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What Did I Miss in Washington? May 31-June 12, 2017

June 12, 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.

Administrative Action

Additional Details on Year-Round Pell. The FY17 spending bill Congress passed in May provided funding for the restoration of year-round Pell Grants, a program designed to allow students to maintain their academic progress in the summer. NACUBO has informally learned that schools can begin awarding these additional grants to eligible students starting July 1, as long as the institution is using 2017-18 award year dollars. Funds from award year 2016-17 cannot be used for summer 2017 Pell Grants. NACUBO strongly encourages institutions to wait, however, for formal guidance from the Department of Education on year-round Pell and applicable award years. ED has indicated it expects to publish an announcement by the end of June.

IRS Data Retrieval Tool Partially Restored. ED published an Electronic Announcement indicating that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) is once again available for eligible Direct Loan borrowers applying for one of the four income-driven repayment plans. The IRS had suspended use of the DRT in March due to privacy and security concerns. ED expects the DRT will be available for students and families completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid by October 1.

USCIS Clarifies Eligibility Criteria for Master’s Degrees in H-1B Visa Caps. In a further clarification on who does and does not qualify for the 20,000 H-1B visas issued by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) under the Master’s Cap exemption, the agency expressly stated that in order to qualify for the exemption, the applicant must have received their master’s degree from a U.S. higher education institution that was accredited or preaccredited with accompanying recognition from ED at the time the applicant received their degree. In the case that initiated this administrative ruling, the applicant in question held a master’s degree from an institution that eventually received full accreditation but was neither accredited nor preaccredited at the time the student received his master’s degree. The Administrative Appeals Office reviewing the case determined that USCIS was correct in denying the applicant’s H-1B visa based on these facts. Additionally, the ruling confirmed that the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) is no longer recognized by the agency as a legitimate education accreditor.    

Overtime Rule. Labor Department Secretary Alexander Acosta indicated in a recent Appropriations Committee hearing that the agency would be requesting a new round of public comments on the Obama administration’s overtime rule in the next few weeks. Acosta has previously expressed concern that the rule, which is currently delayed by court injunction, was too drastic in immediately doubling the salary threshold for overtime exemption from $23,660 to $47,476, though he acknowledged that the previous threshold was likely too low. NACUBO has a series of resources on the overtime rule available here

Judicial Action

7th Circuit Court of Appeals Upholds Transgender Protections Under Title IX. In keeping with a similar ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals determined that a transgender student should have been permitted by his high school to use the bathroom of his identified gender. The court ruled that the school’s refusal, in addition to other rules and sanctions given only to the transgender student, ran afoul of Title IX gender identity protections required in federally funded educational settings. The addition of gender identity protections to Title IX came from a directive issued to ED by the Obama administration—a directive that was repealed by the Trump administration earlier this year, although President Donald Trump’s repeal did not go so far as to specifically eliminate gender identity from Title IX protections. While the student’s school district has appealed this case to the Supreme Court, the court is unlikely to take up the question unless the lower courts begin to diverge in their rulings. A similar case is currently before the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.


NACUBO Joins Call for Increased NIH and Student Aid Funding. In a letter sent to congressional leaders June 7, NACUBO and a number of other higher education associations thanked lawmakers for the FY17 spending bills that restored year-round Pell Grants and increased funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) by $2 billion. The groups reiterated the need to continue to invest in student aid and scientific research. 

NACUBO Urges Tax Writers to Maintain Tax-Exempt Bonds. NACUBO recently joined the American Hospital Association (AHA) and the National Association of Health and Educational Facilities Finance Authorities (NAHEFFA) in submitting written testimony asking lawmakers to "maintain tax-exempt bond financing, including qualified 501(c)(3) private-activity bonds, which is necessary for the missions and continued financial health of hospitals, colleges, universities, and other charitable organizations."

Awaiting Action

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
Director, Federal Affairs