CGS Submits Witness Testimony on FY 2024 Labor-HHS-Education Appropriation Bill

Earlier this week, CGS submitted written testimony to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies concerning graduate education programs funded by the Department of Education and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). In the written testimony, CGS highlighted Department of Education programs that promote access to graduate education and scholarship, strengthen diversity, equity, and inclusion at our nation’s universities, and create opportunities for international engagement and collaboration. For NIH, CGS expressed support for an appropriation of at least $50.924 billion for the agency’s foundational work for fiscal year 2024.

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In addition to the abovementioned written testimony, CGS and other higher education associations and scientific societies have started our joint advocacy on fiscal year 2024 appropriations legislation. Specifically, we are advocating for robust funding for federal research agencies such as the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, the National Institutes of Health, and the National Science Foundation. On March 14, the Energy Sciences Coalition urged the 118th Congress to appropriate $9.5 billion in fiscal year 2024 for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science (DOE-OS). This level of funding is consistent with the CHIPS and Science Act which was enacted into law last year. For fiscal year 2024, the Biden Administration proposes funding the DOE-OS at $8.8 billion, which is an increase of $700.4 million or 8.6 percent above the FY 2023 enacted amount of $8.1 billion. In its budget justification, the Office of Science proposes increasing efforts to support underserved communities through the Reaching a New Energy Sciences Workforce (RENEW) initiative, which includes a graduate fellowship to increase participation of students in fields aligned with programs. The Office of Science also mentioned their commitment to ensuring that students, trainees, and postdoctoral fellows are paid a fair and equitable wage sufficient to allow a reasonable standard of living. For graduate students, they consider a reasonable living wage to be an annual income of $45,000, excluding benefits.

Also on March 14, the Ad Hoc Group for Medical Research sent a letter to Congress requesting an appropriation of $50.9 billion in FY 2024 for NIH. The Biden Administration proposes $48.6 billion for the biomedical research agency for fiscal year 2024.

On March 15, the Coalition for National Science Funding sent a letter to Congress requesting at least $11.9 billion for the National Science Foundation (NSF) in fiscal year 2024. The Biden Administration proposes $11.3 billion for NSF in 2024. This includes a $1.4 billion increase for Research and Related Activities and a nearly $300 million increase to the Directorate of STEM Education, which administers the Graduate Research Fellowship Program and the Research Traineeship Program.

For more information, please view CGS’s Budget and Appropriations page for more information, including FY24 Funding for CGS Programs of Interest.

House Education and the Workforce Hearing on Student Loans

On March 23, the House Education and the Workforce Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Development held a hearing titled Breaking the System: Examining the Implications of Biden’s Student Loan Policies for Students and Taxpayers. The subcommittee hearing addressed the Biden Administration’s reforms to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, the recent proposed changes to the Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE) plan, and the proposed one-time student loan forgiveness plan currently before the U.S. Supreme Court. As reported by the higher education media, it was a contentious hearing in which there was few policy solutions to student loan debt.

CGS Letter to NSF Regarding Implementation of the Chips and Science Act

On March 15, CGS sent a letter to the National Science Foundation (NSF) regarding implementation of the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022. In the letter, CGS asks NSF to give special attention to programs that provide mentoring, career training, and professional development to graduate students and postdoctoral researchers, as well as to programs that aim to broaden participation in science. This includes the importance of Graduate STEM Education programs within NSF and the inclusion of mentoring and professional development plans for graduate students in implementation of the legislation that was passed by the 117th Congress and enacted into law last year.

Higher Education Community Engages the Biden Administration on Third-Party Servicers and Increased Visa Fees

Last week, CGS and 14 other organizations sent a letter to Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona concerning proposed changes to the 2011 guidance on incentive compensation for college recruiters and the bundling of services exception for third-party servicers. The guidance clarifies when companies and others who provide recruitment services to institutions of higher education will fall into the third-party servicers category regarding online program managers.

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In the letter, the organization said, “As we saw during the pandemic, online programs are crucial to ensuring our ability to deliver quality post-secondary education programs. Ultimately, many edtech services hold great promise as part of our continuing efforts to provide access to a high-quality postsecondary education. Let’s be careful not to do more harm than good, and certainly not to act before we have a good grasp of the entire picture. It is clear that we do not yet know enough to understand what revisions to the guidance will truly serve students. Any proposed changes to existing guidance must be carefully weighed in order to protect students while not stifling the innovation that is so necessary for the success of our students and higher education’s future.”

Yesterday, the Department of Education also announced virtual public hearings on April 11, 12, and 13 to receive stakeholder feedback on potential issues for future rulemaking sessions, including third-party servicers and related issues.

Recently, CGS signed on to a community letter regarding the proposed increase in fees charged by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for international students. The letter says, “USCIS is seeking an almost 40 percent overall increase in fees to many of the programs important to U.S. higher education and to our international students, faculty, and staff. We are concerned that the severity of these fee increases will deter these international scholars.”

CGS staff will continue to closely monitor regulatory actions on both issues.

Department of Education Announces Use of Secret Shoppers

The Department of Education announced this week that the Office of Federal Student Aid will use secret shoppers to monitor compliance in federal student aid programs. The announcement mentioned that secret shoppers will look for misrepresentations regarding the transferability of credits, job placement rates, completion and withdrawal rates, graduates’ future earning potential, career services, the cost of attendance, the amount of federal student aid, and accreditation status, along with any other practices that may violate the laws and regulations governing an institution’s participation in the federal student aid programs. Since the announcement, trade publications such as Inside Higher Ed have written articles concerning the new initiative.

Department of Energy Announces $150 Million for Research on the Science Foundations for Energy Earthshots

On March 21, the Department of Energy announced $150 million for research into the crosscutting foundational science for multiple Energy Earthshots. This program will support fundamental scientific research to seed innovations or to provide the scientific understanding to support existing technology development pathways for the needed portfolio of Energy Earthshot solutions. The six Energy Earthshots include the Hydrogen Shot, the Long Duration Storage Shot, the Carbon Negative Shot, the Enhanced Geothermal Shot, the Floating Offshore Wind Shot, and the Industrial Heat Shot. Applications are open to all accredited U.S. colleges and universities, not-for-profit organizations, and private sector companies. A webinar on this opportunity will be held on March 27th at 12:30 p.m. EDT. You can register for the webinar here.