On June 17, Reps. Ann Kuster (D-NH), Fred Upton (R-MI), Kim Schrier (D-WA), and Tim Burchett (R-TN) reintroduced legislation aimed at increasing access and affordability in graduate education. The Expanding Access to Graduate Education Act would allow graduate students who received Pell Grants as undergraduates—but did not fully exhaust all 12 semesters of support they are eligible for under current law—to allocate remaining support towards a graduate degree as long as they remain income eligible. CGS has advocated for this proposal for several years. Upon reintroduction of the bill, CGS issued a statement of support and sent a letter to the co-sponsors applauding the legislation.
“The reintroduction of this legislation highlights a commitment to maximize the Pell Grant program and ensure that individuals with exceptional financial need can pursue higher levels of in-demand education,” said CGS President Suzanne T. Ortega. “Since the COVID-19 pandemic, a lack of financial support is a top concern for prospective graduate students, particularly from underserved backgrounds, so it is paramount that our nation’s investments include expanding access to more students from these communities.”
For more information, view CGS’s advocacy toolkit on the legislation.
On 9th Anniversary, the Fight to Fortify DACA Continues
Also, on June 15, the White House Office of Management and Budget released a proposed rule to preserve and fortify DACA in the spring unified agenda for all agencies, which details proposed rules and regulations. The notice of proposed rulemaking upholds President Biden’s January 2021 Presidential Memorandum, Preserving and Fortifying Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which requires the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in consultation with the Attorney General, to take all appropriate action to preserve and fortify DACA, consistent with applicable law. DHS is expected to open a comment period during the rulemaking process to codify DACA.
CGS and the higher education community continue to advocate for a permanent, legislative solution for DACA. On February 22, CGS joined the higher education community on a letter to Senate leadership in support of the bipartisan Dream Act (S.264), an immigration bill that would also offer a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers. Approximately 427,000 undocumented students are enrolled in higher education, including 181,000 DACA-eligible individuals. In addition to hosting the Higher Ed Immigration Portal, which offers information on DACA and undocumented students, the Presidents’ Alliance on Immigration, in partnership with FWD.us, developed a toolkit for higher education institutions to help colleges and universities support DACA recipients and other undocumented students.
House Committee Advances NSF for the Future Act
Among the other amendments adopted in the committee markup, Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) introduced an amendment that would make research grants accessible to both graduate students and postdoctoral researchers; Congressman Conor Lamb (D-PA) offered an amendment that would create NSF fellowships for Ph.D.-trained scientists and engineers with demonstrated entrepreneurial ideals to strengthen partnerships between academia and industry; Congressman Bill Foster (D-IL) proposed graduate STEM scholarships intended to increase the matriculation of diverse candidates; and a number of committee members introduced provisions that seek to safeguard U.S. research and innovation. The full list of adopted provisions is available here. The House will next consider the NSF for the Future Act and the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (S.1260), the Senate’s counterpart legislation that passed in the upper chamber in June. Both bills began as NSF reauthorization and have adopted various provisions to embolden the U.S. research enterprise.
Senate Passes Massive R&D Legislation, Sends to House
The investment in NSF would fund research and workforce development at U.S. institutions of higher education, allocating $9.6 billion for a new NSF competitive award program to establish multi-disciplinary and multi-sector technology centers at U.S. institutions. An additional $5.2 billion would be designated for scholarships for community college students, undergraduates, and graduate fellowships and for postdoctoral awards in the key technology focus areas. The scholarships and fellowships are intended to increase underrepresented populations’ participation in STEM fields, with specific investments for traineeships at minority-serving institutions. The legislation includes a myriad of other funding including support for competitive research grants available for institutions and for institutions in transitioning research results to develop and commercialize technologies within one of the focus areas, among others.
The legislation includes additional provisions on federal reporting requirements for foreign gifts to U.S. institutions. One mandate would require the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) to review foreign contributions to U.S. colleges and universities over $1 million. However, a separate provision by the Senate Banking Committee included in the final legislation would effectively block the CFIUS proposal. For Department of Education gift reporting, the legislation would lower the reporting threshold for foreign gifts and contracts from $250,000 to $50,000. Additionally, the bill would require large research universities to construct and maintain a database of foreign gifts and contracts received by individual faculty members and researchers on their campuses. Finally, the legislation would increase penalties for researchers who fail to report foreign support; bolster the Department of State’s ability to deny suspicious visa applications for research in sensitive technology areas; and require sanctions in response to foreign theft or cyberattacks on U.S. intellectual property or research networks. Now approved by the Senate, the legislation’s future in the House is uncertain as the lower chamber continues to consider the NSF for the Future Act (H.R.2225), an alternative proposal in many regards. CGS has endorsed the NSF for the Future Act and will continue to monitor both pieces of legislation to keep members and stakeholders apprised as proceedings continue.
Now Available: 2021 CGS State Snapshots
Department of Education Virtual Title IX Hearings
The public made arguments both for and against the regulations released under former Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, which direct institutions to hold live hearings and cross-examinations when handling a report of sexual misconduct. Representatives of smaller institutions noted the additional burdens that accompany the requirement and voiced concern that the proceedings decreased the number of reported Title IX infractions. One advocate suggested the courtroom-style proceedings remain in place with a neutral decision-maker overseeing the event, rather than the current process, which calls upon the advisers to the complainant and the accused.
The virtual hearing is one component in the department’s comprehensive review of all agency actions related to the regulations. The review seeks to fulfill President Biden’s March 2021 executive order combatting sex discrimination in educational settings. Since their origination, the Trump-era Title IX regulations have survived a series of legal battles seeking their revision. OCR will use stakeholder insights from this week’s virtual hearing to determine additional changes to the Title IX regulations, which is anticipated to lead to a notice of proposed rulemaking following the review and public hearing. On June 10, CGS joined community comments to the Department of Education with recommendations to improve enforcement of the regulations.