Addressing Debt Ceiling Could Be Tied to Funding Government for Fiscal Year 2024

As of January 19, the United States reached its statutory debt limit of $31.381 trillion. In response, the Department of Treasury has undertaken “extraordinary measures” to pay off debt held by the federal government, which will last until June 5, 2023. A brief explanation of the debt limit can be found here. It is now up to the 118th Congress to address the debt limit for the United States to meet its financial obligations.

At this point, there are reports that House Republicans could vote for a suspension of the borrowing limit that will last until September 30, 2023. Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has pledged to cut spending for FY2024, with other members vocal about rescinding unspent COVID-19 relief dollars to cut spending without touching programs like Medicare or Social Security. The process to fund the government for fiscal year 2024 begins with the President’s Budget Request, which is projected to be released in March 2023.

What’s Happening in Washington: Capitol Hill, the White House, and Supreme Court

The 118th Congress convened on January 3, 2023, with much fanfare and anticipation. In the last three weeks, the House of Representatives has elected Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) as Speaker of the House and made committee appointments. As mentioned in the last Washington Insights & Highlights Newsletter, Representative Virginia Foxx (R-NC) is the new chair of the House Education and Workforce Committee. According to recent committee press releases Chairwoman Foxx will be focused on oversight of the federal government, including President Biden’s Student Loan Forgiveness Plan.

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As also mentioned in previous Washington Insights and Highlights newsletters, the Student Loan Forgiveness Plan is currently on hold until the Supreme Court hears arguments regarding legal standing of the plan on February 28. The plan includes cancelling up to $20,000 in debt for Pell Grant recipients with loans held by the Department of Education, and up to $10,000 in debt cancellation for non-Pell Grant recipients. Graduate student loan debt is included in the proposed debt relief program. According to an article in today’s Inside Higher Ed, “Lawmakers and student debt advocacy groups are pushing the Biden administration to develop backup plans in case the U.S. Supreme Court rules against the administration’s one-time student loan forgiveness plan.” The administration is being encouraged to change its legal justification for the forgiveness plan from the Higher Education Relief Opportunities Act of 2003 to the Higher Education Act of 1965. The Supreme Court is expected to issue its ruling on the forgiveness plan in the summer. The Supreme Court is also expected to issue its ruling on the Harvard and University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill admission cases in June 2023. For more information about these cases, please read the latest Department of Education’s press release and the amicus brief that CGS signed on to in support of Harvard and UNC-Chapel Hill.

Earlier this month, the Department of Education announced proposed changes to the Income Driven Repayment (IDR) Plan. As part of that announcement, the Department also mentioned its plans to publish a list of programs at all types of colleges and universities that provide the least financial value to students. To advance this effort, the Department issued a Request for Information Regarding Public Transparency for Low-Financial-Value Postsecondary Programs. All written comments are due by February 10, 2023.

Once the list is published, institutions with programs on the list will be asked to submit plans to the Department on how to improve their financial value. This list could impact some graduate education programs throughout the country.

NSF Fall 2021 Survey Finds Increases in Graduate Students Studying Science and Engineering

On January 17, the National Science Foundation’s National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES) released their Fall 2021 Survey of Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering. The report is an annual census of all U.S. academic institutions granting research-based master’s or doctorate degrees in science, engineering, and selected health fields for the fall of the survey year. Some key findings from the report include a 44.3 percent increase in first-time, full-time master’s students and a 13.4 percent increase in first-time, full-time doctoral students between 2020 and 2021. Overall findings show the highest enrollments reported since separate data for master’s and doctoral students became available in 2017. More information concerning the report can be found here. For more information about the release of future NCSES surveys and reports, please visit their website.

Applications Open for Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad Program

This week the Department of Education issued a notice inviting applications for the Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad program. The purpose of the program is to promote, improve, and develop the study of modern foreign languages and area studies in the United States. The program provides opportunities for faculty, teachers, and undergraduate and graduate students to conduct group projects overseas. Projects may include: (1) short-term seminars, curriculum development, or group research or study; or (2) long-term advanced intensive language programs. Estimated available funds are $3.7 million with 25 estimated awards. The application deadline is March 27, 2023. Technical assistance webinars about the program can be found here and here.

NSF Provides Scholarships to Develop Cybersecurity Experts

The National Science Foundation recently announced $29 million in new awards for the CyberCorps Scholarship for Service program. The program supports institutions of higher education in establishing or continuing scholarship programs to recruit and train the next generation of cybersecurity professionals to meet the needs of federal, state, local and tribal governments’ cybersecurity missions. This includes educational opportunities for graduate students. The next solicitation of award proposals is expected in April 2023 with submission deadline in July 2023. Congress allocated $69 million for the NSF program in Fiscal Year 2023, an increase of 9.5 percent from Fiscal Year 2022.