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Leading Research Universities Report, May 8, 2023

Person of color studyingHouse-Passed Spending Limits Would Lead to Massive Cuts in Federal R&D and Education Spending, Block Student Loan Forgiveness

Last month, the House voted 217-215 mostly along party lines to pass the Limit, Save, Grow Act of 2023 (H.R. 2811), which slashes FY24 federal spending by $130 billion to FY22 levels. The bill also imposes caps on federal spending for the next decade and blocks President Biden’s effort to cancel up to $20,000 per borrower in student loan debt. According to The Washington Post, “The cuts probably would target federal health care, science, education, climate, energy, labor and research programs, while leaving untouched the Pentagon and services for veterans.” However, the bill does not specify which agencies and programs would be cut. Per the White House, if defense spending is left as is, the bill would require a 22% cut in nondefense spending.

A new analysis from the Federation of American Scientists shows just how severe the cuts to federal research and development spending would be under the proposed budget, noting that “all federal R&D could decline by $28 billion or 13% in FY 2024, and $442 billion or 19% in the aggregate” over 10 years. This would translate to significant cuts to agencies such as the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, NASA, the Department of Energy, and others that perform life-changing research that helps propel the economy and keeps our nation healthy and secure.

The Department of Education has also raised concerns that the cuts would significantly reduce education spending in the United States. It said in a press release that the House bill would “gut funding for low-income students,” “reduce support for students with disabilities,” “slash mental health support for students,” and “make college more expensive” by likely eliminating “Pell Grants altogether for 80,000 students while reducing the maximum award by nearly $1,000 for the remaining 6.6 million recipients.” According to Inside Higher Ed, “Returning federal spending to fiscal year 2022 levels would mean up to an 8 to 23 percent cut for the Education Department, depending on whether defense and other agencies are protected from the reductions.”

House Education Committee Chair Virginia Foxx (R-NC) released a statement saying she supports the House proposal because it will help reduce U.S. debt and control inflation.

The House bill has no chance of passing in the Senate; Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has called the package “dead on arrival” but plans to hold hearings highlighting the impacts of the proposed cuts.

A digital rendition of a microchip with the letters AINational Science Foundation Selects Seven AAU Members to Lead National Artificial Intelligence Research Institutes

Last week, the National Science Foundation announced that it is collaborating with institutions of higher education and other federal agencies to invest $140 million in seven new National Artificial Intelligence Research Institutes across the nation. All seven institutes will be led by AAU members.

According to the NSF, the new AI institutes will “develop novel approaches to cybersecurity, contribute to innovative solutions to climate change, expand our understanding of the brain, and leverage AI capabilities to enhance education and public health.” The institutes will also “support the development of a diverse AI workforce in the United States and help address the risks and potential harms posed by AI.”

The seven institutes are as follows: the NSF Institute for Trustworthy AI in Law & Society led by the University of Maryland; the AI Institute for Agent-based Cyber Threat Intelligence and Operation led by the University of California, Santa Barbara; the AI Institute for Climate-Land Interactions, Migration, Adaptation, Tradeoffs and Economy led by the University of Minnesota; the AI Institute for Artificial and Natural Intelligence led by Columbia University; the AI Institute for Societal Decision Making led by Carnegie Mellon University; the AI Institute for Inclusive Intelligent Technologies for Education led by the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign; and the AI Institute for Exceptional Education led by the University at Buffalo.

Digital rendition of lab worker using AIAAU’s Kate Hudson Discusses Importance of Preserving Bayh-Dole Act Provisions for University Research on Vital Health Podcast

AAU Associate Vice President and Counsel for Policy and Federal Relations Kate Hudson appeared on the Vital Health Podcast last week to discuss how attacks on the 1980 Bayh-Dole Act put university research at risk.

The Bayh-Dole Act allows recipients of federal funding to own patent rights and encourages universities and researchers to partner with the private sector to bring new discoveries to the market. The act also includes a limited right for federal agencies to “march in” and to require owners of a patent developed through federally funded research to grant additional patent licenses to others in limited situations meeting specific criteria. Hudson explained on the podcast that the “march-in” rights were put in place as an “emergency hatch for the government” to address concerns that companies would license university inventions solely to prevent their development and entry into the marketplace, not as a method to control the pricing of technological breakthroughs.

Recently, federal agencies have faced a growing number of calls to use their “march-in” rights to seize patents in order to lower the cost of drugs. A 2021 petition, for example, asked the NIH to sidestep patents on Xtandi, a prostate cancer drug, to help lower its cost. Hudson said on the podcast that the government has never used its “march-in” rights before – and that using them now to lower drug costs would disrupt universities’ partnerships with the private sector and make it harder to bring lifesaving drugs and other university technologies to the market. If universities and private companies are forced to relicense patents, she said, they could be dissuaded from investing in and commercializing university discoveries. The full podcast is available here.

A sign that says: American Opportunity tax creditHouse Representatives Introduce AAU-Endorsed Tax-Free Pell Grant Act

Last week, Reps. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), Mike Kelly (R-PA), Danny K. Davis (D-IL), and Adrian Smith (R-NE) introduced the bipartisan Tax-Free Pell Grant Act, which would provide hundreds of thousands of low-income students who receive Pell Grants with access to the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC).

As explained in Rep. Doggett’s press release, the AOTC “covers up to $2,500 in annual college tuition, fees, and other education-related expenses.” If students use Pell Grants to cover tuition and fees, however, they must deduct their Pell Grants from AOTC-eligible expenses, thus reducing their ability to claim the tax credit. Further, any portion of a Pell Grant used to cover non-tuition costs such as room and board must be reported as taxable income. The Tax-Free Pell Grant Act simplifies tax law to make Pell Grants more compatible with the AOTC and repeals the taxability of Pell Grants. AAU fully supports the Tax-Free Pell Grant Act and looks forward to working with Congress to advance this important legislation.

News of Interest

The Washington Post: Opinion: A College Degree Is Worth the Cost – and Then Some – In an opinion piece, Princeton University President Christopher Eisgruber argues that, despite a majority of Americans now believing that a college degree is not “worth the cost,” analyses show that that there is hardly “a more reliable and cost-effective investment than attending and completing college.”

Toronto Star: U of T’s Acceleration Consortium Receives Nearly $200M Federal Grant to Automate Research – The University of Toronto’s Acceleration Consortium has “received one of the largest federal research grants in Canadian history” to create “self-driving labs,” which use robots and artificial intelligence to “automate and vastly accelerate” the pace of discovery. The labs could significantly speed up and cut the cost of creating or discovering “new materials like biodegradable plastics or new cancer treatments.”

KRHD: Texas A&M Aggie Way Scholarship Initiative to Raise $100 Million by 2026, Making College More Accessible – Texas A&M University plans to raise $100 million for the Aggie Way Scholarship Initiative in the next four years to ensure that more students are able to access and afford a high-quality college education.

Higher Ed Dive: Higher Ed Can Help More Young Adults Get Good Jobs by Age 30, Report Finds – A new report from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce finds that “if all eligible workers entered a bachelor's degree program by the age of 22, roughly 765,000 more young adults would hold good jobs by age 30.” The report also finds that if students “went on to finish their degrees, 1.2 million additional adults would hold good jobs by age 30.”

Inside Higher Ed: Cost Is the Biggest Barrier to Enrollment: Survey – A new report from Gallup and the Lumina Foundation finds that 47% of U.S. adults currently not enrolled in college have “considered attending some sort of postsecondary program.” A majority of adults (55%) cited cost as a barrier to enrollment; 45% cited inflation; 38% cited the need to work; and 28% “said personal mental health reasons kept them from enrolling.”

Featured Research

Overhead image of solar panel farm

Researchers and Collaborators Developing New Technologies for Recycling Solar Panels

Less than 10% of solar panels are recycled at the end of their lifespan; they are made of many layers of material, including “rare and costly metal,” that are difficult to separate or require harsh chemicals to deconstruct. Now, University of Kansas scientists are developing a method that uses ozone “to recover the valuable metals.” The scientists expect the resulting process “to be faster, cleaner and more cost-effective – potentially solving an industrywide recycling challenge.”

A sthethescope resting on a laptop open with medial imagery

Powerful Chemotherapy Drug Reaches Brain Tumors Using Novel Ultrasound Technology

Scientists at Northwestern Medicine have completed a study that successfully used an “ultrasound device to open the blood-brain barrier” to deliver chemotherapy to the brain. The blood-brain barrier “is a microscopic structure that shields the brain from the vast majority of circulating drugs” and poses a major challenge in treating brain tumors because it blocks chemotherapy drugs from reaching the brain. Scientists called the results “potentially a huge advance for glioblastoma patients.”

Stat of the Week


Majority of Americans Have a Favorable View of University Hospitals

A recent study of American adults conducted by SSRS on AAU’s behalf showed that a majority of Americans (76%) have a favorable impression of university hospitals.

University hospitals educate medical students; provide high-quality healthcare to local communities, including treatments for rare and deadly conditions; and conduct groundbreaking medical research.