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AAU WEEKLY WRAP-UP

 July 11, 2014

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CONTENTS
BUDGET, APPROPRIATIONS, AND TAX ISSUES

House Approves FY15 Energy and Water Appropriations Bill NEW
House Subpanel Approves FY15 Funding Bill with Large Cut to NEH UPDATED
Community Submits Tax Credit Testimony to Finance Committee
OTHER CONGRESSIONAL ISSUES
AAU, APLU Express Views on House DOE R&D Bill
House Committee Approves Three HEA Reauthorization Bills NEW
--Associations Weigh in on House HEA Bills
Four Associations Express Support for TROL Act NEW
EXECUTIVE BRANCH

Associations Submit Briefs on Northwestern University NLRB Case
Senate Confirms New NEH Chairman NEW
Higher Education, Library Groups Propose Net Neutrality Principles NEW
OTHER

AAU and The Science Coalition Hold SRO Media Roundtable UPDATED

 

BUDGET, APPROPRIATIONS, AND TAX ISSUES

HOUSE APPROVES FY15 ENERGY AND WATER APPROPRIATIONS BILL NEW

The House on July 10 approved the FY15 Energy and Water appropriations bill (H.R. 4932), the sixth of 12 FY15 funding bills that the chamber has passed. Although the measure would level-fund the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science at its FY14 level of $5.071 billion, it raises and lowers funding for specific programs within that total (See AAU Weekly Wrap-up, June 20, 2014 for details). 

The original bill would have funded ARPA-E at the FY14 level of $280 million, but the House approved an amendment offered by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) to raise the total by $20 million to $300 million. 

The Obama Administration has threatened to veto the bill for a variety of reasons, including that the bill would significantly cut funding for the DOE Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy—at about $1.8 billion, a cut of nearly $113 million from the FY14 level—and contains environmental policy riders that it opposes.

The other FY15 appropriations bills approved so far in the House are: Commerce-Justice-Science, Defense, Homeland Security, Legislative Branch, and Military Construction-Veterans. The Senate so far has passed no FY15 funding bills.

HOUSE SUBPANEL APPROVES FY15 FUNDING BILL WITH LARGE CUT TO NEH

The House Interior-Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee on July 9 approved its FY15 funding bill with an $8 million cut in funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). The measure would cut NEH funding to just $138 million, which, in constant dollars, would be the lowest level since 1972.

AAU issued a statement strongly opposing the cuts to NEH.

COMMUNITY SUBMITS TAX CREDIT TESTIMONY TO FINANCE COMMITTEE

Under the leadership of the American Council on Education, a group of nine higher education associations, including AAU, on July 8 submitted testimony for the record of the Senate Finance Committee’s June 24 hearing on higher education and the federal tax code.

The testimony notes the associations’ longstanding support for consolidating and simplifying tax incentives for higher education, and urges that any reforms “address the needs and circumstances of the broad range of students in higher education.” It expresses strong support for the American Opportunity Tax Credit Permanence and Consolidation Act of 2013 (S. 835), introduced by Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY), and urges retention of Section 127 Employer-provided Educational Assistance and Section 117(d) Qualified Tuition Reduction.

The statement also includes data to refute a number of misperceptions about college costs; reviews the cost to higher education institutions of maintaining technological infrastructure to support research and education; and describes the heavy financial impact of the increasing federal, state, and local government regulations on colleges and universities.

 

OTHER CONGRESSIONAL ISSUES

AAU, APLU EXPRESS VIEWS ON HOUSE DOE R&D BILL

AAU and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) sent a letter to leaders of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee on July 8 offering their views on the Committee’s bill to reauthorize basic and applied research programs in the Department of Energy (DOE).

The letter expresses the associations’ appreciation for the proposed five-percent increase in authorized funding for the DOE Office of Science in FY15, as well as for a provision that would exempt universities and nonprofit organizations from the statutory 20-percent matching requirement for conducting DOE applied research and development.

The letter expresses strong concern, however, about the proposed 18-percent cut in authorized funding for the Biological and Environment Research program in the Office of Science, as well as a 14-percent cut in authorized funding for ARPA-E and a 29-percent cut in Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. The associations also express concern about a provision that would require researchers to demonstrate they have tried unsuccessfully to obtain private funding for their work before applying to ARPA-E for funding, and opposition to a provision that would remove the ARPA-E goal of developing energy technologies to reduce energy-related emissions.

HOUSE COMMITTEE APPROVES THREE HEA REAUTHORIZATION BILLS NEW

The House Education and the Workforce Committee on July 10 approved a package of three bills, as amended, that would reauthorize portions of the Higher Education Act (HEA). The bills are: the Strengthening Transparency in Higher Education Act (H.R. 4983), the Advancing Competency-Based Education Demonstration Project Act (H.R. 3136), and the Empowering Students through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act (H.R. 4984).

--Associations Weigh in on House HEA Bills

In advance of the committee mark up, a group of higher education associations, including AAU, sent a letter to Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) providing their initial observations about the three bills. The associations said in their letter of July 9 that the bills are a “welcome step toward reauthorization.”

FOUR ASSOCIATIONS EXPRESS SUPPORT FOR TROL ACT NEW

Four higher education associations, including AAU, wrote to leaders of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade on July 9 expressing their support for the “Target Rogue and Opaque Letters (TROL) Act of 2014.” The subcommittee approved the draft bill on July 10.

The letter—sent by AAU, the American Council on Education, APLU, and the Council on Governmental Relations—thanks the Members and staff for their work over the past several months to develop a “meaningful, balanced bill.” They express appreciation that the measure distinguishes between abusive demand letters sent by so-called patent “trolls” to small and retail businesses on the one hand, and legitimate patent communications made in good faith on the other.

Although the subcommittee favorably reported the bill, several subcommittee members expressed continuing concerns over certain aspects of the measure. Subcommittee Chairman Lee Terry (R-NE) pledged to continue working with Members and external stakeholders to craft a bill that achieves broad support in advance of a markup by the full committee.

  

EXECUTIVE BRANCH

ASSOCIATIONS SUBMIT BRIEFS ON NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY NLRB CASE

On July 3, a group of five higher education associations, led by the American Council on Education (ACE), submitted an amicus brief to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) on the pending case regarding whether scholarship football players at Northwestern University may unionize as university employees. The brief—submitted by ACE, APLU, the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources, and the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities—argues that students who participate in intercollegiate athletics and receive athletic scholarship do so as part of their educational experience, not as employees rendering services.

--AAU Joins Ivy Plus Universities’ Amicus Brief

AAU has joined an amicus brief submitted by the Ivy Plus universities to the NLRB on the Northwestern University case. The brief addresses only the question raised by the NLRB as to whether the Board’s 2004 decision in the Brown University case—where it found that graduate student teaching assistants were students first—may be applicable to this case, or should be modified or overruled.

The brief argues, “Simply put, a case involving undergraduate football players who were found by the Regional Director not to play football as an integral part of their degree programs is not the proper vehicle by which to reconsider the status of graduate teaching and research assistants who undertake such activities as part of their degree program.”

SENATE CONFIRMS NEW NEH CHAIRMAN NEW

The Senate on July 9 voted to confirm William D. “Bro” Adams as chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). Dr. Adams is former president of both Colby College and Bucknell University. Prior to those appointments, he taught political philosophy at Santa Clara University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and coordinated the Great Works in Western Culture program at Stanford University.

AAU issued a statement of support for Dr. Adams’ nomination on April 10, following the White House announcement of his appointment.

HIGHER EDUCATION, LIBRARY GROUPS PROPOSE NET NEUTRALITY PRINCIPLES NEW

A group of higher education and library organizations, including AAU, on July 10 released a set of Net Neutrality Principles, which they said should form the basis of an upcoming Federal Communications Commission (FCC) decision to protect the openness of the Internet. The groups said in a statement accompanying release of the principles that network neutrality protections are essential to protecting freedom of speech, educational achievement, and economic growth. As further described in the statement:

“…Institutions of higher education and libraries do not object to paying for the high-capacity Internet connections that they need to support their students, faculty, administrators, and library patrons; but once connected, they should not have to pay additional fees to receive prioritized transmission of their content, services, or applications.

“These groups support strong, enforceable rules to ensure that higher education and libraries can continue to deliver online educational and public interest content at a level of speed and quality on par with commercial providers. The proposed principles call upon the FCC to ban blocking, degradation, and ‘paid prioritization’; ensure that the same rules apply to fixed and mobile broadband providers; promote greater transparency of broadband services; and prevent providers from treating similar customers in significantly different ways.”

  

OTHER

AAU AND THE SCIENCE COALITION HOLD SRO MEDIA ROUNDTABLE UPDATED

AAU and The Science Coalition (TSC) on July 9 held the fifth annual Senior Research Officers (SRO) Media Roundtable in Washington, D.C., an opportunity for a group of vice presidents of research at member campuses to meet in an on-the-record discussion with Washington-based reporters. The discussion covered a wide range of issues that affect research universities.

The session, titled “All Things Research,” included 10 university vice presidents of research at AAU- and TSC-member institutions from around the country and 12 reporters. The video of the discussion, along with tweets and photos, can be viewed here.

 

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