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What Did I Miss in Washington? May 1-May 15, 2017

May 15, 2017

The steady stream of news emerging from the nation’s capital can be overwhelming. NACUBO highlights key actions and provides the status of top higher education business officer concerns.

On Capitol Hill

House Passes American Health Care Act. The House passed legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act by a 217-213 vote on May 4. The legislation has been sent to the Senate, where the outlook for passage is unclear. Some Republican senators have already expressed concerns with the House-passed bill. Republicans, who hold a 52-to-48 advantage over Democrats in the Senate, will need 51 votes to pass the measure. If Senate Republicans can agree on a health care bill, it is likely to be significantly different from the legislation passed by the House.

Lawmakers Restore Year-Round Pell Grants. NACUBO, together with 35 other higher education associations, endorsed an American Council on Education (ACE) letter that expressed strong support for provisions that restore year-round Pell Grants and a significant increase for the National Institutes of Health in the Fiscal Year 2017 Consolidated Appropriations Act. NACUBO wrote a brief summary of the provisions and awaita new implementation guidelines from the Department of Education on restoration of year-round Pell.

Administrative Actions

Executive Order on Nonprofit Political Activism Issued. On May 4, President Donald Trump issued an executive order, “Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty,” following a vow to roll back the Johnson Amendment, which prohibits nonprofit entities from taking part in political campaigns. Since the law has not changed barring 501(c)(3) organizations from engaging in political activity, colleges and universities are cautioned against changing current practices.

TIGTA Purports Significant AOTC Overpayments. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) provides independent oversight of IRS activities. On May 2, TIGTA released a report that examines improper payments in federal refundable tax credit programs. The report estimates that 24.1 percent ($1.1 billion) in American Opportunity Tax Credit payments made during FY16 were improper. NACUBO has significant questions about the methodology used by TIGTA to report on the education tax credits. Past inquiries to explain the results remain unanswered.

Judicial Action

Transgender Student’s Attorneys File Opening Briefs. In the fourth circuit, attorneys representing Gavin Grimm, a transgender student, filed briefs arguing his case is not moot just because he will graduate next month from his Virginia high school. Earlier this year, the Departments of Justice and Education civil rights divisions withdrew guidance issued by the Obama administration on non-discrimination—particularly for transgender students—under Title IX. The Supreme Court sent the case back to the fourth circuit, where justices will question whether prohibiting a transgender student from using bathrooms that correspond with his gender identity is discriminatory and violates his civil rights.


Potential Problems with Public Service Loan Forgiveness. NACUBO joined ACE and 35 other higher education associations in expressing concern with recent reports that some borrowers are facing problems with eligibility for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. The letter asks “that the Department also look at meaningful ways to better engage with borrowers, particularly those who may be eligible for PSLF.”

Advocates in Action Agenda Available. Community college chief business officers are encouraged to consider participating in the American Association of Community College’s (AACC) new two-day public policy and advocacy event, Advocates in Action, in Washington, DC, June 12-13.

Study Finds Few Asset Management Firms Owned by Women and Minorities. Last month, as part of project funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Harvard Business School Professor Josh Lerner and the Bella Research Group released a report analyzing the representation of women-and minority-owned firms in the U.S. asset management industry. Looking at mutual funds, hedge funds, and private equity and real estate, the study found very low diversity in ownership and no conclusive evidence that performance of diverse-owned funds is worse than performance of non-diverse-owned funds. In an interview with Marketplace, Alberto Ibargüen, president and CEO of the Knight Foundation, argued for diversifying the ownership of where foundation and endowment money is managed.

Awaiting Action

Overtime Rule. There are no significant developments to report on the status of the Department of Labor overtime rule.

1098-T Reporting. The IRS has not yet issued final regulations on 1098-T reporting following its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that calls for significant reporting changes to the form.


Liz Clark
Senior Director, Federal Affairs