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Leading Research Universities Report, December 2, 2022

An empty immigration security lineAAU-Business Roundtable Report Highlights Urgent Need for Immigration Reform

AAU and the Business Roundtable published a joint report last month on ways the United States should reform its immigration policies to continue attracting and retaining the world’s top STEM talent to study, conduct research, and work here. As the organizations representing the presidents of America’s leading research universities and the CEOs of America’s leading corporations, AAU and BRT understand that international students, scientists, and engineers help drive cutting-edge research and development, fill jobs in critical STEM fields, advance national security, and bolster the U.S. economy by generating new domestic startups and businesses.

The report outlines the massive contributions that international scholars and workers make to our country and makes several recommendations to reduce or eliminate current barriers preventing these individuals from studying or working in the United States. The recommendations include eliminating current annual limits on employment-based green cards for holders of advanced STEM degrees, eliminating the visa requirement that students prove an intention to return to their home country upon conclusion of their studies, and boosting diplomatic efforts to attract the STEM talent necessary to advance U.S. economic and national security interests.

As U.S. national competitiveness and national security increasingly depend on our ability to innovate, it is crucial that our immigration policies assist, rather than hinder, our pursuit of the world’s top talent. The United States is a nation of immigrants — and we must continue to be if we are to successfully compete as a global science and technology leader.

ICYMI: Barbara’s Blog: Retaining International STEM Graduates to Keep America Competitive

Shadows of people against the backdrop of a U.S. flagAAU Joins Higher Education Community in Urging Congress to Protect Dreamers

AAU joined the American Council on Education and more than 60 other higher education associations in a letter to congressional leadership urging them to pass legislation during the last weeks of the 117th Congress to protect recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

The DACA program provides protection from deportation for nearly 600,000 college students and other young people who were brought to the United States as children through no fault of their own; DACA beneficiaries are sometimes referred to as “Dreamers.” Recent court rulings declaring the program illegal “underscore the urgency for congressional action to protect Dreamers, who have been living with continuous uncertainty,” the letter emphasized. “Dreamers have made incredible contributions to our country and its economy and security,” the letter added, and not protecting them would mean “shutting the door to an entire generation of individuals who wish to be part of our American story.”

Last month, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said that Democrats were working on legislation to protect Dreamers during the “lame-duck” session of Congress. The effort, however, faces poor odds of success due to Republican opposition.

ICYMI: AAU President Says Misguided Ruling Against DACA Underscores Urgent Need for Congress to Protect Dreamers

Student aid sign with small graduation cap and moneyAAU President Joins Effort to Make College Financial Aid Offers Clear, Accurate, and Transparent

Earlier this week, AAU President Barbara R. Snyder joined leaders of nine other higher education associations to form a new task force dedicated to providing students with financial aid offers that are clear, accurate, and transparent about the cost of college.

The “Paying for College Transparency Initiative” will tackle confusing financial aid offers from colleges by producing a set of guiding principles and minimal standards that colleges can use to develop aid offers. The initiative’s goal is to help students and parents understand the actual cost of postsecondary education and more readily compare aid offers from various institutions.

The task force is chaired by Association of Public and Land-grant Universities President Emeritus Peter McPherson and supported by the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, AAU, and other higher education associations.

Capitol hillHill Update: Lawmakers Continue Negotiations on FY23 Budget; Senate Passes Respect for Marriage Act

Following a meeting with President Joe Biden earlier this week, top congressional leaders and appropriators began negotiations over a FY23 omnibus spending package that could be passed before the end of the year.

Senate Appropriations Committee Vice Chair Richard Shelby (R-AL) told reporters yesterday that there has been some “back and forth” between Republicans and Democrats over top-line defense and non-defense spending numbers and that “there are a lot of people on both sides of the aisle” working on finding an agreement. AAU’s top priorities for any FY23 spending deal include increasing the Pell Grant annual maximum award and funding boosts for federal science agencies, especially those authorized by the CHIPS and Science Act.

Earlier this week, the Senate voted 61-36 to pass the Respect for Marriage Act that guarantees federal protections and benefits for same-sex and interracial marriages. The bill now heads to the House, where it is expected to pass. AAU applauds Congress’ decision to reaffirm the rights of all Americans to be loved regardless of who they are and to enshrine in law the protections established by the Supreme Court for same-sex marriages more than seven years ago.

Senators Urge OMB to Support CHIPS Funding Levels for DOE Office of Science in FY24

Eighteen senators recently sent a letter urging Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young to support the authorization levels set by the CHIPS and Science Act for the Department of Energy Office of Science in the administration’s FY24 budget request. The DOE Office of Science is the nation’s largest supporter of research in the physical sciences, especially research on clean energy and decarbonization.

The letter noted that previous insufficient budget requests have slowed the pace of scientific progress at the DOE Office of Science and that further undercutting the agency’s budget “can slow or even halt critical ongoing research, construction projects, and talent retention efforts.” A robust funding request in FY24, the letter noted, would help guarantee that the agency can “continue leading the nation in next-generation discovery” and that the United States remains “a global leader in innovation.”

News of Interest

Inside Higher Ed: Lame Duck Agenda – With Republicans taking Control of the House in January, Democrats are hoping to push several bills through Congress in the next four weeks. Top priorities for the higher education community include increasing the Pell Grant annual maximum award, protecting Dreamers, and passing appropriations bills that include science and research investments included in the CHIPS and Science Act.

Science Business: Many US Scientists Say Security Measures Against China and Others Go Too Far – The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine held a workshop earlier this month on openness, international engagement, and the future of the U.S. research enterprise. Workshop attendees highlighted how tightening security measures to prevent the theft of scientific research from foreign entities are threatening scientific openness and international collaboration among researchers. AAU Senior Vice President for Science Policy and Global Affairs Toby Smith cautioned against going too far when it comes to research security. “Our very job at universities is to disseminate knowledge,” he said.

Boston Globe: Tufts University Names Johns Hopkins University Provost as Its Next President –Tufts University recently announced that it has named Johns Hopkins University Provost and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs Sunil Kumar as its next president. Kumar will succeed current Tufts President Anthony Monaco and will assume office on July 1. He will be first person of color to lead the university.  

Diverse Issues in Higher Education: Dr. Kristina Johnson to Step Down from Ohio State Presidency – The Ohio State University President Kristina Johnson announced last week that she will be stepping down at the end of the school year in May 2023. Johnson began her tenure at Ohio State in August 2020.

CNN: Biden Extends Student Loan Repayment Freeze as Forgiveness Program Is Tied up in Courts – With the student loan forgiveness program on hold due to litigation, the Biden administration has extended the current pause on student loan repayment. The pause will last until 60 days after the resolution of the litigation. In case the litigation is not resolved within the next six months, and the forgiveness program isn’t implemented, repayment will resume 60 days after June 30.

The Washington Post: UC-Berkeley Can’t Use Race in Admissions. Is It a Model for the Country? – A 1996 proposition banned the use of race-conscious admissions in California. Since then, the University of California at Berkeley has tested a variety of approaches to recruit Black and Latino students. Despite its efforts, the university’s Latino undergraduate student population remains at 19% even though Latinos comprise 55% of the state’s public school student population.

Featured Research


Ancient Bacteria Might Lurk Beneath Mars’ Surface

The surface of Mars is arid, extremely cold, and being bombarded constantly with cosmic radiation. A research team at Northwestern University subjected various bacteria to simulated Mars conditions and found that some can survive for extremely long periods of time when buried subsurface. The research suggests that ancient bacteria could be lurking beneath Mars and speaks to the threat of possible biological cross-contamination as Earth’s exploration of Mars grows.

A person clutching their stomach in pain

Study Provides New Understanding of Pain Disparities in the U.S.

A new study co-authored by a University at Buffalo sociologist finds that Native Americans and multiracial Americans experience the highest rates of pain among all racial and ethnic groups as defined by the U.S. census; the study found that Asian Americans have the lowest pain prevalence. The findings suggest the need for greater pain prevention and management among groups that had previously been ignored by researchers studying pain prevalence.

Stat of the Week


A graph showing that American voters value education

American Voters Value Education

A recent study of American adults conducted by Dynata Research on AAU’s behalf shows that 88% of Americans consider education to be an important factor determining who they vote for in national elections. More than half of those surveyed (54%) said education was “very important” and only 11% said it was “not too important” or “not important at all.”