On April 28, the night before his 100th day in office, President Biden addressed a joint session of Congress, highlighting his most recent spending plans, the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan. The President’s speech emphasized a “buy American, by American” agenda, focusing on jobs, on-shore manufacturing, and leadership in the global competition for technology advancement. Encouraging lawmakers to support his proposal to increase investment in research and development, Biden proposed a new Federal health agency, the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Health, focused on combatting diseases, such as cancer and diabetes. The proposal is modeled after the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, a research and development agency at the Department of Defense that is responsible for developing innovative technologies for the military.
Ahead of his address, President Biden unveiled the American Families Plan, which includes robust investments in various areas of higher education, including the Pell Grant program and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs). The plan, which would cost roughly $1 trillion over the course of ten years, also includes tax and childcare provisions and makes Dreamers eligible to receive Pell and free community college benefits. The plan would invest $85 billion in Pell Grants; $62 billion to strengthen completion and retention at community colleges and institutions that serve students from disadvantaged communities; $46 billion to subsidized tuition at HBCUs and MSIs; and $9 billion for teacher training. The provisions are favorable among some lawmakers, already receiving praise from Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) and House Education and Labor Chair Bobby Scott (D-VA).
USCIS Issues Guidance on International Students and Visa Processing
On April 27, USCIS issued new policy guidance in the USCIS Policy Manual that addresses how the agency will adjudicate petitions for visa extensions. The guidance increases the likelihood that a visa holder is able to renew their status based on previous evidence, unless a change or error in marital status has occurred. If all personnel information is the same, USCIS will defer to an individual’s previous petition outcome. The guidance also notes that USCIS will prioritize evidence in the application under review and corresponding record and will consider but not automatically defer to other Federal agency determinations when deciding a petition’s outcome.
DOS Announces Travel Guidance for International Students
CGS-JED Report Release: Supporting Graduate Student Mental Health and Well-being
“Given the diversity of the graduate student population both in terms of life stage and career goals, considering the unique needs of graduate students in campus mental health plans must be a priority,” said CGS President Suzanne T. Ortega. “Establishing a shared set of values and a framework of principles and commitments is just the first step toward creating more inclusive, supportive program and campus environments and ensuring more equitable access to care. Our work with JED lays the foundation for future research on this critically important topic.”
Graduate student mental health and well-being requires the attention not only of graduate deans, but of all those with a stake in graduate education. CGS has made available recommendations to presidents and provosts, graduate program directors and department chairs, graduate faculty, students and funding agencies. CGS Government Affairs also prioritizes graduate student success and well-being as one of six key policy areas in its 2021-2022 Federal Policy Agenda.
The report’s executive summary presents key recommendations from the project, including a call to action for graduate deans. Additionally, CGS and JED have created a Communications Toolkit with infographics, sample social media posts, a blurb for your website or newsletter, and other resources. Finally, a Statement of Principles for Graduate Student Mental Health and Well-being is available here.
Nomination Process Continues for Biden Appointees
On April 27, President Biden announced that he will nominate Sheriff Ed Gonzalez to lead U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the agency responsible for enforcing immigration laws. Gonzalez currently serves as the sheriff of Harris County, TX, overseeing the largest sheriff’s office in the state and the third-largest in the nation. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas endorsed Gonzalez in a statement, citing his career in law enforcement and public service as sound preparation to lead ICE in advancing U.S. public safety and homeland security.
On April 21, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee advanced the nomination of James Kvaal to serve as undersecretary of the Department of Education by a bipartisan vote of 19-3. If approved by the full Senate, Kvaal would serve in the top role overseeing higher education. A final confirmation vote has yet to be scheduled on the Senate floor. On April 14, CGS joined the higher education community on a letter to Senate HELP leadership endorsing Kvaal’s nomination ahead of his committee hearing April 15.