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AAU President's Report, November 7, 2017

To:      AAU Presidents and Chancellors
From: Mary Sue Coleman, President
Date:  November 7, 2017

Budget and Tax Update

The House Ways and Means Committee yesterday began debate on the GOP tax reform bill, The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (H.R. 1). The bill would eliminate several student benefits, including the student loan interest deduction and employer-provided educational assistance, and impose a 1.4 percent excise tax on private university endowments valued at $100,000 per full-time student. I issued a statement last week noting the bill's dire impacts on students and their families, and calling for a tax code that supports higher education accessibility and affordability. A list of bill provisions impacting universities is available here.

AAU, along with several other higher education associations, yesterday wrote to House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX) and Ranking Member Richard Neal (D-MA) to express serious concerns with the House bill. The letter notes the legislation, as currently written, would greatly discourage participation in postsecondary education, make college more expensive, and weaken the financial stability of colleges and universities.

The Senate, meanwhile, is expected to release its own plan later this week, likely after the House Committee has completed its work.

Your engagement and that of your regents, trustees, donors, industry partners, federal relations officers, and students is now critical. In preparation for conversations you may have with members of your congressional delegation, I encourage you to review the AAU Presidential Talking Points on Tax Reform and the Tax Reform and Higher Education Resources site.

Associations File Amicus Brief on NLRB Evidentiary Standards

AAU and seven other higher education associations submitted an amicus brief to a federal appeals court in support of a University of Southern California appeal. At issue is the test for determining when faculty members at private institutions may form a collective bargaining unit under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), and the National Labor Relations Board's (NLRB) application of a 1980 decision involving when faculty members are deemed sufficiently "managerial" to preclude organizing. In the USC case, the NLRB raised the evidentiary bar so high for an institution that it may be practically impossible to meet. The brief asserts that the NLRB's evidentiary window for an institution to sufficiently demonstrate a managerial role for its faculty misunderstands shared higher education governance.

Associations Urge EPA to Reconsider Advisory Panel Directive

AAU joined four other higher education associations today in a letter urging EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to reconsider a recent directive that bars scientists receiving EPA grants from advisory roles, due to a perceived conflict of interest and lack of objectivity. The letter argues that the researchers deemed worthy of receiving taxpayer funds for research are the very experts that the EPA should turn to for advice. This, combined with ethical standards and conflict of interest rules, allows for the selection of the most qualified researchers to conduct EPA research and it is only logical to allow these researchers to serve in scientific advisory roles.

AAU Universities Honored at College Inventors Competition

Congratulations to both Johns Hopkins University and Boston University for their students who placed in the 2017 College Inventors Competition. A team of undergraduates at Johns Hopkins developed AssistENT, a flexible device worn within the nose to aid breathing safely and discreetly, offering an alternative to invasive surgery or external adhesive strips. Boston University graduate student Ning Mao developed Engineered Probiotics, a synthetic probiotic that provides early detection of cholera, contains disease spread, and may be adapted to fight other bacterial infections.

C: Association of Graduate School Deans
    Chief Academic Officers
    Council on Federal Relations 
    Public Affairs Network
    Senior Research Officers

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