME) introduced a bipartisan jobs plan. Of note to community colleges, the bill would require the Office of Management and Budget to study the effectiveness and consolidation of duplicative job training programs and make legislative recommendations to Congress on consolidating job training programs. It would also include $350 million annually in competitive grants for cluster development. This would involve public-private efforts at the state and local level to identify and develop the natural competitive advantage in a region and to train the skilled workers needed to build on those competitive advantages.

 

House Committee Examines Tuition Costs

November 30, 2011 - Today, the House Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training held a hearing entitled "Keeping College within Reach: Discussing Ways Institutions Can Streamline Costs and Reduce Tuition." Experts and Members of Congress discussed the reasons why college costs have been increasing, and offered ideas on what could be done to help curb the rising cost of tuition while effectively delivering a quality education. Included in the discussion was the importance of cost effective remediation for students, and ensuring course equivalency among community colleges and four-year institutions.
On November 21st, the VOW to Hire Heroes Act was signed into law, expanding Montgomery GI benefits to veterans of past eras. The legislation was passed to assist those who have served our country in the armed forces to obtain the assistance and training to help them pursue employment. ACCT has prepared a fact-sheet on this bill.

The federal government is currently operating under a short-term continuing resolution (CR), which funds the government till December 16th. The House and Senate have begun negotiations on an omnibus package of the 9 remaining appropriations bills it must consider for fiscal year 2012. While negotiations have started it is unlikely that both bodies will be able to resolve numerous contentious issues by December 16th. It is widely expected that in December there will be another short-term CR before a larger omnibus bill is considered, or Congress may opt to pass another year-long CR.

 

Super Committee Announces Failure

November 21, 2011 - Just two days shy of their November 23rd deadline, the Super Committee announced today that they are unable to resolve their differences to put forth a $1.2 trillion deficit reduction plan. The Committee was unable to come to an agreement on numerous points, including: cuts to domestic discretionary spending; changes to Medicare, Social Security and other mandatory spending; and increases and changes to tax revenues. The news did not come as a surprise, as for several days the committee members and Congressional leadership appeared resolved to failure.

According to the Budget Control Act, failure of the Super Committee will trigger sequestration beginning in January of 2013. This involves a 7.8 percent across the board cut for all non-exempt spending programs. A number of key programs are exempt from sequestration, including: Pell (discretionary portion 2013 only); Social Security; Medicaid; most of Medicare; veterans' benefits, military and civilian pay, and a number of mandatory programs aimed at low-income individuals and children. It is likely that we will continue to see additional Congressional negotiations over the next year to avoid the automatic cuts.

Today, President Obama signed into law the VOW to Hire Heroes Act. The proposal, which was included as part of the President's American Jobs Act provides tax incentives for businesses that hire unemployed veterans. Additionally, the bill provides nearly 100,000 unemployed veterans of past eras and wars with up to 1-year of additional Montgomery GI Bill benefits to qualify for jobs in high-demand sectors. It also provides disabled veterans up to 1-year of additional Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Benefits.

 

Congress Averts Shutdown, Super Committee Failure Appears Imminent

November 18, 2011 - Last night the House passed a funding package to keep the government running until December 16th. This package included full-year funding for fiscal year 2012 programs under Agriculture, Commerce-Science-Justice, and Transportation-HUD, as well as stop-gap funding for the other nine remaining appropriations bills. It is likely that the House and Senate will attempt to pass full-year funding for the other nine bills as part of a large omnibus package. This package would include the Labor-Health and Human Services-Education bill, and is currently being negotiated with the goal to consider the omnibus prior to December 16th. However, the House and Senate will have to overcome multiple differences between the two bills, including a proposal to change eligibility for the Pell Grant program.

The remaining optimism regarding a Super Committee agreement has begun to wane, with all parties stating it is very unlikely that a deal will be struck. Following the midnight deadline on November 23rd, the Super Committee will dissolve and sequestration will be invoked with across the board cuts beginning January 2013. The year-long gap before sequestration will allow for further negotiations and legislative maneuvering to find potential deficit reduction alternatives to the across the board cuts.

 

Close Vote Expected in House to Avert Government Shutdown

November, 17, 2011 - Today, the House is expected to vote on a package of federal funding bills that will include stop-gap funding that will keep the government operational till December 16th. The current stop-gap continuing resolution expires this Friday. The package includes a minibus package of three appropriations bills - Agriculture, Transportation - HUD, and Commerce-Science-Justice - as well as short-term continued funding for the remaining nine appropriations bills yet to be passed into law. Numerous Republican Members object to the minibus bill over a provision that would allow the Federal Housing Administration to back larger mortgages at a time when the agency may require additional federal funds to maintain current operations. If Congressional Leadership is able to garner enough bipartisan votes, the measure will pass and move onto the Senate before Friday's deadline.

In order to pass the appropriations bills, the Senate leadership attempted to move the bills in small packages. Although, the Senate was able to move the first minibus, it was unable to move a subsequent one as negotiations appear to have broken down. Consideration of the second minibus - including Energy and Water, Financial Services, and State-Foreign Operations - has indefinitely ceased in the Senate due to a number of unresolved issues with the bill and amendments. House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) has stated his intent to package the remain nine appropriations bills into a single omnibus package. This package would also include the Labor-HHS-Education bill.

With the Super Committee deadline of November 23rd fast approaching, signs of compromise are fleeting. The main sticking point continues the size of potential changes to the tax code in order to generate revenue. As negotiations break down both sides have begun to politically posture to avoid being pinned with the Committee's failure. This may culminate next week in a vote on the separate Democratic and Republican plans within the Super Committee - both plans would face almost certain failure with party-line votes. There is also potential that both sides could come together to vote on a package that would be less than the required $1.2 trillion. If this were to happen, automatic cuts mandated under the Budget Control Act would be reduced proportionally based on the size of saving produced by the Super Committee.

 

Congress to Consider Stop-Gap Funding this Week

November 14, 2011 - This Friday, the current stop-gap funding measure that keeps the government running is set to expire. In order to keep the government funded beyond November 18th, the House and Senate plan to take up another short-term funding continuing resolution that will run through mid-December. This continuing resolution is expected to be part of a package that includes the conference agreement from the FY 2012 Agriculture, Transportation-HUD, Commerce-Science-Justice minibus bill. Passage of this package will finish work on the Agriculture, Transportation-HUD, Commerce-Science-Justice appropriations bills for the remainder of FY 2012, and continue funding for the other 9 unfinished bills at similar levels to FY 2011.

The Senate is expected to work this week on a second minibus that would fund State-Foreign Operations, Financial Services and Energy and Water for the remainder of FY 2012. It is still unknown when the House or Senate will take up the FY 2012 Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill. It is anticipated that it will either be: paired with Defense appropriations; attached in conference to the second minibus; or passed as a year-long continuing resolution in funding.

The House is expected to consider a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution this week. It is expected that this amendment will not pass into law since it requires a two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate, as well as ratification in 38 states.

ACTION ALERT - Please do not forget to email your elected representative opposing eligibility changes to the Pell Grant program. These changes would eliminate grants for over 500-thousand students and reduce awards by an average of $240.

 

ACTION NEEDED - Congress Considers Pell Eligibility Changes

November 8, 2011 - The House FY 2012 Labor, HHS, Education Appropriations draft bill contains significant eligibility changes to the Pell Grant program. These changes will eliminate over 500,000 students from the Pell Grant program and reduce the average award by $240. Due to the nature of the changes, the impact would be felt greatest amongst working and non-traditional students.

Who Will be Impacted:

Working students whose income will exceed the - Award Eliminated or Reduced new maximum Income Protection Allowance (IPA)

Less than half-time students - Eliminated

Students who have an expected family contribution - Award Eliminated or Reduced
between $15,000 and $30,000

Students receiving Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), - Award Eliminated or Reduced child tax credit, or untaxed social security benefits

Ability to benefit students - Eliminated
(students without a high school diploma)

Students receiving awards that are $555 or less - Eliminated

Students who have already received - Eliminated
12 full-time semesters of Pell

Pell is currently facing a $1.3 billion shortfall in FY 2012. The Senate had initially proposed eliminating a student loan interest subsidy to cover the shortfall, however that option will now only yield $400 million for FY 2012. With $900 million still needed to eliminate the shortfall, eligibility changes to Pell are currently being debated.

Visit the ACCT website for additional information on the impact of Pell eligibility changes.

 

Senate Passes the First of FY 2012 Appropriations Bills

November 3, 2011 - This week the Senate passed a package of fiscal year 2012 appropriations bills for Agriculture, Commerce-Justice-Science and Transportation-HUD. Known as a "minibus", passage of these bills enables the House and Senate to begin conferencing these measures to work on a final agreement for funding. This agreement is expected to also include a continuing resolution funding the remainder of the unpassed appropriations bills, keeping those agencies running through mid-December. The Senate will take up another minibus in the next week or so, which may include funding for Energy and Water, Financial Services, and State-Foreign Operations. It is anticipated that the Labor-HHS-Education bill will be taken up last, possibly as part of a minibus with Defense appropriations.

With the Super Committee's November 23rd deadline fast approaching, speculation has begun on what will happen if a $1.5 trillion deficit reduction plan is not produced. As of right now there is no imminent deal in place, and the Congressional Budget Office would need adequate time to score any proposal. There is a possibility that the Super Committee could vote to reconvene the Committee for additional weeks to further work on finding budgetary savings. Since automatic cuts under sequestration would not occur till January of 2013, there is time to continue to work on deficit reduction. However, there is ongoing concern regarding how financial markets may view a missed deadline.

 

White House Announces Changes to Student Loans

October 26, 2011 - Today, the President announced two changes to the student loan system to ease current burdens related to loan debt and repayment. First, borrowers will be allowed to cap their student loan payments at 10% of discretionary income. This is a 5% reduction from current levels that were passed in 2010. This change will begin in 2012, and is estimated to reduce monthly payments for more than 1.6 million student borrowers.

Additionally, students who have both Direct Loans and Federal Family Education Loans (FFEL) loans will be able to consolidate the loans. It is estimated that 6 million borrowers have at least one Direct Loan and at least one FFEL loan, which requires them to submit two separate monthly payments, a complexity that puts them at greater risk of default. Consolidating the loans will allow for one monthly payment and for a limited time borrowers will receive up to a 0.5 percent reduction to their interest rate for consolidating their Direct Loans and FFEL loans. Beginning in January 2012, the Department of Education will reach out to qualified borrowers early next year to alert them of the opportunity. Both the loan consolidation and the lower income based repayment proposals will be subject to the regulatory process, and could potentially face hurdles prior to implementation.

As a part of ACCT’s commitment to federal student aid, we have joined with the Student Aid Alliance to support a campaign to preserve resources for essential student aid programs. With the Congressional “Super Committee” examining significant cuts to the federal budget, it is important that we show strong support for these programs. By going to the link below, you may sign our statement of support, expressing the opinion that student aid funding must be preserved. If you’re interested in getting more involved, after you’ve signed on, you’ll see other options for additional actions you can take.

 

TAA Signed into Law; First Installment of Jobs Act Fails in Senate

October 21, 2011 - Today President Obama signed into law the extension to the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program alongside three trade bills with South Korea, Panama and Columbia. The extension of TAA will enable American workers displaced by free trade agreements the opportunity to retrain while receiving lower health insurance premiums and other assistance.

Last week the Senate failed to achieve cloture to proceed with debate on the entire American Jobs Act package. As an alternative strategy, Senate leadership sought to move the package in smaller pieces, considering the first one this week. Late last evening, the Senate voted on a motion to proceed with S. 1723, the Teachers and First Responders Back to Work Act. Needing 60 votes to proceed the Senate fell 10 short and was unable to proceed with debate or a vote on the bill. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has stated his intent to continue to bring forth smaller pieces of the American Jobs Act on a weekly basis.

Last evening, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee approved a bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act by a vote of 15-7. The bill has not yet been scheduled for debate on the Senate floor, however the Senate Majority Leader has committed to putting it on the schedule in the coming months - possibly before the end of the year.

 

President Expected to Sign TAA Renewal Tomorrow

October 20, 2011 - Tomorrow, President Obama is expected to sign into law the reauthorization of expired provisions from the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program along with three free trade bills with South Korea, Panama and Columbia. The passage into law represents a negotiated deal whereby the free trade bills were considered in tandem with TAA.

The TAA extension is a compromise brokered by Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) and Representative Dave Camp (R-MI) that would renew TAA but scale back the previous 2009 expansion. The TAA Community College and Career Training Program is maintained at current levels. Income support was reduced from 156 weeks to a maximum of 130 weeks, the same as when the program was reorganized in 2002. The health coverage tax credit was cut from 80 percent to 72.5 percent. Additionally, the bill maintained the 2009 additions that expanded eligibility to service workers, and it expanded benefits to cover trade with all countries.

The Senate is marking up the long awaited draft of the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (also known as No Child Left Behind). The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee began marking up the bill yesterday, but faced a parliamentary delay. The committee reconvened today, and will likely continue marking up the bill tomorrow and possibly into next week. The bill is a bipartisan proposal put forth by Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Ranking Member Mike Enzi (R-WY) that would update the current law passed in 2002.

The Senate is set to consider a portion of the President’s American Jobs Act that would provide funding to rehire and preserve first responder and teacher jobs. It is expected that on Friday the Senate will vote on a motion to proceed with consideration of S. 1723, the Teachers and First Responders Back to Work Act.

 

Senate Fails to Muster Enough Votes to Consider President's Jobs Package

October 12, 2011 - Yesterday the Senate failed to attain the 60 votes necessary to break cloture and formally consider the President’s American Jobs Act. The bill fell far short by a vote of 50 - 49. Included in the $447 bill package is the $5 billion community college modernization fund. Both the President and the Senate indicated they planned to move forward with the proposal considering it in pieces. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) have each introduced bills which encompass solely the community college modernization funding along with K-12 construction funds. ACCT has endorsed this legislation, as well as sent a joint letter to Congressional leadership supporting the community college modernization funds. The Senate will likely consider the separate bills in the coming weeks, but the House is less committed to moving forward with even parts of the package.

Today the House also considered and passed the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) extension in tandem with three pending free trade bills with Columbia, Panama and South Korea. The extension passed without amendment by a vote of 307 - 122, and maintains the TAA Community College and Career Training Grant program. The TAA extension represents a compromise agreement brokered by Congressman Camp (R-MI) and Senator Baucus (D-MT) which rolls back some of the TAA program extensions that were passed in 2009. The bill would extend the TAA program - which is set to expire in February - through December 2013. The Senate has already passed the TAA extension, and it is anticipated the President will sign it into law.

 

TAA Set for Consideration in the House

October 4, 2011 - Congress and the White House have struck a deal to move forward with consideration of the expired Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program in tandem with three pending free trade agreements with South Korea, Panama, and Columbia. Yesterday, President Obama released the trade agreements for consideration in conjunction with the House Rules Committee voting a closed rule for the TAA bill - meaning that when TAA is considered on the House floor, it will be done so without amendments.

The House Ways and Means Committee is scheduled to mark up the TAA bill along with the three trade bills on Wednesday, and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) has stated that the House intends to consider all bills next week. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) also stated that the Senate intends to pass the bills by October 24th.

Today, the House voted in favor of the Senate-passed continuing resolution that will keep the government funded until November 18th by a vote of 352 to 66. The 2012 fiscal year began on October 1st without a long-term spending agreement in place. Last week, the House and Senate passed a short-term extension set to expire at midnight tonight. The bill cuts most discretionary spending by 1.503% in order to stay under spending caps set by the Budget Control Act.

 

House Passes CR and Releases LHHS-Ed Appropriations Draft

September 29, 2011 — Today, the House passed a stopgap funding measure by unanimous consent that would continue to fund the government until October 4th. The current fiscal year expires on Friday, September 30th, and with no long-term spending deal in place, the government once again faced a potential shutdown. This five-day extension will give the House additional time to consider a longer Senate-passed funding bill that would expire on November 18th or move a different bill for Senate consideration.

Today, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education released a draft of their long-anticipated FY 2012 appropriations bill. The bill includes $153.4 billion in discretionary spending, which is $4 billion below FY 2011 enacted levels but significantly higher than what we likely would have seen under the Ryan budgetary levels.

The bill maintains the maximum funding level for the Pell Grant at $5,550, yet it makes significant eligibility changes to the program. These include the following: eliminates eligibility for less than half-time students; reduces the maximum full-time semesters from 18 down to 12; changes scenarios where one may list zero expected family contribution to $15,000; and changes the income calculation and income protection allowance.

Higher education institutional aid saw significant cuts with elimination of funding for Predominately Black Institutions, Asian American Pacific Islander Institutions, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian-Serving Institutions, Native American-Serving Nontribal Institutions, and Tribal Colleges. Hispanic-Serving Institutions and Historically Black Colleges and Universities saw large cuts with reductions of $87 million and $85 million, respectively.

Other education programs of note include the following:

  • Career, Technical and Adult Education programs saw a minimal reduction of $2 million, bringing the funding level to $1.123 billion.
  • Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants and Federal Work Study were level funded at $736 million and $978.5 million.
  • TRIO and GEAR UP were level funded at $826 million and $303 million.

Department of Labor programs that saw significant changes over 2011 enacted levels include the following:

  • Workforce Innovation Fund is eliminated.
  • WIA Adult Training sees a rescission in 2011 advanced funding and a 2012 level that nets a $563 million reduction.
  • WIA Dislocated Worker Assistance sees a rescission in 2011 advanced funding and a 2012 level that nets a 90% cut of $962 million reduction.
  • WIA Youth Training is reduced by 50% at $412 million.

Additionally, the bill prohibits the use of funds to implement Gainful Employment and State Authorization regulations. The bill is not expected to be marked up by the Appropriations Committee, but these funding levels may be seen in a House omnibus bill later this fall.

 

Senate Passes Stopgap Funding Bill

September 27, 2011 — Yesterday evening, the Senate passed a modified short-term funding agreement to keep the government running until November 18th. The measure still has to be considered by the House, but a reduction in the level of disaster aid funding significantly improves chances of passage. The Senate gave the House two options to keep the government running after the fiscal year expires on September 30th. The first option would be to pass the $1.043 trillion continuing resolution until November 18th before midnight on Friday. Or, if the House needs additional time to consider the six-week package, they could pass a Senate approved bill that would extend funding till October 4th. The latter would allow the House - which is currently in recess - to approve the one-week funding bill by unanimous consent during Wednesday’s pro forma session. It is unclear which, if either, option the House will pursue. However, government shutdown will likely be averted for the time being.

 

Department of Labor Announces TAA Community College and Career Training Grants

September 26, 2011 — Today, the Department of Labor officially announced the first round of awardees under the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grant (TAACCCTG) program.

Award Recipients: http://www.dol.gov/opa/media/press/eta/eta20111409fs.htm

This $500 million in grants is the first round of a four-year $2 billion program created in 2009 under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and mandatorily funded within the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010. Funds may be used for community colleges around the country for targeted training and workforce development to help economically dislocated workers who are changing careers. The grants support partnerships between community colleges and employers to develop programs that provide pathways to good jobs, including building instructional programs that meet specific industry needs.

Despite statutory requirements, 17 states did not receive lead grants. For these states, the Department of Labor has contacted the state agency that covers two-year institutions to work with them on institutional and consortia applications in order to meet this requirement. These states will receive an estimated $2.7 million.

Applications for TAACCCTG fiscal year 2011 were robust with $3 billion worth of applications for only $500 million in grants. The remaining $1.5 billion will be awarded equally in fiscal years 2012, 2013, and 2014.

 

Senate Passes TAA Extension

September 23, 2011 — Yesterday, the Senate voted on renewing the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program, maintaining certain provisions from the 2009 expansion, and extending the overall program through 2013. The TAA extension was considered as an amendment to legislation related to import subsidies and passed by a vote of 70 - 27.

The bill maintains the TAA Community College and Career Training Program as authorized in the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) and funded for 2011-2014 in the 2009 Reconciliation Bill.

The TAA extension represents a compromise brokered by Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) and Representative Dave Camp (R-MI) that would renew TAA but scale back the previous 2009 expansion. Income support was reduced from 156 weeks to a maximum of 130 weeks, the same as when the program was reorganized in 2002. The health coverage tax credit was cut from 80 percent to 72.5 percent. Additionally, the bill maintained the 2009 additions that expanded eligibility to service workers, and it expanded benefits to cover trade with all countries.

Congress continues to experience gridlock over continued funding to keep the government operational. The current fiscal year expires September 30th, and there is not yet a compromise on funding. The main sticking point is the House Republican Majority’s inclusion of offsets to emergency disaster spending. Traditionally, disaster-related spending has not been offset, and the Senate Democratic Majority has stated they will not pass a bill including offsets.

After midnight last night, the House passed a continuing resolution (CR) to extend funding until November 18th. This was the second version of the CR, as on Wednesday the House defeated a similar bill. The newer bill included more cuts to appeal to the Republicans who voted ‘no’ initially. This CR was sent to the Senate, where it was voted down this afternoon. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has stated that the Senate will vote again Monday on the CR, but this time with an amendment stripping the offsets. Congress was set to recess next week, but will likely return to deal with this issue. Adding to the urgency, FEMA is set to run out of funds on Monday if Congress does not act.
Despite a $1.3 billion shortfall in discretionary spending for the Pell Grant program, the maximum award was maintained at $5,550. Level funding is also maintained for Title I funds under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. $100 million is provided for the proposed Workforce Innovation Fund - a competitive grant designed to reward best practices for consortia that retrain and rapidly re-employ workers.

The bill provides discretionary program level funding of $12.69 billion for the Department of Labor and $68.43 billion for the Department of Education. The comparable fiscal year 2011 levels were $12.66 billion for Labor and $68.35 billion for Education.

The bill was voted favorably out of subcommittee by a vote of 10 - 8, and it is expected to be marked up by the full Senate Appropriations Committee tomorrow. It’s unlikely the bill will be considered on the Senate floor, as all indications are that Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education will be taken up as part of an omnibus bill later this fall. The House Appropriations Committee continues to postpone marking up their version of the bill, and it remains unclear if a formal markup on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education will occur this year.

 

President Releases Plan for Economic Growth and Deficit Reduction

September 19, 2011 — Today, the President released his Plan for Economic Growth and Deficit Reduction. The proposal is a detailed plan of spending reductions and revenue raisers that purports to produce a net savings of over $3 trillion over 10 years. Included in this plan is $1.5 trillion in new taxes, including the following measures: repealing Bush-era tax cuts for couples making over $250,000; closing certain corporate tax loopholes; and raising taxes on some millionaires. Savings from this plan would help pay for the President’s proposed American Jobs Act, including $5 billion in modernization funds for community colleges. Additionally, the President’s plan seeks to shore up the discretionary funding to the Pell Grant program by providing $50 billion over the next decade to retain the current maximum award of $5,500. The plan has been presented to the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction for consideration.

The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Humans Services, and Education is expected to mark up its FY 2012 bill tomorrow afternoon. Although the bill will not be considered individually on the House floor, funding levels and authorization changes will likely be a part of a larger omnibus appropriations bill expected to be considered in November. In the meantime, with the fiscal year ending September 30th, the House and Senate are both expected to consider a stop-gap funding measure this week that will extend current funding until November 18th.

The Senate is expected to take a procedural vote today to allow for the consideration of an extension to the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program. The Senate is expected to get the 60 votes necessary to consider TAA as an amendment to a House-passed bill that would revive the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program. If passed, TAA would then move back to the House to be considered in conjunction with GSP. Speaker Boehner has pledged to bring up this bill for consideration on the House floor as part of a larger deal that would also bring forth three pending free-trade bills.

 

House Fails to Pass CR, Senate Committee Moves Education Funding Bill

September 22, 2011 — Yesterday, the House of Representatives attempted to pass a continuing resolution to fund the federal government through November 18th (the federal fiscal years ends on September 30), but the resolution was defeated by a 195-230 vote. Democratic opposition and opposition by a group of Republicans prevented the passage of the bill. House leaders are working to alter the resolution, but it’s unclear how the bill will be modified. Meanwhile, the Senate is expected to take up its own continuing resolution, which is different than the House bill. With the likelihood that the House and Senate will pass different bills, congressional leaders will have to work out their different continuing resolutions prior to the end of the fiscal year.

As expected, the Senate Appropriations Committee marked up its FY 2012 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Appropriations bill and reported out the bill by a vote of 16-14. The bill provides discretionary program-level funding of $12.69 billion for the Department of Labor and $68.43 billion for the Department of Education. The comparable FY 2011 levels were $12.66 billion and $68.35 billion, respectively.

The Senate bill eliminates the in-school interest subsidy for undergraduate students during the six-month grace period after college. The elimination of the subsidy generates $2.34 billion in mandatory savings over five years, of which $1.2 billion will be provided to fill the FY 2012 Pell Grant shortfall. The Committee maintained the Pell Grant maximum award at $5,550. For FY 2013, however, there will be a Pell Grant shortfall. Level funding is also maintained for Title I funds under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and $100 million is provided for the proposed Workforce Innovation Fund - a competitive grant designed to reward best practices for consortia that retrain and rapidly re-employ workers. Congress is maneuvering to corral all of the remaining appropriations bill and move an omnibus appropriations bill.

 

Senate Appropriations Subcommittee Reveals LHHS-Education Bill

September 20, 2011 — Today, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies marked up their FY 2012 appropriations bill. This bill reflects the new funding caps set forth by the debt limit deal and reduces funding from the FY 2011 final enacted numbers by $308 million.

 

House Introduces Short-Term Funding Bill for FY 2012

September 15, 2011 — Yesterday evening, the House Appropriations Committee introduced H.J.Res. 79, a bill to extend current federal funding into the new fiscal year, which begins on October 1st. This continuing resolution (CR) includes an across the board cut of 1.409% in order for spending to fall under the new budgetary caps ($1.043 trillion for FY 2012) agreed to during the debt limit negotiations.

The CR would extend funding until November 18th, at which time another short- or long-term funding bill must be passed. A 1.409% reduction would equate to a $962 million cut in discretionary funding for the Department of Education. For Pell Grants, the maximum award is still set at $5,500.

With fatigue over the extending negotiations for final FY 2011 funding and the debt limit debate, an across the board cut with bipartisan spending caps represents the path of least resistance for swift passage. It also signals that House leadership may wish to avoid another scenario of prolonged partisan debate. One point of contention within the bill may be the offsets to the $3.64 billion in disaster funding in the House bill. Senate appropriators have stated opposition for the offsets, and both sides still need to come to an agreement on the issue.

The House is expected to consider this legislation next week.

 

Community College Provisions in the American Jobs Act

September 13, 2011 — Last evening, President Obama formally introduced his American Jobs Act legislation as outlined in last Thursday’s joint address to Congress. The President’s proposal includes two major initiatives impacting community colleges, which are summarized below.

Community College Modernization - $5 billion would be used to modernize (not new construction) community college infrastructure and ensure that institutions have the equipment and facilities necessary to train workers in highly technical and growing fields.

Funds would be distributed to states using a formula based on student enrollment. This number is calculated by adding the number of students at a state’s junior or community colleges plus the number of students pursuing certificates or degrees (excluding bachelors and advanced degrees) at applicable 4-year institutions. 4-year institutions must award a significant number of certificates and non-advanced or bachelor degrees. States must apply for these funds though the Secretary of Education, and outline areas where funds would be used, for what purpose, and potential job creation. No state shall receive less than $2.5 million, and the Secretary of Education is to reserve .25 percent of all fund to be distributed to Tribal Colleges and .25 percent for outlying areas. States may also reserve up to 1 percent (not to exceed $750,000) for grant administration. Individual estimates of state distribution can be viewed here.
Funds would then be reallocated at the state level to projects designed to modernize, renovate or repair existing facilities. There are certain requirements regarding usage of funds. Funds must be used to supplement and may not supplant other state funding dedicated to community college modernization. Funds cannot be used for new construction or routine maintenance, and may not be used on sports facilities or religious worship. Four year institutions are eligible to receive funds, but may not use it for modernization of facilities not used by applicable degree and certificate students. Green projects are permitted, but must be consistent with current energy rating systems such as LEED and Energy Star.

If passed, funds would be available for the 2012 fiscal year and must be obligated within 36 months after passage. Any remaining funds would be reallocated by the Secretary proportionately.

Pathways Back to Work Fund - The President creates a Pathway Back to Work Fund, which includes $1.5 billion to be provided for competitive grants to local entities in support of consortia that have demonstrated effective strategies in carrying out work-based training to unemployed and low-income individuals.

This proposal would reward consortia of local governments, workforce boards, businesses, and communities colleges that execute strategies that lead to employment, including supporting career pathways that provide students with the academic preparation and training and acquiring industry-recognized credentials in a growth sector.

As stated in the section-by-section analysis provided by the White House, these activities may include: on-the-job training or apprenticeship programs; sector-based training programs that include a significant work experience component; acquisition of industry-recognized credentials in a growth sector; connections to immediate work opportunities that includes concurrent skills training; career academies that include paid internships and concurrent enrollment in community colleges; and integrated basic education and training for low-skilled adults.

Priority will be given to grant applicants from areas of high poverty and high unemployment. Applications must include the strategies and activities that will be used to provide unemployed, low-income adults or low-income youth with the skills needed for employment; target populations within those categories, such as individuals with disabilities and individuals who have exhausted all rights to unemployment compensation; how the activities will address the needs of the target populations and employers in the local area; expected outcomes; evidence that the funds may be expended expeditiously; coordination with other programs; evidence of employer commitment to participate, including identification of anticipated occupational and skill needs; and assurances regarding reporting and labor standards and protections.

 

President Obama Formally to Submit American Jobs Act Bill

September 12, 2011 — As stated during last Thursday’s joint session of Congress, President Obama will formally submit his proposed American Jobs Act bill this evening.

The proposed $5 billion in modernization funds for community colleges takes the form of a program that would distribute funds to each state based on a formula of student enrollment within those institutions. From there, states would be given the discretion of how to award funds and where to prioritize projects based on need. New construction is excluded from awards in favor of repairs and modernization. Projects should be shovel ready to the point that they could be completed within 36 months, and funds would be distributed by September 30th, 2012. To view the potential state funding distribution, click here.

Despite a strong need for modernization, the school construction funds remain one of the most divisive provisions of the American Jobs Act. Congress has the authority to consider any or all of President Obama’s plan, and early indications seem to be that the package may not be considered as a whole.

The Senate has indicated that it would like to take up an extension for the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program before September 30th. If the extension were considered and passed, it would than require subsequent passage by the House.

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) has moved to appeal a federal court decision that struck down a portion of ED’s Title IV program integrity regulations dealing with state authorizations for distance learning. This portion of the regulation would require that Title IV receiving institutions remain in compliance with individual state authorization requirements for distance learning, which means that institutions with out-of-state students taking distance learning courses must be abide by that state’s authorization requirements. Courts had struck down this portion not due to content, but due to process requirements. The court found that ED had not adequately allowed for public comments on the proposed regulation.

 

President Obama's Jobs Speech and Community Colleges

September 9, 2011 — Last night, President Obama addressed the nation in a joint session of Congress to outline his plan for the economy and jobs. The President’s plan, entitled “The American Jobs Act,” includes $447 billion in spending and tax cuts designed to improve current economic conditions. Key parts of the plan include expansion and extension of the payroll tax break; tax credits for companies that hire unemployed workers; funds to prevent K-12 teacher and staff layoffs; funds to modernize schools and vacant properties; $50 billion in road, rail and aviation modernization; and an extension and reforms to unemployment insurance. The burden to pay for the plan would fall on the 12 members of the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction, who have already begun working on a $1.5 trillion spending reduction, as mandated in the Budget Control Act.

Incorporated in the President’s proposal were two major initiatives impacting community colleges. The first is a $5 billion investment to modernize community colleges (including tribal colleges). These funds, which are formula based, would be used to modernize infrastructure and ensure that communities colleges have the equipment and facilities necessary to train workers in highly technical and growing fields. Funds would not be used for new construction, but for updating facilities, making campuses more energy efficient, and upgrading technology.

Additionally, the President proposed a fund to incentivize and reward local governments for implementing effective workforce training and employment strategies. Similar to the previously proposed “Workforce Incentive Fund,” this proposal would reward consortia of local governments, workforce boards, businesses, and communities colleges that execute strategies that lead to employment, including supporting career pathways that provide students with the academic preparation and training and acquiring industry-recognized credentials in a growth sector.

It remains to be seen if Congress will consider any or all of President Obama’s proposal. Finding a bipartisan agreement on offsets to pay for the additional spending and tax cuts may prove challenging.

 

President to Present Jobs Plan to Congress and the Nation

September 8, 2011 — Tonight at 7pm, President Obama will address the nation in a joint session of Congress to outline his plan for the economy and jobs. The President’s plan, entitled “The American Jobs Act,” is anticipated to include $300 billion in stimulus funds, which would include various offsets yet to be disclosed. It is widely believe that this plan will include emergency funding for education jobs and school construction, an infrastructure bank, an extension of unemployment insurance, tax breaks for companies who hire unemployed workers, and an extension of the payroll tax cut. The President has stated that a number of new ideas will also be presented during the speech.

Yesterday, the Senate ratified its subcommittee, or 302(b), allocations, determining the individual spending caps for each subcommittee. For Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, the cap is set at $157.1 billion, or $300 million less than in FY 2011. The House has postponed tomorrow’s scheduled markup of the FY 2012 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Subcommittee appropriations bill. We do not yet know the House’s 302(b) allocations, and a draft of the bill has yet to be released. The Senate is eyeing the week of September 19th to hold their markup.

House Republican leadership has announced that they would like to vote on a stopgap funding measure for FY 2012 the week of September 19th. The FY 2011 fiscal year comes to a close on September 30th, and negotiators on the stopgap bill state that it will extend funding until “late fall.” A deal has yet to be reached on what would be included in this package, endangering the target date for consideration on the floor.

The prospects for an extension of the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program have brightened as legislative action surrounding trade has risen to a priority for the House and Senate. On Wednesday, the House unanimously passed HR 2832, a bill to renew the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP). GSP allows certain goods from over 120 countries to enter the country duty-free. HR 2832 will now head to the Senate, where it is will most likely be considered as a package with a TAA extension. While it would still have to pass both bodies with the addition of TAA, the popularity of the GSP program increases chances of passage. Additionally, President Obama has stated that with passage of TAA and GSP, he would press forward with three pending free-trade agreements with Panama, South Korea, and Columbia. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has stated he would not bring up the free-trade bills without first considering TAA; contending the necessity of TAA with the potential of jobs moving overseas due to the free-trade bills. With many Republican members clamoring for the passage of the free-trade bills, its appears a deal could be in order for extending TAA.

 

Congress Back from August Recess

September 6, 2011 — Today and tomorrow, the Senate and House reconvene to begin consideration of a bevy of legislative matters that must be addressed before the end of the year. These meetings will be the first time both bodies will convene to consider legislative business since the frenzied passage of the Budget Control Act (BCA) in early August.

As the fiscal year comes to a close on September 30th, much focus will center on impending appropriations for 2012 and mandates under the new BCA. The BCA sets forth new discretionary spending caps, or 302(a) allocations, for FY 2012 - FY 2021 that the appropriations committee must not exceed. On Wednesday, the Senate Appropriations Committee will meet to adopt the subcommittees allocations, or 302(b) allocations, for FY 2012, and the House will likely follow suit soon thereafter. House leadership has stated that they will abide by the caps set under the BCA despite speculation that they may proceed with the lower caps set forth by the Ryan Budget. Despite the higher caps under BCA, Congress will still need to cut $6 billion in spending over the final FY 2011 numbers.

The House Appropriations Subcommittees on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education will mark up their appropriations bill on Friday morning. The Senate subcommittee has also stated their intent to mark up an appropriations bill as early as this week. These bills are not expected to be considered on the floor, but they will prove meaningful in developing any stopgap spending measure or future omnibus appropriations bill.

Thursday morning, the ‘Super Committee’ will conduct its first organizational meeting. The Super Committee has been tasked with developing a plan to reduce spending by a targeted $1.5 trillion. This plan must be supported by a majority of the committee and sent to Congress for consideration by November 23rd.

Thursday evening, President Obama will be addressing a joint session of Congress to outline his plan to stimulate the economy and create jobs.

House and Senate Choose Members for Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction

August 15, 2011 — Last week, House and Senate Leadership finalized selections for the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction. This committee has been chosen in accordance with the Budget Control Act of 2011 to develop a proposal to reduce overall government spending by a target of $1.5 trillion over the next decade. The following members have been named to the committee:

SENATE
Patty Murray (D-WA) - co-chair
Max Baucus (D-MT)
John Kerry (D-MA)
Jon Kyl (R-AZ)
Pat Toomey (R-PA)
Rob Portman (R-OH)

HOUSE
Jeb Hensarling (R- TX) - co-chair
Dave Camp (R- MI)
Fred Upton (R-MI)
James E. Clyburn (D-SC)
Xavier Becerra (D-CA)
Chris Van Hollen (D-MD)

The Budget Control Act sets forth a timeline for the Joint Committee to come up with spending reductions and for Congress to vote on their proposal. By November 23 of this year, the Joint Committee must vote on a plan to reduce funding by $1.5 trillion over the period of Fiscal Years 2012 - 2021. If the plan is approved by at least seven members, it will proceed to the House and Senate for consideration, where it must be voted on by December 23.

If Congress does not approve at least $1.2 trillion in savings, an automatic reduction in spending known as sequestration will occur on January 2, 2013. The Pell Grant program is exempt from cuts under sequestration for 2013, but the discretionary portion of the program would be subject to cuts by the Appropriations Committee starting in 2014. Additionally, the Joint Committee has the discretion to cut funding to the program or change eligibility.

Tomorrow, on August 16, the House Education and Workforce Committee will be holding a field hearing in Greenville, SC entitled "Reviving our Economy: The Role of Higher Education in Job Growth and Development". The hearing will have two panels: the first focusing on job opportunities and the local economy and the second on preparing graduates to join the workforce. Witnesses include Dr. Keith Miller, President of Greenville Technical College. The hearing will be held at 1:00pm at Carolina First Gallery at Clemson University’s International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR), located at 5 Research Drive in Greenville, SC.

 

Congress Approves & President Signs Debt Ceiling Deal, Congress Moves to Recess

August 2, 2011 — Congress has approved the deal to increase the debt ceiling, known as the Budget Control Act of 2011, and the President has signed the bill into law. The House approved the deal in a bipartisan 269 to 161 vote yesterday evening, with 174 Republicans and 95 Democrats in favor. Today, the Senate approved the deal 74 to 26, with 28 Republicans and 46 Democrats in favor. The legislation was enacted just in time to clear Tuesday’s deadline before default would have occurred.

The debt ceiling is immediately increased by $400 billion, and an additional increase of $500 billion will occur later this fall, subject to Congressional disapproval. Meetings of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, or ‘super committee,’ tasked with finding $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction will also begin this fall. ACCT will continue to advocate for maintaining investments in the Pell Grant and other financial aid and higher education programs.

The House and Senate immediately began their August recess following conclusion of the debt ceiling bill. Congress will return to work on September 6 and 7 to a significant backload of pending legislation. In particular, the appropriations process will resume in the House and Senate, with the current fiscal year scheduled to end on September 30. A short-term continuing resolution is likely to be required, as Congress will not be able to pass and conference all appropriations bills in three weeks. Alternatively, leaders could decide to pursue an omnibus appropriations bill. Under the debt ceiling legislation, total discretionary spending in FY 2012 is limited to $1.043 trillion ($7 billion below current levels). The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, HHS, and Education (LHHS) will likely move to mark up the LHHS appropriations bill sometime in mid-September.

Congress and the Administration will also return to the pending submission and ratification of free trade agreements, including reauthorizing the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program. Many House and Senate Republicans remain opposed to the pairing of TAA with the free trade agreements due to program costs, but the Administration strongly prefers they be paired together. TAA provides retraining benefits to displaced workers that are often utilized at community colleges. The TAA Community College and Career Training Grant Program also needs reauthorization to clarify program eligibility and other issues.

Mark up of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) reauthorization bill in the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee will likely be scheduled. After several previous delays in July, WIA was most recently scheduled for mark up on August 3. Staffers confirm that the legislation is still on track for mark up sometime after the recess.

 

Congress Reaches Debt Deal that Cuts $2.4 Trillion, Preserves Pell Grant Temporarily

August 1, 2011 — White House and Congressional leaders reached a deal last night to increase the debt ceiling before Tuesday’s deadline. The deal authorizes an increase to the debt limit by at least $2.1 trillion (enough to last through the end of 2012) and calls for at least $2.4 trillion in deficit reduction over the next 10 years. An immediate short-term increase to the debt ceiling is provided, with two longer-term increases subject to Congressional disapproval. Discretionary spending caps also take effect immediately, saving $917 billion over ten years and including $350 billion in defense spending cuts. The remaining deficit reduction of $1.5 trillion would be decided on by a joint Congressional ‘super-committee’ that will be required to report legislation by November 23, 2011 and will receive fast-track protections. Congress is required to vote on the committee’s recommendations by December 23, 2011. If the committee does not reach an agreement by Thanksgiving, $1.2 trillion in across-the-board cuts would automatically go into effect in 2013 - known as sequestration - with half of the cuts going to defense spending, and the other half to domestic discretionary spending.

The deal also includes $17 billion in funding over two years for the Pell Grant ($10 billion in FY 2012 and $7 billion in FY 2013) and which protects the maximum grant at $5,550 and helps to close some of the projected shortfall in the program. The funding is paid for by eliminating the interest subsidy on graduate and professional student loans. For FY 2012, a shortfall of $1.3 billion would remain. The Pell Grant could face cuts or eligibility changes in future years, as appropriators seek to comply with the bill’s spending caps. When Congress continues the appropriations process for FY 2012 this September, it is unclear whether they will choose to close the remaining shortfall through changing eligibility, cutting other programs, or simply carrying forward the shortfall to FY 2013.

Total discretionary spending in FY 2012 will be limited to $1.043 trillion ($7 billion below current levels) and $1.047 trillion in FY 2013 ($3 billion below current levels). Defense and security savings would represent roughly half of the reductions over this two year period.

The joint committee would be empowered to propose cuts to entitlement programs this fall. This means that the committee could examine future cuts to the Pell Grant or potentially the Community College and Career Training Grant (CCCTG) program. If the joint committee were to fail to report deficit-reduction legislation, sequestration would spare the Pell Grant under a list of exempted programs. However, other higher education programs such as SEOG, TRIO, and Work Study would not be exempt from cuts under sequestration.

Finally, the deal also requires that between October 1 and December 31, 2011 both the House and Senate vote on a Balanced Budget Constitutional amendment.

Both the House and Senate may consider the legislation and take votes today. Given criticism of the deal from both sides of the aisle, passage of the bill in the House may prove difficult, although passage in the Senate appears more likely.

 

Pell Grant Funding in Danger as House Approaches Vote on Boehner Debt Ceiling Bill

July 29, 2011 — After three days of wrangling for votes and numerous revisions, the House will vote this evening on Speaker John Boehner’s (R-OH) bill to raise the debt ceiling. After failing to gather enough votes from Tea Party conservatives last night to proceed to a vote, Boehner has altered his bill to include a Balanced Budget Amendment (BBA) provision. As amended, a second debt ceiling increase roughly six months from now would be tied to Congress sending a Balanced Budget Amendment (BBA) to the states. It now appears that enough Republicans will support the legislation to pass it. However, inclusion of the BBA provision will further reduce any chance of Democratic support for the bill, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) plans immediately to vote down the legislation on Saturday. Additionally, President Obama has promised to veto Boehner’s bill if it were to somehow reach his desk.

Reid said that he will file cloture today on his own plan to raise the debt ceiling through the 2012 election and to cut spending by approximately $2.2 trillion. The move sets up a series of procedural votes on the Reid plan through this weekend, with final votes occurring on Sunday at the earliest. Reid is reaching out to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) for a deal that would secure the 60 votes necessary to proceed to and approve the legislation. At this time, it is unclear how the standoff between the House and Senate will be resolved prior to the deadline of next Tuesday.

Media reports indicated yesterday that many members have objected to the inclusion of Pell Grant funding in the Boehner bill. Both the original Boehner and Reid plans use savings from elimination of the in-school graduate and professional loan interest subsidy to provide additional mandatory funding for the Pell Grant. Although the latest revision to the Boehner bill does not strip the funds, Pell Grants continue to be targeted in the final negotiations in the House and Senate.

Please call Congress immediately to support Pell Grant funding. Dial the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask to be connected to your representative. Then, please call both of your senators using the same number.

Please state that you strongly support the inclusion of Pell Grant funding in the final debt ceiling negotiations. Without these funds, the maximum Pell Grant of $5,550 and the awards of millions of students nationwide will be in danger.

At this time, phone calls are most effective. The House and Senate will be in session this weekend so calls can be placed at any time. Background information on Pell Grants is available at http://www.pellgrantactioncenter.org. Please dial the U.S. Capitol Switchboard now at (202) 224-3121.

 

House Debt Ceiling Bill Postponed after CBO Score, Path Remains Unclear

July 27, 2011 — A vote on Speaker John Boehner’s (R-OH) bill to raise the debt ceiling was postponed on Wednesday after the Congressional Budget Office found that the bill falls $150 billion short of the $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction over 10 years that Boehner originally pledged. Thursday is now the earliest a House vote could occur on the measure. Boehner is working to find additional savings to shore up support for the bill, which does not yet have the support of enough House Republicans to pass. Senate Democrats said Tuesday that no matter how Boehner’s debt ceiling plan fares in the House, it is dead on arrival in the Senate, and the President also threatened to veto the bill if it were to somehow reach his desk. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-NV) bill to cut $2.7 trillion similarly scored lower than expected, with the CBO finding just $2.2 trillion in deficit savings relative to baseline. The report could mean that Reid, like Boehner, might have to re-work his plan in order to achieve his target number.

The bills are similar in domestic discretionary spending levels; while Boehner’s bill cuts $1 billion more in FY 2012, their numbers are the same in FY 2013. The Boehner plan, as does the Senate plan, uses savings from elimination of the in-school graduate and professional loan interest subsidy to provide additional mandatory funding for Pell, though in slightly different amounts. The House adds $9 billion in FY 2012, while the Senate ads $10.5 billion (there is a total shortfall of $11.2 billion in FY 2012 but some of that can be carried over). The House provides $8 billion in FY 2013, while the Senate provides $7.5 billion. Thus overall the Senate provides a total of $18 billion in additional funding for the Pell Grant, while the House provides $17 billion. The similarities between the two bills could indicate an approaching Congressional consensus around an FY 2012 spending cap and Pell Grant funding.

 

House and Senate Go Their Separate Ways on Debt Ceiling Debate

July 26, 2011 — After much discussion between Congressional leaders and the President, the House and Senate are expected to consider their own separate bills that would cut trillions in spending but also increase the debt ceiling level. Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) introduced his bill to increase the debt ceiling, and he announced that the House will consider the bill tomorrow. The House bill would cut spending by $1.2 trillion and increase the debt ceiling by $1 trillion, which should extend it by six months. The bill would also create a Congressional commission charged with finding $1.8 trillion in savings. After enactment of the savings, the President could request to increase the debt ceiling by $1.6 trillion, and Congress would still need to pass an additional debt ceiling increase next year. The House bill would also set a higher FY2012 budget by over $24 billion than what was passed in the Ryan Budget. In terms of education funding, the bill would eliminate the in-school loan subsidy for graduate and professional students. In turn, the bill would utilize some of these savings from the elimination of the loan subsidy and provide $9 billion for FY2012 and $8 billion for FY2013 in additional mandatory funds for the Pell Grant program.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) introduced a bill to the Senate, but it will not move his bill until the House considers Speaker Boehner’s bill. The Senate bill includes $2.7 trillion in cuts and would extend the debt ceiling until after general elections in 2012. The bill would set the FY2012 spending level at $1.045 trillion, slightly higher than the House bill. The Senate bill also creates a Congressional commission to suggest additional savings by the end of the year. As with the House bill, the Senate bill would eliminate the in-school loan subsidy for graduate and professional students. The Senate bill would provide $10.5 billion for FY2012 and $7.5 billion for FY2013 in additional mandatory Pell Grant funds.

At the present time, it is unclear whether either bill has sufficient support to pass in either chamber. Nevertheless, the House is expected to lead the way with a vote tomorrow, and the Senate will consider its bill sometime afterwards.

 

Senate Tables House's Cut, Cap, and Balance Bill

July 22, 2011—Today, the Senate tabled a motion to consider the House passed H.R. 2560, the Cut, Cap, and Balance Act, by a 51-46 vote, thereby killing the legislation. With this action, it now appears that Congressional leaders will renew their efforts to find a solution to the debt ceiling increase. President Obama and the Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) continue to negotiate on a debt ceiling, but the specifics of these discussions have not been made public.

Yesterday, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education announced that the scheduled markup on July 26 would be postponed. Additionally, the House Appropriations Committee was slated to consider the subcommittee’s bill on August 2nd, but this will now not transpire. It appears that at the earliest, the Subcommittee can mark up a bill during the week of September 7.

With the revision of the House schedule, ACCT strongly encourages community college advocates to utilize the Congressional work period in August to continue to press for Congressional support of the Pell Grant program. For more information and tools, visit: www.pellgrantactioncenter.org

 

House Passes 'Cut, Cap, Balance' Bill

July 20, 2011 - Last night, the House passed H.R. 2560 “Cut, Cap and Balance Act” by a vote of 234-190, with 5 Democrats voting for the bill and 9 Republicans against it. Senate Democratic leaders have declared the bill dead on arrival, and the President has vowed to veto the legislation should it reach his desk. It is believed that House leaders will now move toward a compromise agreement to raise the debt ceiling by August 2.

The $3.7 trillion ‘Gang of Six’ plan for deficit-reduction continued to receive bipartisan praise since its unveiling yesterday. However, even if the plan were to acquire the necessary support in both chambers, it remains unlikely that Congress could assemble the legislative language and have the bill scored by the Congressional Budget Office in time for its passage by August 2. Notably, the ‘Gang of Six’ plan includes a direction for the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions to find an unspecified $70 billion in discretionary and/or mandatory savings over 10 years, which could include Pell Grants.

Today, the President signaled that he may be open to a short-term debt ceiling extension to accomplish larger deficit-reduction, after previously opposing the idea; this could allow more time for a larger deal to be adopted. Meanwhile, more details are becoming available about the ‘fallback option’ for the debt ceiling being crafted by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). The plan would include $1.5 trillion in spending cuts over 10 years, almost all of which would come from discretionary spending, by setting a cap of $1.048 trillion - $1 billion below FY 11 but $30 billion above the House-passed level of $1.019 trillion in the ‘Ryan Budget.’

 

Debt Ceiling Negotiations in Flux as Default Approaches

July 19, 2011 - Today the House is considering H.R. 2560 “Cut, Cap and Balance Act.” The bill cuts discretionary spending by $111 billion from current levels for FY 2012, imposes spending caps over the next 10 years that fall to 19.9% of GDP (the same level of spending in the Republican budget which was adopted earlier this year), requires Congress to pass a balanced budget amendment in order to raise the debt ceiling, and requires a supermajority (2/3 vote) to raise any revenue. H.R. 2560 appears likely to be approved by the House. However, it is widely expected that the measure will then fail in the Senate next week. The passage of the legislation in the House is the first step in moving toward an alternative agreement to raise the debt ceiling. The debt ceiling must be increased by August 2 or the government will default.

Debt ceiling negotiations are ongoing between the Administration and Congressional leaders, with several options under consideration. The so-called ‘Gang of Six’ re-united today to present a comprehensive $3.7 trillion deficit-reduction plan to fellow Senators. The plan includes 74 percent spending cuts and 26 percent additional revenues, including $1 trillion in revenues from closing a variety of special tax breaks. The group’s plan received bipartisan praise from Senators and President Obama, but Congressional leaders have said it would be very difficult to pair the framework with a debt ceiling increase in the available time before August 2. Instead, it could provide a path toward deficit-reduction after the debt ceiling is raised.

As a fallback option to prevent default, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is working with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) on legislation to give President Obama authority to raise the $14.3 trillion debt limit. According to media reports, the leaders are nearing agreement to attach $1.5 trillion in spending cuts to the legislation and set up a special committee of lawmakers to recommend a deficit-reduction package that would receive an automatic vote on the Senate floor.

Meanwhile, the appropriations process for the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health & Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (LHHS) is moving forward, but the schedule remains fluid. Although the markup to set specific program allocations is still set for July 26, it is possible this markup will be delayed as Congress considers a solution to the debt ceiling impasse. At the markup, cuts to postsecondary programs and potential changes to the Pell Grant will be made evident. The amount allocated for LHHS is $18.2 billion below FY 2011 (or 12 percent below current funding). Cuts are likely to be felt widely.

 

TAA Moves Forward in Senate; Gainful Employment Hearing Tomorrow

July 7, 2011 - Today, the Senate Finance Committee marked up and reported the free trade agreements with Panama, Columbia, and South Korea, along with the reauthorization of the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program. The Committee voted down an amendment to strip the entire TAA program from the free trade agreements by a vote of 13-11. Two amendments that would have endangered funding for the TAA Community College and Career Training Grant (CCCTG) were not offered. However, the Committee action remains nonbinding on the language that will ultimately be considered by the Senate.* House Ways & Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) has announced that his committee will consider the free trade agreements separately from a reauthorization of TAA. Thank you to everyone who contacted their Senators in support of the CCCTG program.

Tomorrow, the House Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training will hold a hearing on the Department of Education's gainful employment regulations at 10AM EST. The hearing will be conducted jointly with the Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs, Stimulus Oversight and Government Spending. A live webcast of the hearing will be available at: http://edworkforce.house.gov/Calendar/EventSingle.aspx?EventID=249467

Finally, Sens. Richard Burr (R-NC) and Ben Nelson (D-NE) last week introduced the Senate version of a bill to rescind the Department of Education’s credit hour and state authorization regulations that went into effect last Friday, July 1. As with the House bill, the Senate measure (S. 1297) has three main provisions: 1) a repeal of the state authorization regulation that significantly expands and complicates existing federal requirements for an institution to legally operate within a state; 2) a repeal of the new federal definition of a credit hour; and 3) a ban prohibiting the education secretary from promulgating a rule to establish a federal definition of a credit hour in the future. It is unclear whether the legislation will be given a hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

* Trade agreements are considered under a set of “fast track” rules. Under those rules, the President can send negotiated trade agreements to Capitol Hill, but Congress can only approve or disapprove the agreements in their entirety, not amend them. Committee members in the House and Senate can only debate the agreements and hold a “mock” amendment process. Any agreed-upon amendments are non-binding and may only be sent back to the White House for consideration. Eventually the White House will send a complete agreement to the House and Senate for "up or down" votes.

 

URGENT ACTION NEEDED--Senate Committee to Consider Amendments to Eliminate the CCCTG Program

July 6, 2011 - The Senate Finance Committee is expected to consider and markup the Free Trade Agreements with Korea, Panama, Columbia and the reauthorization of the Trade Adjustment Act tomorrow morning at 9 a.m. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) has filed an amendment #2, which would eliminate the TAA Community College and Career Training Grant (CCCTG) program in its entirety. Additionally, congressional staff have indicated that Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) will offer an amendment to move the CCCTG program funding from mandatory funding to discretionary funding, which would also likely eliminate the program. ACCT strongly opposes these two amendments.

We strongly urge anyone who has a Senator on the committee to call them tomorrow morning to urge them to oppose these two amendments. You can reach senate offices through the capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121.

Senate Finance Committee Roster

Democrats (13)
Max Baucus MT - Chairman
John Rockefeller, IV, WV
Kent Conrad, ND
Jeff Bingaman, NM
John Kerry, MA
Ron Wyden, OR
Charles Schumer, NY
Debbie Stabenow, Mich.
Maria Cantwell, WA
Bill Nelson, FL
Robert Menedez, NJ
Thomas Carper, DE
Benjamin L. Cardin, MD

Republicans (11)
Orrin Hatch,UT - Ranking Member
Chuck Grassley, IA
Olympia Snowe, ME
John Kyl, AZ
Mike Crapo, ID
Pat Roberts, KS
Mike Enzi, WY
John Cornyn, TX
Tom Coburn, OK
John Thune, SD
Richard Burr, NC

 

Gainful Employment Regulations Take Effect; TAA Reauthorization Delayed

July 1, 2011 - The U.S. Department of Education’s regulations on ‘gainful employment’ take effect today. Disclosure of consumer information on GE programs are due today, and colleges must meet other reporting requirements by October 1. For more information about institution requirements, visit: http://www.ifap.ed.gov/GainfulEmploymentInfo/

Yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) announced that the Senate will be in session next week, instead of taking their previously scheduled July 4 recess. Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND) indicated that he will release a budget on Tuesday, July 5. Until now, Chairman Conrad has not produced any draft budget that has been available to the public, as Democratic committee members have been unable to reach agreement. Chairman Conrad’s budget is expected to include long-term deficit reduction measures.

Also yesterday, the Senate Finance Committee postponed an open markup of the bill to reauthorize the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program and several pending free-trade agreements. Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) delayed the hearing after Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and all other Republicans boycotted the hearing. Although a deal with the Administration for TAA and free-trade agreements had been announced earlier this week, TAA reauthorization reportedly met resistance from some committee members. A new date for the markup has not been announced.

Finally, the U.S. Department of Education announced today proposed competition criteria for the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge Fund. Included in the criteria are statewide workforce credentials for early childhood educators and increasing the number of postsecondary institutions that provide professional development for early childhood educators. Many of these professional development programs currently occur at community colleges. A total of $700 million is available to support statewide comprehensive plans to coordinate and elevate early learning and development programs with award sizes ranging from $50 to $100 million per state. The proposed criteria are available for comment through an online forum at: http://www.ed.gov/early-learning/elc-draft-summary

REMINDER: Take Action: AACC and ACCT have launched an advocacy campaign to protect Pell Grants for community college students. As Congress considers fiscal year 2012 appropriations, we need your help to preserve the Pell Grant maximum at $5,550. Please visit http://www.pellgrantactioncenter.org/ where you can take action to help ‘Stand Up for Pell Grants!’

 

TAA deal struck; DREAM Hearing; WIA markup delayed

June 28, 2011 - The Administration has reached a deal with key lawmakers to renew the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program in combination with ratifying pending free trade agreements this week. The Finance Committee will begin marking up the free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea, along with a reauthorization of TAA, on Thursday. TAA provides financial assistance to workers who have lost their jobs because of trade-related market disruptions, many of whom choose to enroll in job-training courses at community colleges. It is unclear at this time what the extent of the reauthorization, or the funding levels for the program, will be. The breakthrough paves the way for ratifying the largest package of free trade agreements since Congress passed NAFTA in 1993.

Today, the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees, and Border Security held the first-ever Senate hearing on the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, S. 952. The sponsor of the legislation, Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) chaired the hearing, and the subcommittee also heard testimony from Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano. ACCT and AACC joined over submitted a letter in support of the legislation. In total, over 141 organizations submitted letters of support.

Finally, the scheduled Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee markup of the reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act has been delayed until Wednesday, July 13. Committee staff are working to prepare revisions to the bill from the circulated draft, though it remains unclear which suggestions will be incorporated into the introduced version.

REMINDER: Take Action: AACC and ACCT have launched an advocacy campaign to protect Pell Grants for community college students. As Congress considers fiscal year 2012 appropriations, we need your help to preserve the Pell Grant maximum at $5,550. Please visit http://www.pellgrantactioncenter.org/ where you can take action to help ‘Stand Up for Pell Grants!’

 

Debt-ceiling Negotiations Stall; Take Action on Pell

June 24, 2011 - Yesterday, bipartisan deficit and debt-ceiling negotiations led by Vice President Joe Biden encountered problems when House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) and Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) announced that they were pulling out of talks until further notice. Cantor declared that it was time for President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to negotiate directly and repeated that Republicans would not accept any tax increases in a deal to increase the debt-ceiling. Meanwhile, the Administration continues to insist that closing tax exemptions must be part of a deficit reduction deal. Negotiators have agreed to match any increase in the debt ceiling with a dollar-for-dollar reduction in the deficit, or more than $2 trillion in deficit reduction over 10 years. It remains unclear when debt-ceiling negotiations will restart, but the nation will reach its statutory limit on borrowing authority on August 2. Several weeks of legislative action will be needed prior to August 2 to enact a potential deal.

Take Action:

AACC and ACCT have launched a major advocacy campaign to protect Pell Grants for community college students. As Congress considers fiscal year 2012 appropriations, we need your help to preserve the Pell Grant maximum at $5,550. More than 9.4 million students are projected to receive a Pell Grant in the coming year, with more than a third of those recipients attending community colleges. In total, community college students will receive approximately $10 billion in aid this year to help afford tuition, books, transportation, and living expenses. Given the focus on cutting spending in Washington, it’s critical that we make the case for investing in our nation’s long term economic competitiveness.

Please visit http://www.pellgrantactioncenter.org/ where you can take action to help ‘Stand Up for Pell Grants!’

Without your support for a robust Pell Grant, millions of students could see their awards reduced or eliminated, forcing them to take longer to finish their degrees or forgo higher education altogether. Congress must hear from community college trustees, presidents, faculty, and staff about the positive impact that Pell Grants have had for higher education accessibility on your campus. Please visit http://www.pellgrantactioncenter.org/ today.

 

'Stand Up for Pell Grants' Webinar Tomorrow

June 20, 2011 - Tomorrow, AACC and ACCT will launch a major advocacy campaign to protect Pell Grants for community college students. AACC and ACCT CEOs Walter Bumphus and J. Noah Brown will host a free webinar featuring the AACC and ACCT government relations staff tomorrow, June 21. They will bring you up to date on the latest developments in the battle to save the Pell Grant program in Congress. Please join us to learn how you can help with efforts to preserve the Pell Grant maximum at $5,550.

Register Now for a Free AACC/ACCT Webinar:

"Stand Up for Pell Grants”
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
2:00 - 3:00 p.m. EDT
Register Now

With a record 8.1 million college students awarded Pell Grants in 2009-10 and 9.4 million projected in the coming year, the cost of the program is rising dramatically. More than a third of the recipients attend community colleges, resulting in approximately $9.5 billion in Pell Grant funds being awarded to public 2-year students. Given the current emphasis on Capitol Hill on cutting federal spending, it's critical that we make the case now for preserving the Pell Grant.

After registering, you will be provided with all the information you need to participate in this important webinar, including your unique URL and call-in information. We look forward to your participation tomorrow, June 21!

 

House Committee Adopts State Authorization Repeal Bill

June 15, 2011 - Today the House Education & Workforce Committee marked up and passed H.R. 2117, a bill that would repeal the U.S. Department of Education’s recent regulations on the definition of a credit hour and state authorization programs. The bill was referred to the whole House by a bipartisan vote of 27 to 11, with 4 Democrats joining the Republican members in support of the bill. ACCT signed on to a letter in support of H.R. 2117. The regulations go into effect on July 1, but it remains unclear when the legislation will receive a vote of the whole House or whether it will be considered in the Senate.

The House continues to move forward on FY 2012 appropriations bills despite lacking a deal with the Senate on spending levels. Labor-HHS-Education appropriations allocations under the House-passed budget are 11.6% below FY 2011 levels - a cut of $18.2 billion. This allocation does not include the additional dollars needed to close the $11.2 billion shortfall in Pell Grant funding. The Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill is scheduled for subcommittee markup on July 26 and full committee markup on August 2, and is now tentatively set for House floor action the week of September 19. The Senate has not moved, or attempted to move, any budget or appropriations measures until broader debt-ceiling negotiations conclude.

Meanwhile, deficit-reduction talks continue with a group led by Vice President Biden in advance of an August 2 deadline to raise the national debt ceiling. Likely to be included in any deal would be a topline agreement on FY 2012 spending, and possible spending caps for years thereafter. Republican and Democratic leaders have recently expressed hope that an agreement will be reached in early July.

 

House Markup on Bill to Repeal State Authorization Regulations

June 14, 2011 - Tomorrow, the House Education & Workforce Committee will mark up H.R. 2117, a bill that would repeal the U.S. Department of Education’s recent regulations on the definition of a credit hour and state authorization programs. ACCT signed on to a letter in support of H.R. 2117 and continues to have concerns about the state authorization regulations, particularly as it relates to distance education programs. The regulations are currently scheduled to go into effect on July 1.

You can view a live webcast of the markup beginning at 10AM EST tomorrow, Wednesday 6/15 at: http://edworkforce.house.gov/Calendar/EventSingle.aspx?EventID=245799

Additionally, as a reminder, ACCT and AACC are launching a major advocacy campaign to protect Pell Grants for community college students. There are a few days left to register for the free AACC/ACCT ‘Stand Up for Pell Grants’ webinar, to be held next Tuesday, June 21, 2-3pm EST. Please join AACC and ACCT CEOs Walter Bumphus and J. Noah Brown and government relations staff next Tuesday to learn how you can help with efforts to preserve the Pell Grant maximum at $5,550. Register today!

 

President Obama Announces Manufacturing Initiative, Calls for WIA Reauthorization

June 8, 2011 - President Obama announced at Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) today that the Administration is beginning a new public-private initiative designed to graduate more community college students in manufacturing. In a speech highlighting the importance of job training and workforce development, the President called for preparing an additional 500,000 community college students with industry-recognized manufacturing credentials. The manufacturing initiative is an expansion of the Administration’s “Skills for America’s Future” program, which helps businesses partner with community colleges to better match job training with industry demand. The Manufacturing Institute, the nonprofit arm of the National Association of Manufacturers, will lead the effort.

A key component of the initiative will be the creation of a Manufacturing Skills Certification System, available in 30 states as a for-credit program of study. It is unclear whether the Administration is requesting federal funds to support this initiative. More information is available here.

During his remarks, President Obama also called on Congress to pass a reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) to authorize funds that would help the government better match job training with employers' needs. The President’s FY 2012 Department of Labor budget requested $10 billion for the program. A first draft of a WIA reauthorization in the Senate is expected sometime in the next week.

 

Department of Education Releases 'Gainful Employment' Regulations

June 2, 2011 - Today, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) released the final regulations requiring college programs to prepare students for ‘gainful employment’ or risk losing access to federal student aid, including Pell Grants and student loans. While the focus of the regulations is primarily on degree and non-degree programs at for-profit institutions, the regulations would also cover non-degree and occupational training programs, or certificate programs, at community colleges. In fact, according to ED, a majority of the covered ‘gainful employment’ programs occur at community colleges. The new regulations provide for additional time for programs to comply than the previous draft regulations.

The regulations take effect on July 1, but noncompliant programs would not be ruled ineligible until 2015. Under the new regulations, a program would be considered to lead to ‘gainful employment’ if it meets at least one of the following three metrics:*

  • Repayment: at least 35 percent of former students are currently repaying their loans
  • Debt-to-discretionary income ratio: the estimated annual loan payment of a typical graduate does not exceed 30 percent of his or her discretionary income
  • Debt-to-total earnings: the estimated annual loan payment of a typical graduate does not exceed 12 percent of his or her total earnings

*A ‘small numbers provision’ requires at least 30 completers in the evaluation pool for the debt-to-earnings measure and at least 30 borrowers entering repayment in the evaluation period for calculation of the repayment rate in order to determine whether a program satisfies the debt measures.

If a programs fails all three metrics, the penalties are outlined in three phases:

  • After one failure: The institution must disclose the amount by which the program missed minimal acceptable performance and the program’s plans for improvement and establish a three‐day waiting period before students can enroll.
  • After two failures within three years: The institution must tell students in the failing program that their debts may be unaffordable, the program may lose eligibility, and what transfer options exist.
  • After three failures within four years: The program loses eligibility for federal student aid. Institutions cannot reestablish the program’s eligibility for at least three years. However, they can continue to operate without student aid.

According to an ED estimate, the vast majority of community college programs would meet one of the metrics outlined above and only 1% of programs would become ineligible for federal student aid.

 

Senate Fails Budget Votes, Pell Grant Action Needed

May 26, 2011 - Last night, the Senate voted on four competing fiscal year 2012 budget proposals and failed to pass each of them, as expected. The vote on the House-passed budget, written by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), was rejected by a vote of 40-57, with all Democrats and five Republicans voting against it. The ‘Obama budget’ was rejected by a vote of 0-97, with no Democrat votes, because it was not based on the President’s follow-up plan to reduce the deficit. Proposals by Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) were rejected 42-55 and 7-90, respectively.

It is becoming more likely that the House and Senate will not be able to agree on a bipartisan budget resolution for fiscal year 2012. Therefore, the House and Senate will pursue the appropriations process separately, and the likely outcome will be an omnibus appropriations measure adopted later this fall. Budget negotiations have also become increasingly linked with talks over raising the national debt ceiling and long-term deficit reduction. A group led by Vice President Biden has reportedly already agreed on up to $1 trillion in cuts in exchange for a debt ceiling increase and are negotiating additional cuts. The nation will reach its statutory borrowing capability on August 2.

As the Senate continues to consider budget and appropriations issues, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) has initiated a letter to appropriators in support of maintaining the maximum Pell Grant award at $5,550.

Additionally, the Department of Education released its 2009-2010 Pell Grant End-of-Year tables yesterday. The tables provide summary information on Pell Grant award recipients, including by institution type and enrollment status. Two-year public institutions had 2,851,665 Pell Grant recipients in 2009-2010, and that number is expected to be more than 3.3 million in the upcoming academic year. The tables can be accessed here.

Finally, the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics released ‘The Condition of Education 2011’ report today, which highlights important developments in the status and trends of education from early-childhood learning through graduate-level education. This year’s report provides a closer look at postsecondary education by institution level and control. For example, the number of associates degrees conferred at public institutions has increased 33% in the last ten years. Read the report in full or brief here.

 

Please Contact your Senator to Protect the Pell Grant

May 25, 2011 - As you may know, Congress is currently working on the fiscal year 2012 budget, and is considering potential cuts to federal financial aid. While meaningful steps are needed to restrain federal spending, reducing financial aid and access to higher education will damage America’s long-term economic competitiveness. The U.S. Senate may vote this week on changes to the funding of the Pell Grant program that could reduce maximum award by nearly 45%!

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) has sponsored a letter to fellow Senators requesting that they support maintaining the $5,550 maximum Pell Grant award in the fiscal year 2012 budget. Maintaining the maximum award will help ensure that low-and-middle-income community college students receive the critical financial aid they need to access and succeed in college.

Community college students make up more than one third of all Pell Grant recipients, with approximately 3 million low and moderate-income students receiving this vital financial aid each year. Unfortunately, the budget adopted by the House in April would reduce the maximum Pell Grant award to $3,150 - a cut of $2,400 - and would prevent nearly 1.4 million students in Academic Year 2012-13 from receiving any award at all. As the Senate works to craft a budget compromise, community colleges must speak up about the critical importance of the Pell Grant to student access, college completion, and America's economic competitiveness in the 21st Century.

 

U.S. Department of Education Webinar on Gainful Employment Implementation

May 18, 2011 - The U.S. Department of Education (ED) will host a live internet webinar May 25 and 26, 2011 on the implementation of the reporting and disclosure requirements of the October 29, 2010 gainful employment (GE) final regulations. The regulations require that, effective July 1, 2011, institutions provide certain disclosures about each of their gainful employment programs to ED, students, and prospective students.

The webinar will provide information on the definition of a GE Program, the requirements for and the process that will be used to meet the GE Program reporting requirements, and the regulatory requirements related to the disclosure by institutions of information about each of their GE Programs. The webinar will not include information related to the approval process for new GE Programs or the determination of the Title IV student aid eligibility of GE Programs, as proposed in a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) published in the Federal Register on July 26, 2010. ED is in the process of finalizing those regulations and, once published, will include information on those provisions in one or more subsequent webinars.

WHAT: Live Internet Webinar—Implementation of the Reporting and Disclosure Requirements of the October 29, 2010, Final Regulations Related to Gainful Employment Program

WHEN: Wednesday, May 25, 2011, at 1:30 - 3:00 P.M. (ET)
Thursday, May 26, 2011, at 11:00 A.M. - 12:30 P.M. (ET)

 

U.S. Department of Education Releases Funding Table, Debt Limit Reached

May 17, 2011 - Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) released the budget table for FY 2011 that sets final program funding levels through September 30 under the FY 2011 Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act. Overall, compared to the final FY 2010 discretionary non-Pell total, ED was cut by $1.251 billion (-2.7%). Because the final FY 2011 CR provided an additional $5.461 billion to close the Pell shortfall, the net change to ED discretionary funding compared to FY 2010 is an increase of $4.21 billion (+6.6%). Forty-seven programs received funding reductions on top of the 0.2% across-the board reductions affecting all programs, and another 38 programs were eliminated altogether. Five programs, however, received an increase, as did Head Start in HHS. The budget table is available here.

In other news, the federal government yesterday reached the $14.3 trillion statutory limit on the national debt, or debt ceiling. The Department of Treasury has started to implement special measures to prevent a default and has set a date of August 2 when the U.S. will no longer be able to borrow funds to cover all of its obligations. Negotiations are still ongoing for long-term deficit reduction or budgeting process reforms to be attached to a debt ceiling increase, as demanded by Republican leaders. Lawmakers are increasingly considering a series of short-term, stopgap increases in the limit. One item reportedly on the table for deficit reduction is elimination of the in-school interest subsidy for graduate students. President Obama had proposed to use those savings ($8 billion over 10 years) toward maintaining the $5,550 maximum Pell Grant award. Without these savings, Congress will face additional pressure to constrain the cost of the Pell Grant program in FY 2012 and beyond.

 

House Proposes Deep FY 12 Cuts; Budget & Debt-Ceiling Negotiations Continue

May 13, 2011 - This week, House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) released proposed funding limits for FY 2012, known as 302(b) subcommittee allocations. These limits set the level of funding for portions of the federal budget based on the figures passed in the House budget resolution last month. The amount allocated for the Subcommittee on Labor, HHS, and Education is $18.2 billion below FY 2011 (or 12 percent below current funding). All together, the cuts to non-security discretionary spending total $47.4 billion below current levels, while defense would receive a $17 billion increase. Given the record level of cuts already made to discretionary spending in the deal to fund the current fiscal year and the ever-increasing cost of the Pell Grant program, if enacted, these cuts would reflect very deep reductions to domestic programs in two years.

Chairman Rogers also released a schedule of committee markups for the twelve appropriations bills. The markup for the Subcommittee on Labor, HHS, and Education is scheduled for July 26. Chairman Rogers has said that he expects the House to pass nine of the bills before the August recess period. The House will be moving these bills even though they are uncertain as to what the final spending cap for FY 2012 will be, as that will be determined through ongoing budget and deficit-reduction negotiations. Scheduled floor debate on the most controversial sections of the budget, including education, is delayed until after Labor Day. Without earmarks to help garner votes for these bills, passage may be difficult given the lowered spending levels.

The Senate Budget Committee is working toward a markup of an FY 2012 budget resolution late next week. Adjustments are being made by Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND) to obtain a unified Democratic vote in committee, but any resolution is unlikely to move toward a full vote in the Senate. Top-level negotiations between House and Senate leadership and Administration officials remain the most likely avenue for reaching a deal on the FY 2012 budget, deficit reduction, and national debt ceiling. It remains unclear at this time what particular reductions will be made to education programs or student financial aid in either the FY 2012 budget or a deficit reduction package, but ACCT will continue to provide information as it becomes available.

Finally, the Department of Education has canceled their FY 2011 Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) Comprehensive Program competition due to the elimination of funding under the continuing resolution. This cancelation eliminates $20.3 million in grant funding announced for competition on March 22. More information is available here.

 

DREAM Act Reintroduced, Job Training Hearing, Negotiated Rulemaking

May 11, 2011 - Today, Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) re-introduced the DREAM Act with 32 other Senate co-sponsors. The DREAM Act would allow students to obtain permanent legal residence if they came to the U.S. as children (15 or under), have had continuous physical presence in the country for at least five years, graduated from high school or obtained a GED, and completed two years of college or military service in good standing. A video of Senator Durbin’s press conference and further information on the DREAM Act can be found at: http://1.usa.gov/iPUARJ.

Also, the House Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Development held a hearing today chaired by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) to examine the efficiency of federal job training programs. A March 2011 report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) identified 44 out of 47 federal job training programs that overlap with another program, and it stated that only five have conducted an impact study since 2004 to examine outcomes. The subcommittee examined state and local efforts to consolidate and improve workforce training initiatives and questioned witnesses about the potential for consolidating programs within the context of reauthorizing the Workforce Investment Act (WIA).

Negotiations over both the FY 2012 budget and an extension of the debt limit are ongoing. The Senate Budget Committee may mark up an FY 2012 budget resolution next week. Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad’s (D-ND) resolution is likely to include some of the recommendations of the President’s fiscal commission, which would cut the deficit by $4 trillion over 10 years through a 50/50 combination of spending cuts and revenue increases by eliminating tax expenditures and letting the Bush-era tax cuts on income above $1 million expire.

White House-led talks with Congressional leaders continue to seek an agreement on a debt reduction package to move in conjunction with an increase the nation’s $14.3 trillion debt ceiling. Rather than negotiate a comprehensive agreement on taxes and entitlements, the emerging expectation is that any agreement will include some substantial spending cuts along with some form of budget controls to reduce future deficits. Battles over the larger tax reform and specific entitlement cuts may be tabled until a later date.

Finally, tomorrow the Department of Education begins another round of negotiated rulemaking to craft regulations under the Higher Education Act of 1965. Hearings will begin in Nashville, TN and also be held in Tacoma, WA; Chicago, IL; and Charleston, SC. To see a schedule of the hearings and information about public participation, click here.

 

Aspen Prize Open to 120 Community Colleges, U.S. Department of Education Symposium on Wednesday

April 25, 2011 - Today the Aspen Institute announced 120 community and technical colleges nationwide that are eligible for the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence. Aspen will award $1 million to one community college that demonstrates success in student completion. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Dr. Jill Biden, and Under Secretary of Education Martha J. Kanter were present for the announcement.

On Wednesday, April 27, the U.S. Department of Education will host a live Community College Virtual Symposium to present the preliminary findings of the four regional community college summits. The symposium will address policies and practices that support bridge programs for low-skill adults, alignment of secondary and postsecondary education, improved developmental education, and college-employer partnerships that promote curricular change. Department leaders, experts, and researchers will discuss their findings and respond to questions from participants. The symposium will be webcast live from Montgomery College.

Last week, the U.S. Department of Education issued additional guidance as it relates to the proposed rule on ‘state authorization’ for distance education programs. As part of this guidance, the Department states that it “will not initiate any action to establish repayment liabilities or limit student eligibility for distance education activities undertaken before July 1, 2014, so long as the institution is making good faith efforts to identify and obtain necessary State authorizations before that date.” The ‘state authorization’ rule was promulgated last October following a negotiated rulemaking process. For additional guidance, please see the April 20, 2011 ‘Dear Colleague’ letter from the Department here.

 

House Adopts FY 12 Budget

April 15, 2011 - The House adopted the FY 2012 budget resolution (H.Con.Res. 34) today as introduced by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI). The measure passed by a party-line vote of 235 to 193, with all Democrats and 4 Republicans opposed. A Democratic alternative budget offered by Budget Committee Ranking Member Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) failed, 166 to 259. The ‘Ryan budget’ is unlikely to be considered or passed in the Senate, but lays out the GOP vision on spending, including a restructuring of Medicare and Medicaid and cutting $5.8 trillion in spending over the next decade.

The House budget would reduce the maximum Pell Grant award to ‘pre-stimulus levels,’ but the resolution is unclear as to a precise dollar amount. Additionally, the House budget resolution calls for the repealing and defunding of the Healthcare and Education Reconciliation Act (HCERA), which includes mandatory funding for the Pell Grant program; such a move would further lower the maximum grant by $690. Other policy modifications outlined for review by the resolution include:

  • Limiting Pell Grants to 6 years (12 semesters);
  • Rescinding recent expansions to the Pell Grant need analysis formula;
  • Eliminating Pell Grant administrative fees paid to participating institutions;
  • Eliminating Pell Grant eligibility for less-than-half-time students; and
  • Eliminating interest subsidies on all Stafford Loans (undergraduate and graduate).

Also, yesterday the Senate voted 81 to 19 to pass the compromise continuing resolution (CR) funding the government through the rest of FY 2011. The measure - which combined with previous CRs cut $38.5 billion from current spending levels - had been passed earlier by the House and was quickly signed by President Obama.

Following passage of the funding measures, the House and Senate have adjourned for a two-week Easter and Passover recess. Both chambers will reconvene on Monday, May 2.

Today, the Department of Education hosted the fourth and final community college summit at San Diego Community College District. The summit focused on practices to help veterans, military members, and their families access and succeed in community colleges. Joining the summit were: Dr. Martha Kanter, Under Secretary of Education; Roberto Rodriguez, Special Assistant to President Obama for Education; and Kirsten White, Policy Director, Office of Dr. Jill Biden.

A virtual community college symposium will be held on April 27 at 2 p.m. EDT to present the findings of the four summit issue areas. The symposium is open to all interested participants, including community college leaders, students, faculty, business leaders, philanthropic organizations, and other workforce development representatives. Participants will have the opportunity to engage in question and answer sessions with each of four teams of scholars.

 

President Proposes Deficit Reduction Plan; Final Community College Summit in San Diego on Friday

April 13, 2011 - In a speech at George Washington University today, President Obama presented a ‘deficit reduction framework’ that calls for reducing deficits by $4 trillion over the next 12 years and stabilizing the debt-to-GDP ratio at 2.8%. The new proposals would reduce deficits by $3 trillion over 10 years, compared to $1.1 trillion over the same period in the President’s 2012 budget request released in February. In his speech, the President specifically objected to proposed Republican budget cuts to the Pell Grant or Head Start.

Among the deficit reduction proposals are cutting $770 billion from non-security discretionary spending by 2023, slowing the growth of and increasing efficiency in Medicare and Medicaid, implementing a comprehensive tax reform, and ending the Bush-era tax breaks for those making over $250,000 per year. A fact sheet on the plan is available here.

On Friday, the Department of Education will host the fourth and final community college summit at San Diego Community College District. The summit will focus on innovative practices to help veterans, military members, and their families access and succeed in community colleges. A virtual symposium on community college completion will be held on April 27.

Additionally, the House is scheduled to take votes on both the compromise FY 2011 spending measure and FY 2012 budget tomorrow. The Senate is expected to adopt the FY 2011 measure quickly, but Senate Democratic leadership has not yet put forward a FY 2012 proposal.

 

Details of FY 11 Budget Deal Released; Congress Moves to FY 12 Budget

April 12, 2011 - Details of Friday’s budget deal to keep the government funded through the rest of FY 2011 were made public late last night. Overall, the deal cuts spending by $38.5 billion for the remainder of the fiscal year, through September 30. Domestic non-security programs are cut by approximately $42 billion (including $17.8 billion from mandatory changes), while the Department of Defense receives a $4 billion increase. Additionally, a number of program eliminations or consolidations in the Presidents FY 2012 budget request have been accelerated. All agencies and programs received a 0.2% across-the-board cut, saving $1 billion in total. Twenty-seven programs between the Departments of Education and Labor are eliminated. The Pell Grant maximum award is maintained at $5,550 for the upcoming academic year 2011-2012, but ‘summer Pell’ is eliminated. The deal cuts the following programs:

Department of Education:

  • Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnership (LEAP) = -$63.9 million (eliminated)
  • Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants (SEOG) = -$20 million
  • FIPSE earmarks = -$101.5 million
  • Adult Education = -$31 million
  • TRIO = -$25 million
  • GEAR UP = -$20 million

Department of Labor:

  • Green Jobs Innovation Fund = -$40 million (eliminated)
  • Career Pathways Innovation Fund = -$125 million (rescinded - halting the current grant competition)
  • Dislocated Worker Assistance = -$125 million

The ‘gainful employment’ rider in H.R. 1 that would have prevented funds from being used to implement the proposed rule was dropped. The House plans to take up the funding measure on Thursday as the current short-term ‘bridge’ expires at midnight on Thursday. The Senate is expected to act soon after the House vote; a filibuster is not expected.

Also, the House Budget Committee has filed its committee report on the FY 2012 budget proposal as introduced by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI). It provides more detail on the committee's policy ‘assumptions,’ which would need to be adopted by authorizing committees.

The House Budget Committee’s assumptions regarding Pell Grants are as follows:

  • Limit Pell grants to 6 years (12 semesters)
  • Eliminate College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007 (CCRA) provisions, such as the expansions of the level at which a student qualifies for an automatic zero ‘Expected Family Contribution’ (EFC) and the income protection allowance
  • Eliminate administrative fees paid to participating institutions
  • Consider a maximum income cap
  • Eliminate eligibility for less-than-half-time students
  • Terminate eligibility for those who currently receive the minimum award.
  • Lower the maximum award (to pre-ARRA levels, or $4,731)

The House Budget Committee also assumes elimination of all of the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act (SAFRA), including the following:

  • Repeal the expansion of the Income-Based Repayment (IBR) program
  • Repeal the College Access Challenge Grants
  • Make discretionary payments to non-profit servicers, rather than mandatory payments.
  • Make funding for the TAA Community College and Career Training Grant (CCCTG) Program discretionary, rather than mandatory funding as provided by SAFRA for FY 2011-14.

The proposal also recommends the elimination of in-school interest subsidies for both undergraduate AND graduate student loans. The House is scheduled to take up the FY 2012 budget late this week with votes possible on Thursday and Friday.

Finally, President Obama is scheduled to unveil his Administration’s plan for long-term deficit reduction tomorrow at a speech at George Washington University. He is expected to support some of the Simpson-Bowles Fiscal Commission recommendations and the expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts for those making over $250,000 per year in 2012. Republican leaders have insisted that any vote to increase the debt limit this spring must be paired with long-term deficit reduction.

 

Spending Deal Reached

April 8, 2011 - Congressional and Administration officials have brokered a last-minute deal on FY 2011 spending and will attempt to avert a government shutdown. Funding expires at midnight tonight, and House and Senate leaders are attempting to pass a several-day stopgap measure combined with several billion dollars in cuts to provide time to adopt the full compromise. The deal reportedly contains approximately $39 billion in spending reductions but is apparently absent the most controversial policy riders. It is unclear at this time what the specific content of the included cuts or other policy riders in the deal may be, but ACCT will provide more information as it becomes available.

 

Still No Deal in Budget Showdown; House Passes One-Week Measure

April 7, 2011 - House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) were again unable to reach a deal on FY 2011 spending at a White House meeting today. Negotiations are ongoing, with another sit-down with President Obama scheduled for 7 p.m. this evening. In addition to topline spending levels, significant disagreements over policy riders remain - most significantly, prohibiting federal funding for Planned Parenthood and the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate greenhouse gases. Funding for the government runs out at midnight Friday, and federal agencies and congressional offices have issued guidance to staff in preparation for a shutdown.

Meanwhile, House Republicans passed legislation today that would fund the federal government for another week and also fund the Department of Defense through the rest of the fiscal year. The continuing resolution passed the House 247-181. Senate Majority Leader Reid has indicated that the Senate will not consider this continuing resolution, and the White House has threatened to veto the measure. Passage of the bill was intended to provide political pressure on Senate Democrats, who have not adopted any stopgap legislation beyond April 8. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) also announced today that the House would stay in session through the weekend if no funding deal is reached.

Additionally, last night the House Budget Committee marked up and reported the FY 2012 budget resolution as prepared by Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI). All 22 Republicans voted for the measure, and all 16 Democrats against. The budget resolution should be on the House floor next week. Majority staff indicated that the budget resolution:

  • Assumes repeal of the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act (SAFRA)
  • Assumes $38 billion in mandatory Pell savings, that would be used to reduce the deficit
  • Restores the Pell Grant maximum to $5,000 from H.R. 1 level of $4,705

No Progress in Budget Talks to Avert Shutdown

April 6, 2011 - With funding for the federal government scheduled to expire at midnight Friday, top Congressional and Administration negotiators have not been able to reach a deal on spending for the remainder of FY 2011. Chances of a government shutdown are becoming very likely. The Office of Personnel Management issued guidance today for federal workers and agencies in preparation for a shutdown.

While a deal could still be reached before the deadline, enacting a full compromise measure is highly unlikely given Senate procedures, public-notice rules, and floor debate time. Another short-term continuing resolution could be passed to extend federal funding for a few days, but President Obama has stated that this approach is only acceptable if a longer-term deal has already been reached. Additionally, House Republicans announced today that they are preparing to vote Thursday on a bill extending federal funding for one week while cutting $12 billion in spending while also funding the Department of Defense for the remainder of FY 2011. However, Senate Democrats and the White House have rejected this measure.

Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has reportedly proposed $40 billion in cuts from current spending, which amounts to approximately $7 billion more than what Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and President Barack Obama have agreed to. Negotiators also continue to debate the inclusion of policy riders, such as the delay of healthcare reform implementation or the EPA’s regulation of carbon emissions.

No Deal on FY 11 from White House Meeting, Shutdown Looms

April 5, 2011 - President Obama, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) convened at the White House today to attempt to forge a deal over FY 2011 spending but failed to reach any agreement. It remains unclear if negotiations are ongoing or if enough time remains to avert a government shutdown upon the expiration of the current spending measure at midnight on Friday. Several days of legislative action are needed in order to adopt any spending deal, so chances of a shutdown have increased dramatically.

House, Senate, and Administration officials have been unable to reach an agreement on a topline spending level for the remainder of FY 2011, and they also continue to disagree on the inclusion of policy riders or cuts to mandatory spending. Reportedly under discussion for a potential deal is an acceleration of the elimination of year-round Pell Grants, saving approximately $500 million. The Administration had proposed this change to Pell as part of its FY 2012 budget request.

Late last night, House Republicans released another short-term continuing resolution that would fund the government for one week after Friday’s deadline while cutting $12 billion over those seven days. The bill is aimed at buying more time for stalled negotiations on a long-term plan, but it would fully fund the Defense Department through September. The White House has reportedly rejected this approach, and House leaders have not decided when to take a vote on the bill. If adopted, this one-week CR would make cuts to Career, Technical and Adult Education ($30.9 million) and Higher Education Grants ($23.2 million). Overall, the Department of Education would receive a cut of $391 million, but student financial aid would be left untouched.

In the event of a government shutdown, the April 15 Department of Education community college summit at San Diego Community College District will likely be cancelled.

Also today, House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) unveiled a FY 2012 budget. Over ten years, the plan would cut outlays by $5.8 trillion below the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) baseline and revenues by $4.2 trillion, thus reducing the deficit over ten years by just $1.65 trillion. The budget plan assumes a return to FY 2008 discretionary spending levels or lower, a renewal of the Bush-era tax cuts for all income brackets, major changes to Medicare and Medicaid, top tax rate cuts for both individuals and corporations to 25 percent from 35 percent, a reduction in the federal work force by 10% over three years, and a five-year federal worker pay freeze. The Pell Grant maximum award would be reduced to the FY 2008 level of $4,731. More information is available at http://budget.house.gov/fy2012budget/.

 

Spending Negotiations Hit Roadblock; Shutdown Looms

April 4, 2011 - Negotiations over spending for the remainder of FY 2011 (through September 30) hit a roadblock today, and President Obama has summoned congressional leaders to the White House tomorrow to try to forge a last-minute deal to avert a federal government shutdown. The current continuing resolution funding the government expires at midnight Friday, and several days of legislative action would be needed to adopt any proposed deal.

House Republicans, Senate Democrats, and the White House had been negotiating a deal that would cut $33 billion from current spending levels, including $10 billion in cuts already adopted from the last two continuing resolutions. However, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) indicated today that $33 billion would not be sufficient, and media reports have indicated that he is looking for approximately $10 billion in more cuts. The House-passed H.R. 1 would cut $61 billion from current levels, which remains the position of many Tea Party members. Also at issue are controversial policy riders demanded by many House Republicans and a White House proposal to forestall deeper appropriations cuts by substituting up to $8 billion in savings from mandatory spending programs. The White House has reportedly proposed accelerating some cuts to the Pell Grant program as proposed in the President’s FY 2012 budget, but which provisions that may include remains unclear.

In addition to the White House meeting tomorrow, House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) will unveil a fiscal 2012 budget plan that would cut at least $4 trillion from the deficit over the next 10 years and make deep cuts to entitlement programs. Some members in Congress hope the focus on this budget plan will provide greater flexibility in adopting a deal on spending for the current fiscal year by attracting attention away from immediate spending cuts.

 

Budget Negotiations Continue over FY 11

March 30, 2011 - House, Senate, and Administration negotiations over spending for the remainder of FY 2011 (through September 30) continue on Capitol Hill, despite conflicting media reports about various offers being made by congressional and Administration leaders. The latest continuing resolution expires on April 8; if a new funding measure is not in place by then, the federal government will shut down. President Obama and congressional leaders have all stated their opposition to another short-term extension of funding, preferring to finish work on the current fiscal year and move to the FY 2012 budget.

Media reports indicate that negotiations may have resumed last night on the FY 2011 measure after falling apart late last week. Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) appears to lack the votes to pass a compromise spending measure in the House that can also pass the Senate, thereby increasing pressure for a compromise with Democrats in both chambers. Some Tea Party members continue to advocate for H.R. 1 as the only acceptable spending baseline, and a Tea Party rally is planned for Thursday to pressure Congress to adopt deeper spending cuts.

Senate Democrats reportedly offered an additional $20 billion in cuts last week (capping spending at $1.058 trillion) that would equal a $31 billion cut from current spending levels and would approximate the level of cuts first offered by House Republicans. Also in play for a compromise measure are the policy riders contained in H.R. 1, including a prohibition on implementation of the Department of Education’s gainful employment regulations.

 

White House Releases College Completion Tool Kit

March 22, 2011 - Today, Vice President Joe Biden announced the release of a ‘college completion tool kit’ intended to give governors no-or-low-cost ways to boost college completion rates in their respective states. At the ‘Building a Grad Nation Summit’ in Washington, DC, the Vice President linked the new tool kit with the Administration’s goal of getting the United States to lead the world in its proportion of college graduates by 2020. Included in the tool kit are seven strategies that address the articulation of state-specific goals, alignment of standards and transfer processes, application for performance-based funding, use of data, and more. The Department of Education has posted the full tool kit at: http://www.ed.gov/sites/default/files/cc-toolkit.pdf (PDF)

 

Senate Passes Three-Week CR, Averts Government Shutdown

March 17, 2011 — Today, the Senate voted to pass H.J. Res. 48, the temporary three-week continuing resolution (CR) for FY 2011, by a vote of 87 to 13. This follows last week’s House vote of 271 to 158, and the bill now heads to President Obama for his signature. The President is expected to sign the bill in order to avoid a government shutdown. The CR funds the federal government until April 8 and reduces total government funding by $6 billion. The bill does not reduce funding for education, but it does cut funding for the Department of Labor’s Career Pathways and Innovation Grant program.

Media reports have indicated that White House negotiations for a six-month CR for the remainder of FY 2011 continue most closely with House Republican leadership. Congressional leaders believe they need a deal by the end of March to give both chambers time to move the six-month bill. It is unclear to what spending level the Administration, House, and Senate will agree, but the final measure for FY 2011 is expected to contain broad spending cuts.

Yesterday, Department of Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis testified on the Department of Labor’s FY 2012 budget request before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. Secretary Solis noted “tough choices” proposed by the Administration, including eliminating the $125 million Career Pathways Innovation Fund that the Secretary said was duplicative of the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Program. She also noted the proposal to shift some Workforce Investment Act (WIA) funding toward competitive grants over formula funding, to be known as the Workforce Innovation Fund, and a request of $60 million for the Green Jobs Innovation Fund ($20 million more than FY 2010). As previously noted, the WIA Title I Adult Program is level funded. The total request for the Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration is $911.9 million less than the FY 2010 enacted level. Secretary Solis’ full testimony is available here.

 

House Passes Three Week Continuing Resolution

March 15, 2011 — Today, the House of Representatives voted to pass H.J. Res. 48, the continuing resolution for FY 2011 by a vote of 271 to 158. The bill reduces total government funding by $6 billion, which follows the House plan to cut $2 billion for each week left in the fiscal year. The bill does not reduce funding for education, but it does cut funding for the Department of Labor’s Career Pathways and Innovation Grant program. In a correction to the previous LAW E-Alert, the Career Pathways program will not be rescinded in this bill. There will continue to be concerns about the funds being rescinded until the funds are actually disseminated to colleges.

The Senate is expected to consider and pass the continuing resolution. Additionally, President Obama is expected to sign the bill, but he has stated that he wants Congress to pass a long-term continuing resolution. Without a continuing resolution, Congress would face a government shutdown. If passed and signed into law, the continuing resolution would fund the federal government to April 8th.

Also today, Department of Education Under Secretary Dr. Martha Kanter testified before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education on the Pell Grant program. Dr. Kanter stated that the number of students receiving Pell grants continues to grow, with estimates showing that 9.4 million students will receive Pell grants in the 2011-12 academic year, a 52% increase from the 2008-09 academic year. She also noted that the Administration, while supportive of the year-round Pell Grant program, had to make a difficult decision to support the elimination of this provision in order to maintain the Pell Grant award maximum at $5,550. The Administration has outlined additional measures to fund the shortfalls within the program. If Congress cuts the program and the Pell Grant funding changes are not met, the Pell Grant maximum could suffer a major reduction. The funding within the SAFRA legislation passed last year is contingent on Congress funding the discretionary Pell Grant award maximum at $4,860 in 2014. If the funding is lower, the Pell Grant program would lose its increases outlined within SAFRA.

Dr. Kanter’s testimony can be found here.

 

House Introduces Short-term CR that Rescinds Funding for the Career Pathways Innovation

March 11, 2011 - House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) introduced a three-week continuing resolution to fund the federal government through April 8th. As the current continuing resolution expires on March 18th, the government faces a shutdown without a funding resolution. The legislation, H.J. Res 48, would cut $6 billion in spending. While no education programs were cut, the legislation terminates the Career Pathways Innovation Fund and its $125 million allocation from FY2010. If passed, the termination of the Career Pathways Innovation Fund will likely force the Department of Labor to stop the current grant competition.

The House is expected to consider the legislation next week. It is unclear whether the Senate will accept these additional cuts, but there is an expectation that Congress will need to pass a continuing resolution before a long-term funding resolution can finally be negotiated.

The full legislation can be viewed here.

 

Sec. Duncan Testifies on FY 2012 Budget Request

March 10, 2011 - Secretary of Education Arne Duncan testified today on the Department of Education’s FY 2012 budget request before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. Secretary Duncan received bipartisan questioning on Department proposals, such as eliminating the “summer” or “year-round” Pell Grant, consolidating and eliminating programs, creating new competitive grant programs, and establishing the proposed “gainful employment” rule. Secretary Duncan noted that the proposed cuts in the House-passed continuing resolution, H.R. 1, would reduce the Pell Grant maximum award by $845, which would remove 10,000 students from the program and reduce awards levels for more than 8 million students. Committee Ranking Member Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) noted that the H.R. 1 cut to the Pell Grant maximum award would reduce the percentage of college costs covered by Pell Grants to the lowest level in 38 years. Secretary Duncan urged Committee members to maintain investments in student financial aid.

Secretary Duncan also noted that the Department’s proposed elimination of year-round Pell (summer Pell) in the Department’s FY 2012 request would affect 900,000 students, but he defended the proposal by highlighting the expected $20 billion shortfall in Pell Grant funding for academic year 2012-2013. Overall, the Administration’s requested changes to the Pell Grant program are projected to save $100 billion over ten years and would be used to pay for maintaining the Pell Grant maximum award at $5,550.

 

Senate Fails to Advance FY 2011 Spending Measures; 2nd Comm. College Summit Convenes

March 9, 2011 - The Senate voted on two competing measures today to fund the federal government for the remainder of FY 2011 (through September 30), and both failed to garner the 60 votes necessary to advance the legislation. The House-passed continuing resolution (CR), H.R. 1, which would cut $66 billion from current spending levels, failed in the Senate by a vote of 44 to 56, with all Democrats and three Republicans opposed. The Senate Democratic alternative CR, which would cut $8.7 billion from current levels, failed by a vote of 42 to 58, with all Republicans and ten Democrats opposed. The Senate Democratic alternative would have maintained the $5,550 Pell Grant maximum for the upcoming academic year, but it also would have rescinded the $125 million in funding for the Career Pathways Innovation Fund (CPIF) and the $561 million in funding for the Academic Competitiveness Grant (ACG).

Senate leaders did not expect either measure to pass; they intend to use the votes to create pressure for a bipartisan compromise. It remains unclear at what funding level the House and Senate will come to an agreement. The current bill funding government operations ends on March 18th. It is unlikely that a compromise will be reached and passed by that time, so another short-term funding measure will need to be enacted to prevent a government shutdown.

In other news today, the U.S. Department of Education kicked off the second in a series of four regional community college summits. Held at Lone Star College System in Houston, TX, today’s summit focuses on “Successful Transfer Programs.” More information is available here.

Also, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan testified before the House Education & Workforce Committee today on the Department of Education’s budget and policy proposals. Sec. Duncan discussed the reauthorization of Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and stressed the need to maintain investments in education, including federal student aid. Sec. Duncan also requested legislation to enact the Presidents FY 2012 proposals for the Pell Grant, including the elimination of “summer Pell” and the in-school interest subsidy for graduate student loans, which would save $20 billion in FY 2012. Sec. Duncan will testify on the Department of Education’s FY 2012 budget proposal again tomorrow before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education.

Finally, videos of the 2011 Community College National Legislative Summit are now available!

 

Obama and Senate pass CR; CR negotiations continue

March 3, 2011 -- Yesterday, President Obama signed a two-week continuing resolution (CR) to fund the federal government until March 18. This occurred after the Senate passed the bill earlier in the morning. The CR reduces funding by $4 billion from FY10 levels, though it includes funding for the Pell Grant shortfall.

Congress continues trying to negotiate an arrangement, but pressure is growing not to pass another short-term continuing resolution. Vice President Biden is meeting with Congressional leaders today to work on a deal to fund the government until the end of the fiscal year. The House is on record supporting $61 billion in cuts from FY10, but it is unclear at what funding level the Senate and House will come to an agreement.

 

Sec. Duncan Testifies on FY 12 ED Budget in Senate

March 1, 2011 - The Senate Budget Committee held a hearing today on President Obama’s FY 2012 proposed education budget. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan testified about the importance of continued investments in federal financial aid, especially to cover the Pell Grant shortfall and protect the maximum $5,550 award level. Additionally, Secretary Duncan touted the Administration proposal for new competitive grants to increase college completion and discussed reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) and Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Committee Republican members questioned the Secretary on year-over-year increases to the Department of Education budget and their desire to restrain federal spending.

 

First Regional Community College Summit; DOL Announces Career Pathways Innovation Fund SGA

February 28, 2011 -- Today, the U.S. Department of Education completed the first of four regional summits to share best practices related to student completion at community colleges.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis made remarks to participants, calling on community colleges to be integral partners in economic recovery and on college leaders and stakeholders to defend federal investments in education, including the Pell Grant and the Community College and Career Training Grant (CCCTG) Program. Panelists discussed ways to improve foundation and philanthropic support for community colleges and opportunities to better align curriculum with workforce demand.

For full details from today’s summit, check out the ACCT Inside the Beltway blog:

The next three summits will be held on the following dates:

  • March 9 - Lone Star College System, Houston: "Successful Transfer Programs"
  • March 23 - Ivy Tech Community College, Indianapolis: "Partnerships Between Community Colleges and Employers"
  • April 15 - San Diego Community College District: "Exemplary Programs for Veterans, Military Members, and Families"

Additionally, the Department plans to host a fifth forum via the internet.

Finally, the Department of Labor announced today a solicitation for grant applications for the Career Pathways Innovation Fund. Grants amounting to $122 million will be awarded to community colleges and consortia of community colleges that are developing or expanding career pathway programs in partnership with education and training providers, employers, and the workforce investment system. At least $65 million of the total funding will go toward programs that focus on training for health care fields. The Department of Labor intends to fund approximately 40 to 50 grants ranging from $1 million to $5 million. The full solicitation for grant applications is available here.

 

Dept. of Education Begins Comm. College Summit Series

February 28, 2011 -- Today, the U.S. Department of Education convened the first of four regional summits to share best practices related to student completion at community colleges.

Held at the Community College of Philadelphia, the focus of today’s event is "Transitioning Adult Learners to Community Colleges and the Workforce." Attendees include college trustees and presidents; business, industry, philanthropy, and labor representatives; state and local government officials; and community college students.

This morning, Under Secretary of Education Martha Kanter welcomed and challenged participants to use best practices and strategic partnerships to help meet the President's goal of America once again having the most college graduates by 2020. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis will also make remarks.

The summit is being streamed live online, and more information is available here.

The Department of Education will host three more summits over the next two months and an additional forum online later this year. ACCT will share further information as it becomes available.

 

House Unveils Two-Week CR

February 25, 2011 - Today, House Republicans released the details of their two-week continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government operating after the current funding measure expires on March 4. As expected, the CR contains $4 billion in program reductions or eliminations below President Obama’s FY 2011 budget request. While the bill does maintain a projected Pell Grant maximum award of $5,550 for the upcoming academic year, the same level of funding would be required after the two-week measure expires in order to maintain the $5,550 level. A number of earmarked programs and projects with funding leftover from FY 2010 are eliminated. Additionally, the bill:

• Eliminates the Leveraging Education Assistance Program (LEAP) for the remainder of FY 2011, saving $64 million;
• Reduces the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) by $129 million; and
• Cuts Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration by $49 million.

A description of the measure can be found here.

Senate Democrats have not yet released the details of the seven-month CR they are preparing. The Senate will reconvene on Monday, February 28 - just four days before the current CR expires.

 

Spending Impasse Continues; House & Senate Ready Short-Term CRs

February 25, 2011 - House Republicans plan to introduce a two-week continuing resolution (CR) soon to keep the government operating after the current funding measure expires on March 4. The bill will contain about $4 billion in spending cuts below the President’s FY 2011 budget request - a prorated amount that is equal to the cuts the House passed last week. The House is likely to begin consideration of this short-term CR on Tuesday. Senate Democrats have ruled out this approach, as it contains the same deep level of cuts to non-security discretionary programs they already opposed.

In the meantime, House, Senate, and Administration officials continue negotiations over spending for the remainder of FY 2011. Senate Democrats are working on a seven-month CR to fund the government through the end of the fiscal year. The bill would reduce spending below current levels, cutting $8.5 billion from previously-approved earmarks and $24.7 billion from the same program eliminations and reductions sought by President Obama in his FY 2012 budget proposal. The cuts would occur starting March 4 instead of the beginning of the new fiscal year (Oct 1) as proposed by the President. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) had previously announced plans to bring a clean 30-day CR to the floor that would maintain current spending levels in order to buy time towards a longer-term solution with the House, but it is unclear if such a proposal is still viable and is strongly opposed by the House. If a new funding measure of some sort is not in place by March 4, the federal government will shut down.

The Congressional Budget Office issued projections on the long term implications of the CR that was passed by the House last week. Not only would the bill slash Pell Grants in the short term—it would also reduce spending on the program by $66 billion over the next decade through the loss of mandatory add-on funds. The Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act conditions some spending on the Pell Grant program on the maintenance of a certain level of funding for the maximum award. Because the House-passed CR would cut the base award to $4,705 in the upcoming academic year ($845 below the current level of $5,550), the maximum Pell Grant award would then decline further to $4,025 starting in FY 2014 if the bill were to become law.

In other news, on Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Labor announced a solicitation for grant applications for the Green Jobs Innovation Fund. The competition will support job training in green industry sectors and occupations. DOL will award approximately $40 million to support five to eight grantees with awards ranging from $5 million to $8 million each. Eligible applicants include national and statewide organizations with local affiliates that have existing career training programs and will benefit a minimum of six communities per grant. Prospective applicants can access the solicitation for grant applications here and the full notice here.

Finally, the U.S. Department of Education plans to hold four community college regional summits over the next two months to identify practices to increase student completion at community colleges. The summits will bring together participants from surrounding states, including representatives from community colleges, business and industry, philanthropy, labor, state and local government, and students. Each of the four summits will have a different focus, and each will be held at a community college in a different region of the country:

  • February 28 - Community College of Philadelphia: "Transitioning Adult Learners to Community Colleges and the Workforce" (This summit will be streamed live;
  • March 9 - Lone Star College System, Houston: "Successful Transfer Programs"
  • March 23 - Ivy Tech Community College, Indianapolis: "Partnerships Between Community Colleges and Employers"
  • April 15 - San Diego Community College District: "Exemplary Programs for Veterans, Military Members, and Families"

 

House Announces Prelim Spending Cuts; TAA Reauth Bill Dropped

February 9, 2011 - Today, House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) announced a partial list of 70 spending cuts that will be included in the upcoming continuing resolution (CR) bill scheduled to be formally unveiled tomorrow. A full list of program cuts totaling over $40 billion to non-security discretionary spending will be released when the CR is formally introduced. The CR would fund the federal government for the seven months remaining in FY 2011. Included in the preliminary cuts is $2 billion from ‘Job Training Programs.’ For a full list of cuts, click here.

In addition to the cuts to be announced tomorrow, the House still plans to move forward with an open amendment process for the CR on the floor, allowing individual members to suggest even deeper spending cuts. The Republican Study Committee has advocated for nearly $26 billion in additional cuts to be made through amendments (to help meet the Republican campaign pledge of $100 billion in cuts). House GOP leaders hope to pass their spending bill by next Thursday, but with both chambers out the following week for the Presidents Day recess, the Senate may not take up the measure until the last week in February - just one week before the current CR expires on March 4. Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-HI) and some House Republicans have already predicted that Congress will end up passing another short-term CR - which would be the fourth since the current fiscal year began on October 1, 2010.

Additionally, House leaders pulled a bill last night that would have extended the expiring the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program and made cuts to the Community College Career Training Grant (CCCTG) program. There is concern within the Republican caucus about the duplicative nature of TAA, and there was general concern about using the CCCTG program as an offset. Although the CCCTG program is funded through FY 2014, many of the TAA worker benefit provisions expire this Saturday. Media reports have indicated that further negotiations on a TAA extension are still possible later this week.

 

House Considers TAA Reauth, Cut to CCCTGP

February 7, 2011 - Tomorrow, the House will consider a bill to reauthorize the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program under a fast-tracked procedure known as “suspension of the rules.” The TAA program extends assistance to workers who lose their jobs as a result of foreign trade, and it is the law that governs the Community College Career Training Grant Program (CCCTGP). Most TAA programs are set to expire this Saturday, February 12.

The bill would extend authorization for the ‘TAA for Communities’ program and Sector Partnership Grants until June 30, 2011. Included in the budgetary offsets (pay-for’s) in the bill is a $238 million cut to the CCCTGP in FY 2014. Instead of receiving $500 million in FY 2014, CCCTGP would be allotted only $262 million. Despite the fact that this cut in funding would come several years down the road, the CCCTGP is a critical investment in the long-term competitiveness and innovative capacity of community colleges. Under “suspension of the rules,” the bill will require a 2/3 vote for passage. It is unclear how the Senate will proceed with the bill as written.

Finally, the House is still expected to act next week on a funding measure that makes $12.33 billion in combined cuts to the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (7.3% of current funding) through the end of FY 2011. Specific programmatic cuts are not yet known but should be announced this week.

The President’s budget request will be released on Monday, February 14.

 

House Plans to Cut Spending by $35 Billion

February 3, 2011 - House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) announced plans today to cut federal government spending by $35 billion from current (FY 2010) levels for the remainder of the fiscal year. This reflects a $42.64 billion cut to non-security related discretionary spending and a $7.66 billion increase to defense, homeland security, and veterans programs. As proposed, it reflects a reduction of 9.3% below the current non-security discretionary spending levels.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rodgers (R-KY) subsequently released his subcommittee spending allocations after the release of the top-line levels. The Labor, Health & Human Services, and Education Subcommittee’s spending allocation is $157.02 billion, or $6.57 billion below 2010 levels (a 4% reduction).

Next week, the House Appropriations Committee will identify specific programmatic cuts. It is unclear how this will be accomplished, since neither a full Appropriations Committee or Subcommittee markup is expected. Additionally, the spending bill will be considered by an open amendment process on the floor that will allow individual members to offer amendments to decrease or increase spending on specific programs. Therefore, it is unclear where spending levels will be in the final House legislation; a resolution is expected on the House floor the week of February 14.

Chairman Ryan’s spending levels are less than the $100 billion cut pledged during the campaign cycle. However, the Senate and Administration are still widely expected to oppose these cuts. A new funding resolution must replace the current continuing resolution that expires on March 4. A short-term continuing resolution that largely maintains current levels may be required if the House and Senate cannot reach a final agreement on FY 2011 spending before March 4.

 

Senate to Abandon Earmarks for 2 Years

February 1, 2011 - Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-HI) said Tuesday that he would not accept requests for earmarks during the next two years. This comes after President Obama said in his State of the Union address last week that he would veto any bills with earmarks. House Republican leaders have already agreed that they will not support earmarks during the 112th Congress. Inouye reiterated that he supports members directing funding back to their states as a constitutional prerogative of Congress, and he indicated that a review of Congressionally-directed spending options may occur sometime in 2012.

The House is not in session this week, but the House Appropriations Committee is expected to begin considering a funding resolution next week after House Budget Committee Chairman Ryan (R-WI) sets new funding allocations. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) has pledged to bring this funding measure to the floor on the week of February 14, since the current continuing resolution expires on March 4. According to media reports, House Republican leaders are tentatively planning to propose an aggregate cut of around $50 billion from current funding (FY 2010) levels, but they will allow conservatives to offer amendments on the floor to increase the cuts up to $100 billion. Expected programmatic cuts are not yet known.

The President will release his budget on Monday, February 14.

 

Congress Finalizes Committee Assignments

January 28, 2011 - Yesterday, Senate Democratic and Republican leaders agreed to new committee assignments, completing the 112th Congress’ committee assignments for both the House & Senate. You can find a PDF of the committee assignments here.

Additionally, the Senate reached and adopted a bipartisan compromise last night on changes to the chamber’s rules to speed up the legislative process. Although some Senators had advocated for direct limits to the use of the filibuster, lawmakers instead agreed upon less-controversial reforms to secret holds, confirmations, and the reading of amendments. Under the compromise, secret holds on legislation and nominees will be eliminated, the number of executive branch nominations subject to confirmation will be reduced by about a third, and Senators will no longer be allowed to force chamber clerks to read aloud amendments if those amendments have been posted online for at least 72 hours. Additionally, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) entered into a “gentlemen’s agreement” to reduce the frequency of filibusters of motions to begin consideration of legislation, but this part of the compromise is not backed by any official rule change.

 

Comm. Colleges in SOTU; House Proposes Spending Cuts

January 26, 2011 - Last night, President Obama delivered his State of the Union Address to Congress. In the speech, he emphasized five “pillars” of economic growth: innovation, education, infrastructure, government reform, and fiscal responsibility. Education was a significant part of the address. You can find a fact sheet on the State of the Union here or a transcript of the full remarks here.

On higher education, President Obama repeated his goal, set two years ago, that America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020. He reiterated his commitment to community colleges, pledging to “revitalize” them to help more students obtain degrees and prepare for careers. He called on Congress to make the American Opportunity Tax Credit ($2,500 per year for four years) permanent. In a clear reference to the DREAM Act, he called for an overhaul of immigration law as it pertains to undocumented students.

President Obama also made several notable statements on the budget and appropriations. He committed to a five-year freeze on non-security discretionary spending, which would “reduce the deficit by more than $400 billion over the next decade.” This extends the three-year freeze he proposed last year. He also pledged to veto any bill that contains earmarks.

In the official Republican response, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) reiterated House Republicans’ commitment to cut domestic spending and reduce the size of government. He rejected the President’s call for any new investments in education or infrastructure.

Prior to the State of the Union Address, the House passed H. Res. 38, which directs Chairman Ryan to issue new budget allocations for the remainder of FY 11 which set funding for non-security discretionary spending at FY 08 levels or lower. The House approved the resolution by a vote of 256-165, with all Republicans and 17 Democrats voting for passage. A reduction to FY 08 levels would result in a significant cut of 13.6 percent in the aggregate. If applied evenly to the U.S. Department of Education, it would result in a cut of $9.42 billion to education from the current funding level. If this were to occur, we could see a cut of over $3 billion to the Pell Grant program. This would result in a rollback in the Pell Grant maximum award level and reduce the number of students who could participate in the program.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) announced Tuesday that the House will consider the Continuing Resolution during the week of February 14. That is the same week the President’s FY 12 budget is expected to be released. Since the House is on recess next week, that means the House Appropriations Committee will meet during the week of February 7 to act on the proposed cuts to the current FY 11 Continuing Resolution.

 

DOL Announces Grant Application for Community College and Career Training Grant Program

January 20, 2011 - Today, the solicitation for grant applications for the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grant Program (TAA CCTG) was announced by Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Applications will be accepted from both individual community colleges and eligible institutions, as well as consortia of two or more eligible institutions across a community, region, state, or industry sector. The Department of Labor intends to fund grants ranging from $2.5 million to $5 million for individual applicants and from $2.5 million to $20 million for consortium applicants. The TAA CCTG Program is authorized for $500 million for each of four years, fiscal years 2011 through 2014, to support educational and career-training programs focused on dislocated and unemployed workers. Each state will be guaranteed a minimum of 0.5% of the total funding, or $2.5 million per state per year.

Funds are provided to expand and improve education and career training programs that can be completed in two years or less, are suited for workers who are eligible for training under the Trade Adjustment Assistance for Workers program, and prepare program participants for employment in high-wage, high-skill occupations. The targeted population of this program is workers who have lost their jobs or are threatened with job loss as a result of foreign trade. The deadline for applications is April 21, 2011.

To see the official solicitation for grant applications, please visit here.

 

TAA Grant Application to Be Announced Thursday

January 18, 2011 - On Thursday, Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will announce a solicitation for grant applications for the $2 billion Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grant Program. In a press call, the Secretaries will announce the competitive grant application and answer questions from the media. ACCT will provide a link to the Federal Register notice when it becomes available.

The TAA CCTG Program is authorized for $500 million for each of four years, fiscal years 2011 through 2014, to support educational and career-training programs focused on dislocated and unemployed workers. Each state will be guaranteed a minimum of 0.5% of the total funding, or $2.5 million per state per year. The Administration has emphasized the program as a key component of President Obama’s goal of having the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020 and helping to increase the number of workers who attain degrees, certificates, and other industry-recognized credentials.

In other news, the House reconvened today for legislative business following last week’s abbreviated schedule to memorialize those lost in the Tucson shooting. Members began debate today on the bill to repeal healthcare reform, with a final vote on the repeal bill expected tomorrow afternoon.

 

Congress Continues to Appoint Committee Members

January 11, 2011 - Following the tragic shooting in Tuscon, Arizona last Saturday, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) canceled all scheduled business in the House for the week. House Members will assemble on Wednesday for the sole purpose of considering a resolution that would recognize Saturday’s events. The Senate is currently not in session, but it will reconvene for legislative business on Monday, January 24th.

Last week, House Republicans and Democrats began to name their committee members and formally select committee chairpersons. Both caucuses had planned to use this legislative week to decide on additional committee assignments, but the legislative standstill has put this on hold for now. Below is a listing of known members for relevant committees:

Appropriations

Harold Rogers, KY, Chairman
Jerry Lewis, CA
C.W. Bill Young, FL
Frank R. Wolf, VA
Jack Kingston, GA
Rodney Frelinghuysen, NJ
Tom Latham, IA
Robert B. Aderholt, AL
Jo Ann Emerson, MO
Kay Granger, TX
Michael K. Simpson, ID
John Abney Culberson, TX
Ander Crenshaw, FL
Dennis R. Rehberg, MT
John R. Carter, TX
Rodney Alexander, LA
Ken Calvert, CA
Jo Bonner, AL
Steve LaTourette, OH
Tom Cole, OK
Steve Austria, OH
Charles Dent, PA
Mario Diaz-Balart, FL
Jeff Flake, AZ
Tom Graves, GA
Cynthia Lummis, WY
Alan Nunnelee, MS
Steve Womack, AR
Kevin Yoder, KS

Norm Dicks, WA, Ranking Member
Marcy Kaptur, OH
Peter J. Visclosky, IN
Nita M. Lowey, NY
José E. Serrano, NY
Rosa DeLauro, CT
James P. Moran, VA
John W. Olver, MA
Ed Pastor, AZ
David E. Price, NC
Maurice D. Hinchey, NY
Lucille Roybal-Allard, CA
Sam Farr, CA
Jesse L. Jackson Jr., IL
Chaka Fattah, PA
Steven R. Rothman, NJ
Sanford D. Bishop Jr., GA
Barbara Lee, CA
Adam B. Schiff, CA
Michael M. Honda, CA
Betty McCollum, MN

Approps. Labor, Health and Human Services Subcommittee:

Dennis Rehberg, MT, Chairman
Jerry Lewis , CA
Rodney Alexander, LA
Jack Kingston, GA
Kay Granger, TX
Mike Simpson, ID
Jeff Flake, AZ
Cynthia Lummis, WY

Rosa DeLauro, CT, Ranking Member
DEMOCRATIC MEMBERS TO BE ANNOUNCED

Education & Workforce

John Kline, MN, Chairman
Lou Barletta, PA
Judy Biggert, IL
Rob Bishop, UT
Larry Bucshon, IN
Scott DesJarlais, TN
Virginia Foxx, NC
Richard Hanna, NY
Joe Heck, NV
Duncan Hunter, CA
Mike Kelly, PA
Buck McKeon, CA
Kristi Noem, SD
Tom Petri, WI
Todd Platts, PA
Phil Roe, TN
Todd Rokita, IN
Glenn Thompson, PA
Tim Walberg, MI
Trey Gowdy, SC
Martha Roby, AL
Dennis Ross, FL
Joe Wilson, SC

George Miller, CA, Chairman
DEMOCRATIC MEMBERS TO BE ANNOUNCED

Ways & Means

Dave Camp, MI, Chairman
Wally Herger, CA
Sam Johnson, TX
Kevin Brady, TX
Paul Ryan, WI
Devin Nunes, CA
Pat Tiberi, OH
Geoff Davis, KY
Dave Reichert, WA
Charles Boustany, LA
Dean Heller, NV
Peter Roskam, IL
Jim Gerlach, PA
Tom Price, GA
Vern Buchanan, FL
Adrian Smith, NE
Aaron Schock, IL
Chris Lee, NY
Lynn Jenkins, KS
Erik Paulsen, MN
Rick Berg, ND
Diane Black, TN

Sander M. Levin, Michigan, Ranking Member
Xavier Becerra, CA
Shelley Berkley, NV
Earl Blumenauer, OR
Joseph Crowley, NY
Lloyd Doggett, TX
Ron Kind, WI
John B. Larson, CT
Sander M. Levin, MI
John Lewis, GA
Jim McDermott, WA
Richard E. Neal, MA
Bill Pascrell Jr., NJ
Charles B. Rangel, NY
Mike Thompson, CA

Budget

Paul Ryan, WI, Chairman
REPUBLICAN MEMBERS TO BE ANNOUNCED

Chris Van Hollen, MD, Ranking Member
DEMOCRATIC MEMBERS TO BE ANNOUNCED

ACCT will keep you informed of developments as they occur.

 

112th Congress Convenes

January 5, 2011 - Today, the House convened for the opening session of the 112th Congress. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) formally passed the Speaker’s gavel to Rep. John Boehner (R-OH), who served as Minority Leader in the 111th Congress. Below is a listing of leadership positions for the new Congress:

Majority (Republican) Leadership:

  • Speaker of the House: John Boehner (R-OH)
  • Majority Leader: Eric Cantor (R-VA)
  • Majority Whip: Kevin McCarthy (R-CA)

Minority (Democratic) Leadership:

  • Minority Leader: Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)
  • Minority Whip: Steny Hoyer (D-MD)
  • Assistant Minority Leader: Jim Clyburn (D-SC)

The following Committee leadership also took effect:

  • Budget: Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI), Ranking Member Chris Van Hollen (D-MD)
  • Appropriations: Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY), Ranking Member Norm Dicks (D-WA)
  • Ways and Means: Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI), Ranking Member Sander Levin (D-MI)
  • Education and Workforce: Chairman John Kline (R-MN), Ranking Member George Miller (D-CA)

The House also passed a resolution adopting rules for the 112th Congress. The new rules give House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) additional authority in budget allocations; the chairman is now allowed to set spending levels for the remainder of FY 2011 until a budget resolution is officially enacted. The previous “pay-as-you-go” rules that required Congress to offset cuts for all new programs and tax initiatives were replaced with “cut-as-you-go” rules for spending programs. This means that tax-cutting measures can be enacted without accounting for their impact on the federal deficit, and new mandatory spending programs cannot be paid for by increasing taxes.

According to press accounts, Republican leaders have indicated that they will not be able to make the full $100 billion in domestic spending cuts they pledged during the campaign. Aides concede that current aims are in the realm of $50-60 billion in cuts for FY 2011.

The Senate convened today and the following leadership carries over from the previous year:

  • Majority Leader: Harry Reid (D-NV)
  • Assistant Majority Leader (Democratic Whip): Dick Durbin (D-IL)
  • Minority Leader: Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
  • Assistant Minority Leader (Republican Whip): John Kyl (R-AZ)

The Senate is considering changes to rules governing the filibuster. There is a proposal that would require senators who object to a “motion to proceed” on a bill to remain on the floor in order to maintain the filibuster. The Democratic and Republican Caucuses are negotiating possible rule changes, but it is unclear if they will arrive at an agreement prior to the Senate reconvening later this month.

Latest Action in Washington Archives - 111th Congress (2009-2010)

Latest Action in Washington Archives - 110th Congress (2007-2008)