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AAU Weekly Wrap-up, November 17, 2017


  • Tax Reform Update
    • House and Senate Finance Committee Approve Their Tax Reform Bills
    • Associations Express Opposition to House and Senate Tax Reform Proposals 
    • AAU Endorses Universal Charitable Giving Act 
  • Budget and Appropriations Update
  • Administration’s Disaster Relief Supplemental Uses Pell Surplus as Offset 
  • Congress Approves FY18 Defense Authorization Bill 
  • AAU, APLU, COGR Comment on USDA Regulatory Reform  
  • Open Doors Report Finds New International Enrollment Down


The House yesterday approved its tax reform bill, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (H.R. 1) by a vote of 227-205, with 13 Republicans opposed. Ahead of the vote, ACE, on behalf of AAU and 45 other higher education associations, sent a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) reiterating strong opposition to the concerning provisions noted in the November 6 community letter. 

The Senate proposal, approved yesterday by the Senate Finance Committee, needs to clear the floor before bill differences can be reconciled in conference. Revisions to the Senate bill made late-Tuesday by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) would eliminate the Affordable Care Act individual insurance mandate, and include a 2025 sunset on individual tax rates. Adding the sunset clause would mean the new rates would end 10 years after creation, preventing the overall bill from increasing the deficit after 10 years. AAU joined nearly 50 other higher education associations in a letter Tuesday to Senate Finance Committee Chairman Hatch and Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-OR) to express opposition to several provisions in the Senate tax bill. The letter notes that although the Senate bill retains important student tax benefits, certain provisions would make higher education less accessible for low- and middle-income students, and weaken the financial stability of many colleges and universities.

Yesterday, AAU President Mary Sue Coleman issued a statement to encourage the inclusion of the Universal Charitable Giving Act as an amendment in any final tax reform legislation. The bill, introduced by Senator James Lankford (R-OK) and Representative Mark Walker (R-NC), creates an above-the-line deduction of up to one-third of the standard deduction, incentivizing taxpayers at every income level to make charitable gifts to the nonprofit causes of their choice. President Coleman applauded the bill sponsors, noting that “All Americans – not just the wealthy – should be offered the same incentive and tax benefit to give to charitable causes important to them.”


Yesterday, Senate Appropriations Chairman Thad Cochran (R-MS) announced he will release Chairmen’s marks next week for the four remaining FY18 appropriations bills that have yet to receive committee consideration, including defense. In his release, Chairman Cochran said, “We need a new budget deal to finish our work.  Congress and the administration must reach agreement on acceptable top-line funding levels for defense and non-defense programs.”

On Tuesday, Speaker Ryan said Congress may need to adopt a short-term spending bill to prevent a December 9 government shutdown, noting, “We might need a little more time to let the appropriators write their bill.” Congressional leaders reportedly continue to negotiate potential changes to the Budget Control Act (BCA) caps. 


The White House today submitted a third disaster relief aid request to Congress seeking $44 billion for Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The request would use $3.9 billion in Pell surplus funds as one of several dozen proposed offsets to federal programs to fund recovery efforts. According to an administration document, Pell Grant awards for 2018 would not be affected and “unobligated balances in the Student Financial Assistance account would support Pell Grant program costs in future award years.” 


The Senate approved the $700 billion defense authorization bill (H.R. 2810) via voice vote yesterday, granting final passage two days after House approval. The bill authorizes roughly $626 billion for base defense funding and $66 billion for overseas contingency operations but exceeds existing BCA caps by roughly $80 billion. To spend at the level authorized, lawmakers will need to strike a budget deal to raise the BCA caps which limit defense spending to $549 billion in FY18. President Trump is expected to sign the bill. 


AAU on Tuesday joined the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), and the Council on Governmental Relations (COGR) in comments to the U.S. Department of Agriculture in response to a July 17 Request for Information. The comments suggest various reforms that involve the use of animals, noting that many regulations and requirements are overlapping, outdated, or ineffective and do not improve animal welfare, but make research less efficient. The comment letter says that implementing these reforms would increase efficiency while maintaining essential standards of care.


An annual census conducted by the Institute of International Education found that new international student enrollment – students enrolling at a U.S. institution for the first time in fall 2016 – fell by 3.3 percent. Among responding institutions, 68 percent cited the visa application process or visa delays and denials as a reason for declining new enrollments. The report also points to other factors including “an uncertain social and political climate in the U.S.,” increased competition from countries like Canada, Austria, and Germany, and the growing cost of American higher education. Though the number of new enrollments is down, the U.S. still has more international students than ever before, reflecting an expansion for the 11th consecutive year, due largely in part because students already in the U.S. stayed to earn additional credentials or for work. 

Inside Higher Ed has more. 

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