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AAU Weekly Wrap-Up, February 2, 2018


  • Budget and Appropriations Update 
  • Higher Education Act Reauthorization Update 
  • Appeals Court Affirms Trial Court's Decision in Internet Service Provider Case 
  • Reports Find International Student Enrollment Down 
  • National Science Board Makes Statement on STEM-Capable Workforce Needs


With only a week until federal funding runs out at midnight February 8, Republican leadership is now reportedly drafting a fifth continuing resolution to fund the government at current levels through March 23. House Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters during this week's GOP policy retreat in West Virginia that even if a budget caps deal is reached, another CR is unavoidable because it would take weeks to develop an omnibus FY18 spending package.

Because the Democratic policy and strategy retreat begins Wednesday next week, Congress could vote on the CR as early as Tuesday, February 6. It is unclear if the CR will garner enough support for passage as the House Freedom Caucus has already indicated their frustration with a fifth CR. Wary of another shutdown, Senate Democrats are reportedly willing to go along with another CR so long as there are no "poison pill" policy provisions.

Long-term budget negotiations remain stalled by disagreements over how and when to address DACA's termination. AAU continues to push for a legislative solution to enshrine DACA protections.


Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander yesterday released a white paper to suggest that current accountability measures for colleges and universities are insufficient and some are unfair, citing the cohort default rate, gainful employment regulations, and the 90-10 rule. The paper expands upon comments made in a Tuesday hearing, during which he said the committee will explore if and how reauthorization may provide for "new accountability measures that are more effective at holding all individual programs at all colleges and universities accountable for the ability of their students to pay back their loans." Chairman Alexander said the committee will mark up a HEA reauthorization bill this spring, though bill text has not yet been drafted.

Meanwhile, the House Education and Workforce Committee has already approved its HEA reauthorization bill, the Promoting Real Opportunity, Success, and Prosperity Through Education Reform (PROSPER) Act, H.R. 4508. After its introduction and quick committee approval, AAU issued a statement and joined the broad higher education community in a letter to express deep concerns with bill provisions that will negatively impact college access and affordability, including the proposed elimination of graduate and professional student aid benefits.


AAU, along with several other higher education associations, in November 2016 filed a neutral amicus brief asking the Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in BMG v. Cox to avoid issuing a ruling that would undermine the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) safe harbor or require uniform repeat infringer policies, given the negative effect that outcome would have on the ability of educational institutions and libraries to provide Internet access for students and patrons.

Yesterday, the appeals court affirmed that Cox Communications is liable for contributory copyright infringement for failing to appropriately enforce a repeat infringement policy as required to claim the legal safe harbor for network service providers under the DMCA. The court also recognized the hazard of establishing a one-size-fits-all repeat infringer policy, noting, "we are mindful of the need to afford ISPs flexibility in crafting repeat infringer policies, and of the difficulty of determining when it is 'appropriate' to terminate a person's access to the Internet."


The Council of Graduate Schools' annual International Graduate Admissions Survey finds declines of 1 percent in new international graduate student enrollment and 3 percent in international graduate student applications. The CGS data, gathered from a total of 175 universities for both the fall 2016 and fall 2017 admissions cycles, also shows that the declines in new international enrollments and applications are concentrated in master's and certificate programs and at less research-intensive institutions.

The CGS report was published just days after the National Science Board released its annual Science and Engineering Indicators report, finding that the number of international students in the U.S. fell by 2.2 percent at the undergraduate level and 5.5 percent at the graduate level from fall 2016 to 2017. The NSB report shows the decline comes after years of steady growth in overall international enrollments at U.S. universities.


The National Science Board on Thursday released a companion policy statement to its 2018 Science and Engineering Indicators report to address the critical need to grow a STEM-capable U.S. workforce that leverages the talents of people at all education levels, and in all sectors. The statement calls for traditional scientists and engineers to perform research, but it also calls for "skilled technical workers" who can install, repair, debug, and build, but may not have a four-year degree. The statement says that sustaining this STEM-capable workforce will require cooperation and commitment from local, state, and federal governments, education institutions of all levels, non-governmental organizations, and businesses.

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