Biden Signs COVID-19 Relief Bill, $40B Included for Higher Ed

On March 11, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 into law. The legislation allocates $170 for education overall, with roughly $40 billion for the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund. On March 10, by a vote of 220-211, the House passed the final version of the package, which the Senate approved by a vote of 50-49 on March 6. CGS has created a summary of provisions in the American Rescue Plan relevant to graduate education and continues to advocate for federal funding to support institutions and students in addressing and recovering from the pandemic.

Supporting Early-Career Researchers Act Advances in the House, Reintroduced in the Senate

On March 9, the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology advanced the Supporting Early-Career Researchers Act (H.R. 144) out of committee with bipartisan support. The legislation would provide $250 million in funding to establish a 2-year postdoctoral fellowship program at the National Science Foundation (NSF), which would award grants to highly qualified early-career researchers whose employment prospects have been affected by COVID-19.


Lawmakers emphasized the importance of providing targeted relief to support early-career scientists, with the ultimate goal of ensuring the U.S. maintains a robust STEM pipeline as the research enterprise recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. In her opening statement, Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) emphasized the magnitude of need, citing a recent analysis that records a 70 percent drop in faculty openings at U.S. institutions. Congressmen Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) and Donald Norcross (D-NY) introduced an amendment that directs program outreach to recruit a diverse group of applicants, particularly those from and intending to carry out research at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic-Serving Institutions, and Tribal Colleges and Universities. Congresswoman Gwen Moore (D-WI) also introduced an amendment to address diversity and inclusion that requires the NSF director to issue a report including information on fellowship grantees; which institutions received fellowship awards; and the assessment on the effectiveness of the program. Both amendments passed by voice vote, along with three other amendments. The full list of amendments is available here.


Also, on March 9, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) led the reintroduction of the companion legislation in the upper chamber, which CGS formally endorsed in a letter sent on February 23. On March 11, CGS sent a letter to leaders of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology endorsing the Supporting Early-Career Researchers Act (H.R. 144).

Executive Order Calls for Review of Title IX Regulations

On March 8, President Biden signed an executive order directing the Department of Education to review and replace all existing regulations, guidance, and policies related to sexual violence in education within 100 days. The executive order instructs newly-confirmed Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona to consider issuing new guidance, particularly on the Title IX regulations put in place by the Trump administration.


Throughout 2020, lawmakers and education stakeholders posed issues with the current Title IX regulations, filing numerous lawsuits, which were unsuccessful in overturning the rules. Lawmakers continued advocating for changes to the regulations earlier this month when a group of democratic officials sent a letter to Secretary Cardona urging him to work with the Department of Justice to repeal the Title IX regulations in place. When the rule was first proposed in 2019, CGS joined the higher education community on public comments noting the extremely complex nature of the regulations and highlighting several concerns and questions. During the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, CGS joined a higher education community letter requesting that the Department of Education delay further actions on the rule until institutions returned to normal operations and could properly adopt the new procedures. The regulations went into effect in August 2020.

DHS Will Not Enforce Public Charge Rule

On March 9, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced the repeal of the 2019 Public Charge Grounds (“public charge”) rule. Created under the Trump administration, the rule required DHS to measure criteria, including the use of public benefits, financial records, age, health, income, education, and more, to determine whether non-citizens would be in need of future public assistance and become a “public charge.” While participation in postsecondary education was not evaluated in measuring an individual as a potential public charge, the removal of this regulation may alleviate certain concerns shared among international students about studying in the U.S., particularly if they had previously accepted any public benefits.

National Humanities Alliance Holds Annual Meeting and Advocacy Day

On March 8-10, the National Humanities Alliance held its annual meeting and advocacy day virtually. The National Humanities Alliance, a nationwide coalition of organizations advocating for the humanities, centered its advocacy day on specific funding asks for the National Endowment for the Humanities, Title VI and Fulbright-Hays programs, and the National Archives and Records Administration. During meetings with Members of Congress and their staff, participants also encouraged legislators to join the House Congressional Humanities Caucus and the Senate Cultural Caucus. These caucuses work to strengthen the nation’s awareness of history, literature, languages, and other humanities disciplines and offer another avenue for Members of Congress to indicate their support for the humanities. Matthew Smith, manager of public policy and government affairs, attended the meeting and advocacy day on CGS’s behalf.