The legislation includes investments in higher education and research, including reauthorization of international education programs to increase and expand existing foreign language and area studies programs across the country. In addition, increased research investments at the Department of Energy Office of Science and the National Science Foundation are included. For detailed information about the newly released legislation, please see the fact sheet and the section-by-section analysis. The Senate’s version of the bill, the United States Innovation and Competition Act (USICA), passed 68-32 in June 2021.
Education Department Action to Support Students’ Basic Needs and Mitigate the Spread of COVID-19 at Colleges and Universities
The U.S. Department of Education has announced resources for students and institutions to help reduce barriers to success in higher education. In its press release, the department announced a $198 million grant opportunity under the Supplemental Support in the American Rescue Plan (SSARP), which will primarily support community colleges and rural institutions of higher education. Funds can be used for the following: (1) evidence-based practices to monitor and suppress Coronavirus; (2) strategies for addressing students’ basic needs; (3) support for students’ continued enrollment and re-enrollment; (4) forgiveness of institutional debts; and (5) the expansion of programs that lead to in-demand jobs.
“In speaking with students from across the country at all different types of higher education institutions, I have heard consistently that the pandemic has exacerbated challenges in meeting students’ basic needs, from housing, to food, to transportation, and more,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “We cannot let this be a barrier to student success, particularly for students who have contended with these issues for far too long. The resources we are announcing today will be critical to ensuring that students can persist and successfully complete their degree programs without having to worry about where their next meal will come from or whether they will be able to find childcare for their children.”
The American Rescue Plan provided $40 billion to colleges and universities through the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF). To address and stem the coronavirus pandemic, the American Rescue Plan provided more than $10 billion to community colleges, more than $2.6 billion to historically black colleges and universities, and $13 billion to minority-serving institutions. Throughout the pandemic, CGS has been supportive of legislation to provide emergency funding to institutions of higher education impacted by the pandemic. Here is a letter CGS signed-on to in February 2021.
Student Loan Debt: Calls to Release Department of Education Memorandum
U.S. State Department Expands Options for Foreign Students
On January 21, the U.S. Department of State announced actions to attract global talent to strengthen our economy and technological competitiveness. In its press release, the department announced new guidance that will facilitate additional academic training for undergraduate and graduate students in STEM fields on the J-1 visa for periods of up to 36 months. That is an increase from a maximum of 18 months.
As stated in the press release, “International students, researchers, scholars, and exchange alumni contribute to the long-term economic health and competitiveness of the U.S. economy, contribute to U.S. leadership in research and innovation, and advance our diplomacy and mutual understanding between nations. In 2020, international students contributed more than $39 billion to our economy and supported an estimated 410,000 American jobs in cities and towns across our country. U.S. entities and businesses gain a competitive edge in our global economy with the perspectives and skillsets of international students and scholars, particularly in the STEM fields.”
Coalition Letter on Fiscal Year 2022 Appropriations
Recently, the Task Force on American Innovation, of which CGS is a member, sent a letter to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees regarding the importance of federally funded research in the physical sciences and engineering. “Given the urgent need to recommit our nation to prioritizing science and technology research and the increasing global competition we face in emerging technologies, we strongly encourage Congress to complete the FY22 appropriations process in a timely manner.” Congress has until February 18 before the latest continuing resolution to fund the government runs out.