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Leading Research Universities Report, May 6, 2022

Visa CardBarbara’s Blog: Retaining International STEM Graduates to Keep America Competitive

Lawmakers in the House and the Senate will soon begin formal negotiations over the Senate-passed U.S. Innovation and Competition Act and the House-passed America COMPETES Act in an attempt to reach a deal on a bill that can pass both chambers. Conferees will negotiate a range of provisions in the bills designed to keep the United States competitive, including immigration measures that would help attract and retain international STEM talent and entrepreneurs. Earlier this week, AAU President Barbara R. Snyder published a blog post on why Congress must ensure that the final competitiveness legislation retains these provisions.

The America COMPETES Act would exempt certain advanced STEM degree holders from annual numerical limits on green cards and create a new visa for foreign entrepreneurs. The Senate-passed USICA does not include these provisions. As President Snyder writes on the blog, international STEM graduates are vital to the American scientific and research enterprise. International students earn nearly half of all advanced STEM degrees in the United States, and many are responsible for making vital discoveries and starting transformative businesses. Unfortunately, it is becoming harder for them to live and work in the United States upon completion of their education. Our lack of action on this front is pushing the world’s brightest minds to seek opportunities elsewhere and hampering U.S. leadership in innovation and research, writes President Snyder.

Some reports suggest that lawmakers from both parties are open to including these immigration provisions in the final bill. President Snyder writes that while these targeted measures are not a substitute for wider immigration reform, they represent an “incremental change” that would significantly benefit the United States. “Congress must work together on a bipartisan basis to ensure that these provisions are retained in the final legislation,” she writes.

AAU, Associations Urge Congress to Include College Transparency Act in Final Competitiveness Legislation

AAU joined the American Association of Community Colleges, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, the American Council on Education, and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities in sending a letter to the leadership of the House and Senate education committees endorsing the College Transparency Act (S.839/H.R. 2030) and urging the inclusion of the CTA language currently in the America COMPETES Act in the final competitiveness legislation.

The CTA would require institutions to collect and provide to the Department of Education a range of data, disaggregated by demographics, on institutional performance and student outcomes. As the letter notes, the CTA “would plug troubling holes that exist in federal higher education data” and would provide “useful information that will empower students and families to make informed decisions on institutions and academic programs.” The data collected under CTA could also be used to develop targeted policies (such as doubling the annual maximum Pell Grant award) to better serve students and to improve affordability.

The letter acknowledges that the CTA would be initially challenging for many colleges to implement. It argues, however, that Congress should not let concerns about implementation or privacy stand in the way of moving it forward. The letter notes that the existing CTA language includes robust measures to protect the privacy and security of student-level data, and Congress could ease implementation by providing financial and logistical support to low-resourced institutions. AAU urges Congress to enact the CTA and looks forward to working with the administration on implementing it.

STEM student sitting at microscopeAAU Urges Appropriators to Prioritize Investments in Higher Education and Research in FY23 302(b) Discretionary Spending Allocations

AAU sent a letter earlier this week urging the leadership of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees to prioritize investments in student aid, higher education, and scientific research in FY23 302(b) discretionary spending allocations. The letter notes that robust investments in these areas are needed to “bolster America’s leadership in science and innovation” and to “strengthen our economic competitiveness, our health, and our national security.” (Discretionary spending allocations establish the spending cap for each of the 12 appropriations bills in Congress; once the spending caps are established, appropriations subcommittees in the House and the Senate determine how the allocated funds are spent among the various federal agencies and programs within their jurisdiction.)

The letter also asks appropriators to approve FY23 discretionary spending allocations this spring in order to permit the appropriations process to be completed on time. The letter specifically recommends 302(b) allocations to support investments in key scientific research and education agencies and programs, including the Department of Agriculture’s AFRI program, the Department of Defense’s 6.1 basic research program, the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, the Institute of Education Sciences, NASA, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and others.

Imagining the Future of Undergraduate STEM Education

How can we transform undergraduate STEM education to meet the needs of students, science, and society? The National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine recently concluded a series of seminars devoted to answering this question. The series focused on a range of topics concerning undergraduate STEM education, including creating student-centered learning experiences both inside and outside the classroom; appropriate uses of technology; and equity, inclusion, access, and flexibility. During the final seminar in the series, Envisioning Undergraduate STEM Education in 2040, AAU Deputy Vice President for Institutional Policy Emily Miller presented AAU’s ongoing work with the Undergraduate STEM Education Initiative, which seeks to improve the quality of undergraduate STEM education by fostering inclusive, evidence-based teaching and learning practices in STEM departments at AAU universities.   

This series of conversations was designed to advance the ideas and recommendations generated during a 2020 NASEM symposium on Imagining the Future of Undergraduate STEM Education. Proceedings from that symposium as well as video recordings are available for free on the NASEM website.

News of Interest

CNN: Stanford University Announces New Climate Change School with $1.1 Billion from Renowned Venture Capitalist – Stanford University announced that it has received a $1.1 billion gift from Silicon Valley venture capitalist John Doerr and his wife to fund a new school focused on sustainability and climate change. According to Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne, the university’s Doerr School of Sustainability “will build fundamental knowledge of the Earth and its systems, accelerate the development of solutions to the climate crisis at the scale that is needed, and educate tomorrow’s problem solvers and change makers in this urgent area.”

New Hampshire Public Radio: After 200 Years, Dartmouth Returns Papers of Native American Who Helped Establish the College – Dartmouth College recently held a repatriation ceremony to return a collection of handwritten papers belonging to Samson Occom to the Mohegan Tribe. Nearly 200 years ago, Occom, a Mohegan and a student of Reverend Eleazar Wheelock, had traveled to Europe to raise funds to establish a school for Native American students in Connecticut. Wheelock instead diverted the funds to educate white settlers in New Hampshire and to found Dartmouth College. During the ceremony, Dartmouth College President Philip Hanlon acknowledged that it had taken Dartmouth too long to return the papers. Leaders of the Mohegan Tribe said that the ceremony initiated a new relationship with Dartmouth.

The Washington Post: Inside Elite Transfer Admissions: From Community College to U-VA. – Public universities such as the University of Virginia are upping efforts to admit more transfer students from community colleges. The universities see transfers “as a powerful tool to diversify campuses across many dimensions, including age, income, race, social class and military service.” University of Virginia President James E. Ryan told The Post that strengthening partnerships with community colleges helps the university fulfill its mission as a public university, which is “to be a place of opportunity, a place of social mobility.”

Business Insider: The White House Says Biden Is Considering Student-Debt Forgiveness for Americans Making Less Than $125,000 a Year – White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki confirmed earlier this week that President Biden is considering student-loan forgiveness for individuals making less than $125,000 annually; this would make 95% of borrowers eligible for forgiveness. Biden is reportedly considering limiting the relief to $10,000 per borrower.

The Chronicle of Higher Education: Uncharted Territory”: What the Overturn of Roe v. Wade Could Mean for Colleges – Overturning Roe v. Wade could have several implications for colleges – women may find their college plans derailed due to unplanned pregnancies; medical schools might face confusion regarding what they’re allowed to teach; and colleges in states with abortion restrictions may struggle to attract faculty. 

USA Today: Mental Health Resources for Student-Athletes Becoming Priority at Colleges – Following the deaths of three student-athletes, mental health and wellbeing have become top priorities for college athletics departments. Some campuses have hired mental health professionals and opened dialogues on topics such as anxiety and depression; on other campuses, nonprofit organizations have stepped in to reduce some of the stigmas surrounding mental health.

Inside Higher Ed: Humanities Graduate Education Is Shrinking – According to a new report issued by the Humanities Indicators Project of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, fewer individuals are pursuing graduate degrees in the humanities. The report also found that humanities students take longer than students in other fields to earn their doctorates.

Featured Research


Scientists Create Tattoo-Like Sensors That Reveal Blood Oxygen Levels

Engineers at Tufts University have invented a silk-based material that can be placed under the skin to measure blood oxygen levels. Engineers see more potential uses for the sensors down the road, including monitoring blood glucose levels in patients with diabetes.

Turtles under water

Unchecked Global Emissions on Track to Initiate Mass Extinction of Marine Life

A new study by Princeton University researchers has found that, without significant cuts in global emissions, marine biodiversity could plummet to “levels not seen since the extinction of dinosaurs.” The study also found that cutting emissions could reduce the risk of extinction by more than 70%.

Upcoming Events

The Task Force on American Innovation, of which AAU is a member, is hosting a webinar on May 10 at 9:00 a.m. ET on U.S. Research and Innovation: Where Are We Amidst Global Competition? The webinar will bring togethers speakers from industry and the academy to discuss the need for Congress to prioritize research funding in order to maintain U.S. leadership in global science and innovation. The event will also feature the release of a new report from the American Association for the Advancement of Science on major global trends in scientific research and investment. Register for the webinar here.