CGS Supports Bipartisan Expanding Access to Graduate Education Act

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

On June 15, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program celebrated its 9th anniversary. The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the American Dream and Promise Act, (H.R. 6), which would provide a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers and those with DACA and Temporary Protected Status. Republican members of the Senate committee criticized the legislation during the hearing, citing the need for stringent immigration security before broadening access to benefits and services. The U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 6 in March 2021 by a bipartisan vote, a first step in Democratic lawmakers’ intent to enact major changes to immigration law.


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, 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

On June 15, the House Science Committee passed the National Science Foundation (NSF) for the Future Act (H.R. 2225) out of committee, legislation that CGS endorsed in May. The NSF for the Future Act would increase funding for NSF over the next six fiscal years, implementing programs to bolster advanced technology and U.S. competitiveness in research and development. Key provisions for the U.S. STEM workforce and graduate education include investments in fellowships and traineeships as well as research funding for graduate student mental health, per an amendment introduced by Congresswoman Susan Wild (D-PA).


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

On June 9, the Senate passed the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (S.1260), which would provide federal funding for technology research and the National Science Foundation (NSF). The expansive package is centered on research and development (R&D) and elevating U.S. global competitiveness. The NSF would receive $81 billion over the next five fiscal years (FY) beginning in FY22 to invest in “key technology focus areas,” including artificial intelligence, advanced computing, robotics and automation, natural disaster prevention or mitigation, biotechnology and data storage and management.


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

This month, CGS published updated State Snapshots, which capture the scope and impact of graduate education and research in all 50 states and U.S. territories. The state-specific fact sheets are downloadable and can be used with policymakers and other stakeholders as members see fit. The featured data include enrollments and degrees conferred from CGS’s annual Graduate Enrollment and Degrees Report (2019); fiscal year 2020 federal research funding for the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, National Endowment for the Humanities, and the National Institute for Food and Agriculture; projected workforce demands over the next decade; and CGS member institutions by Congressional district. Visit the CGS State Snapshots webpage to find your state profile through our new interactive map.

Department of Education Virtual Title IX Hearings

On June 7, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) commenced a five day, virtual hearing to gather information from the public and stakeholders as a part of the department’s comprehensive review of the current Title IX regulations. Commentators highlighted a range of issues covered by the anti-discrimination laws born from the Education Amendments of 1972, including the need for Title IX to address sexual violence prevention and how colleges and universities handle Title IX complaints.


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.

USCIS Issues Changes to Policy Manual and Lockbox Flexibilities

On June 9, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced new policy updates in the USCIS Policy Manual to clarify the criteria and circumstances for expedited processing; improve request for evidence (RFE) and notice of intent to deny (NOID) guidance; and increase the validity period for initial and renewal employment authorization documents (EADs) for certain noncitizens with pending adjustment of status applications. USCIS is returning to the adjudicative principles of a June 2013 memo that instructed agency officers to issue an RFE or NOID when additional evidence could potentially demonstrate eligibility for an immigration benefit. The agency rescinds a July 2018 memo that permitted agency officers to deny certain immigration benefit requests instead of first issuing an RFE or NOID.
EADs are required for admission to the Optional Practical Training program, among other vocational immigration benefits. Updated policy guidance regarding EADs will increase the current one-year validity period on both initial and renewal EADs to two years for certain adjustment of status applicants in an effort to reduce the number of employment authorization requests USCIS receives and allow the agency to shift limited resources to other priority areas. The changes to the policy manual were issued due to ongoing processing delays affecting the agency’s ability to complete adjustment of status applications in a timely fashion.
On June 10, USCIS also announced updated filing flexibilities for certain applicants and petitioners impacted by delays at USCIS lockboxes, application drop-off sites. Lockboxes have been in use while USCIS service centers or field offices have been closed during the pandemic. Between June 10 and August 9, 2021, applications that were rejected due to an expired filing fee payment are eligible for resubmission with a new fee payment. If delays impede an applicant seeking an age-restricted benefit because the applicant has reached an age that makes them no longer eligible to file for the benefit requested, USCIS will accept the request based on the initial date. More information on these filing flexibilities is available here.