Movement on Appropriations, Infrastructure Packages

On July 29, the full House of Representatives passed a $600 billion, seven-bill appropriations package by a vote of 219-208, including the Labor-Health and Human Services-Education and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS-Education) appropriations bill. The House Labor-HHS-Education bill would provide $49.4 billion for the National Institutes of Health; $102.8 billion for the Department of Education; and $10.6 billion for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Other significant line items include nearly $186 million in community project funding, also known as earmarks, for higher education. The seven-bill minibus includes the Labor-HHS-Education; Agriculture, Food and Drug Administration (FDA); Energy and Water; Interior, Environment; Military Construction and Veterans Affairs; Transportation and Housing and Urban Development, and Financial Services funding bills. On July 28, the House advanced the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies spending bill through adoption of a special rule. The bill includes $9.6 billion for the National Science Foundation, with increases for research and efforts to broaden participation in STEM.

During the week of August 2-6, the Senate is expected to launch its appropriations process with committee markups of the Agriculture; FDA; Energy and Water; and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs FY22 spending bills before lawmakers leave for the scheduled August recess. With FY21 funding expiring on September 30, Congress will likely have to pass a continuing resolution to extend current government funding into the new fiscal year, which begins on October 1. All CGS resources and requests for FY22 appropriations are available here.

On July 28, the Senate advanced a bipartisan infrastructure deal by a vote of 67-32. Among provisions included in the $1 trillion package, roughly $40 billion would go towards strengthening broadband infrastructure in rural communities, according to a White House fact sheet. In addition to the infrastructure package, the Senate intends to pass a budget framework in August that would allow for another reconciliation package. The reconciliation package, which could pass with a simple majority vote, is expected to include several provisions for higher education, including funding for Minority Serving Institutions and Historically Black Colleges and Universities; expanded Social Security benefits for postsecondary students, which calls for raising the cut-off age for children receiving Social Security assistance from 19 to 26 for students enrolled at least half-time in college; and expanded eligibility for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program participants to access federal student aid and free community college.

Judge Finds Section of Title IX Unlawful

On July 28, a federal judge ruled that a part of the 2020 Title IX regulations is unlawful, by way of a lawsuit brought by the National Women’s Law Center. While the judge did not find the regulations as a whole violated the Administrative Procedures Act or the Equal Protection Clause of the Fifth Amendment, he did find that it is unlawful for the rule to prohibit schools from considering statements of witnesses and parties who do not subject themselves to cross-examination, calling the section “arbitrary and capricious.” His ruling requires the Department of Education to reconsider this piece of the updated regulations, which has been contested by both supporters and opponents.


Until this ruling, numerous legal battles had unsuccessfully challenged the 2020 regulations. Following virtual hearings held in June 2021, on June 23, the Department of Education announced plans to issue new Title IX regulations in spring 2022. Most recently, on July 20, the Department of Education released new guidance on the regulations in hopes of assisting institutions in navigating the updates to Title IX issued in 2020 while the agency oversees a comprehensive review of the regulations.

Department of Education Activity

On July 23, the Department of Education issued guidance to colleges and universities on improving ventilation in buildings based on current recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Environmental Protection Agency. The notice explains that institutions can use funds allocated from the American Rescue Plan for improving ventilation in their buildings through measures such as inspection, testing, maintenance, repair, replacement, and upgrading projects to improve school facilities. These efforts align with President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda to rebuild the nation’s schools. More information about the ventilation guidance and President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda can be found here.


On July 29, the Department of Education announced the distribution of roughly $3 billion in emergency higher education grants from the American Rescue Plan to support Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Tribally Controlled Colleges and Universities, and other Minority Serving Institutions. The agency is also distributing $225 million to under-resourced public and nonprofit institutions with unmet pandemic-related needs. This latest action increases the total amount of funding made available to colleges and universities under the HEERF to more than $76 billion.

Lawmakers Discuss Public Service Loan Forgiveness

On July 27, the Senate Banking Committee held a hearing on protecting student loan borrowers during upcoming points of transition, including the anticipated restart of loan payments. The witness panel included Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers; Letitia James, attorney general of New York; and Persis Yu, director of the Student Loan Borrower Assistance Project at the National Consumer Law Center. In their testimonies, the witnesses noted the important efforts the Department of Education will need to take to educate borrowers about repayments, correct servicer errors, and provide relief to harmed borrowers, particularly those participating in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. Witnesses and lawmakers discussed the fallout of two large student loan servicing companies, the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) and Granite State Management and Resources, exiting the federal student loan program. Yu recommended that the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau issue guidance on new rates to protect borrowers who must now change servicers. In addition to strengthening PSFL, Attorney General James suggested that Congress expand eligibility to include more federal borrowers to further alleviate the loans crisis.


On July 23, the Department of Education announced plans to review the regulations that govern PLSF. On July 26, the agency published a request for information (RFI) on the Federal Register, seeking public input to help shape administrative changes, should PSLF undergo negotiated rulemaking. The administration will solicit public comments on PSLF through September 24, 2021, aiming to obtain a wide range of feedback, from individual borrowers, advocacy groups, employers, policy experts, institutions, and the student loan industry. Information on how to submit comments is available here.


Also on July 27, the National Education Association (NEA) released a report, Student Loan Debt Among Educators: A National CrisisBased on data collected in 2020, the report identifies the widespread impact of student loan debt on educators and calls on the Biden administration to cancel student debt for educators and public service workers who have served a decade or more, delivering on the original promise of PSLF, alongside additional measures to alleviate burdens facing student loan borrowers.

Dept of Ed, DOS Commitment to International Education

On July 26, the Department of Education and the Department of State (DOS) released a joint statement, Reengaging the World to Make the United States Stronger at Home. The agencies express a recommitment to international education, citing its important role in bolstering U.S. security, prosperity, and innovation. The statement highlights the impact of international education in the U.S., noting the benefits it brings to domestic students and communities, the diversity and creativity that strengthens higher education through international relationships, and how international researchers and scholars contribute to research and innovation in the U.S.


The statement provides visionary initiatives that the agencies will support as part of the renewed focus on international education. These initiatives include diversifying participation in international education among domestic students studying abroad and international students studying in the U.S.; strengthening the cooperation between the federal government, colleges, and the private sector; emphasizing the federal government’s support of international education in partnership with higher education institutions, local governments, and communities; recognizing the contributions international students and scholars make to research, innovation, economic development, and the workforce in the U.S.; and committing to the creation and implementation of policies and procedures that facilitate training and workforce experience programs for international students studying in the US.

NSF Initiatives and Activities

On July 19, NSF published a blog post showcasing four programs that focus on technology translation, the process of bringing research and innovations to the public market in the form of products, services, and applications, among other forms. The programs include the NSF Innovation Corps; Partnerships for Innovation; America’s Seed Fund; and Convergence Accelerator.


On July 25, NSF shared updated dates for the 2021 Alliances for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (AGEP) program, an opportunity for faculty and doctoral students. The AGEP program seeks to foster the growth of a more capable and diverse research workforce, including the goals to increase the number of historically underrepresented minority faculty in STEM and advance knowledge about new academic STEM career pathway models, among other efforts to promote equity. Full proposals for the AGEP Faculty Career Pathways Alliance Model are due on August 24. A letter of intent must have been submitted prior to the full proposal deadline.


On July 26, a NSF program officer shared application tips for the 2021 Graduate Research Fellowships Program (GRFP) application. The GRFP supports outstanding graduate students pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees in over 100 NSF-supported STEM fields. As a reminder, the CGS database of federally funded graduate and postdoc fellowships and traineeships is available for your graduate community.


On July 28, the NSF appointed Karen Marrongelle to serve as chief operating officer. Since 2018, she has led the NSF Directorate for Education and Human Resources (EHR), which supports research that enhances teaching and learning, and broad efforts to achieve excellence in STEM education at all levels and in all settings. Marrongelle’s career demonstrates a deep commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, focusing on understanding the causes of disparities in educational opportunities and establishing strategic visions for addressing those issues while serving as EHR assistant director. She has led the funding of several STEM education research centers focused on broadening participation and initiatives to address equity and inclusion in STEM, particularly in training a diverse workforce. Prior to joining NSF, Marrongelle served as dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Portland State University.

Government Accountability Office Report on Quality Assurance

On July 26, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report to congressional committees regarding the federal government’s continued efforts to respond to and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Among the findings, the GAO found that the Department of Education did not create nor follow proper guidelines to ensure the correct distribution of COVID-19 emergency relief funds to higher education institutions.


The report discovered that about 5.5 percent of the colleges and universities that received emergency grants from the department likely received more money than was allocated, including three instances in GAO’s sample that showed the agency granted $20 million more than was allocated. The Office of Postsecondary Education explained that the miscalculations occurred because of time and staffing constraints and the high volume of grants administered. Since March 2020, $76.2 billion was appropriated through the CARES Act for institutions to respond to the challenges due to the pandemic. The GAO recommends the Department of Education design and implement regular procedures for conducting quality assurance reviews for the higher education grants.