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.
ED Releases Beta Version of myStudentAid App. The Department of Education’s Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) announced that its mobile application is now available from the Apple App Store and Google Play. FSA says the app will allow students and families to easily and securely complete and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), manage their FSA IDs, and view federal student loan and aid history.
Grace Period Available for Expiring Student Visas. On August 9, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) scaled back an earlier policy aimed at cracking down on foreign students who stay beyond the expiration of their visas. The agency issued a revised memo offering a grace period for certain international students on expiring F, M, or J visas before their overstay will be counted against them.
According to the memo, students on F and M visas who apply to have their visa status reinstated within five months of its expiration will have the accrual of "unlawful presence" in the U.S. suspended pending the outcome of the application. In a related announcement, USCIS explained that if the student’s reinstatement application is denied, the accrual of unlawful presence resumes on the day after the denial. For cultural exchange visitors here on J visas, applicants who are reinstated "will generally not accrue unlawful presence" from when they lost status to when they were reinstated.
Trump Administration Announces New Energy Plan. On August 21, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials announced imminent publication of a new proposed rule, the Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) Rule. If implemented, the new rule would replace the Obama administration’s proposed Clean Power Plan (CPP), which never took effect due to a Supreme Court stay. The EPA’s outline of the ACE Rule indicates that it would significantly reduce regulations that primarily affect energy production through coal. Namely, the rule contains no mandates related to fuel switching and would not, as the CPP would have, push energy providers to phase out coal in favor of natural gas and renewables.
It also allows states to set their own emissions standards and decreases the frequency with which they report to the EPA. Once officially published in the Federal Register, interested parties will have 60 days to comment on the proposal. Colleges and universities with coal-fired power plants should pay close attention to the rule, as they may see direct effects on campus.
DOL Announces New Listening Sessions on Overtime Rule. The Department of Labor (DOL) has announced that it will hold a series of five listening sessions at locations throughout the country to receive community input on its overtime rule. After changes made by the Obama administration to update the rule with new salary thresholds for overtime exemptions were invalidated shortly before scheduled implementation in late 2016, DOL issued a request for information on the rule last July. NACUBO and other higher education associations, led by the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR), responded to last July’s request. This is the first action DOL has taken since receiving comments last year.
NACUBO Sends ED Comment Letter on Proposed Borrower Defense Rules. On August 30, NACUBO sent a comment letter to ED in response to a July 31 notice of proposed rulemaking on borrower defense, which also included revisions to financial responsibility standards. NACUBO commended ED for scaling back the number and scope of financial responsibility triggers under the new rules and for reducing the administrative burden related to borrower defense. However, NACUBO expressed concern that key aspects of the new borrower defense proposal go too far in limiting student eligibility for loan forgiveness and also noted that complex changes to the financial responsibility ratios, which contain technical inaccuracies, could be problematic for some nonprofit institutions. The Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, the Coalition of Higher Education Assistance Organizations, and the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities endorsed NACUBO’s letter. NACUBO also joined the American Council on Education, together with 18 other higher education associations and organizations, in its comments on the proposal.
NACUBO Authors Letter to the IRS Regarding Endowment Excise Tax. NACUBO, along with five higher education groups, sent an August 23 letter to Department of the Treasury and IRS officials in response to Notice 2018-55, which provided preliminary guidance on the calculation of net investment income for purposes of the recently enacted excise tax that applies to certain private colleges and universities. Recognizing past practice with respect to providing a basis step up for institutions impacted by the new tax, the notice follows precedent and prevents the imposition of retroactive taxes.
On Capitol Hill
Senate Passes Education Spending Bill. With the end of the federal fiscal year just six weeks away, an appropriations bill that includes funding for the Departments of Defense, Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education was approved by the full Senate on August 23. The bill would increase the maximum Pell Grant award to $6,195, increase the National Institutes of Health’s funding by $2 billion, and provide funding for schools that continue to service loans under the expired Perkins Loan Program. While this is a significant step in the appropriations process, lawmakers in both chambers on Capitol Hill now have 10 legislative days to reconcile the differences in their spending bills in order to send the package to President Donald Trump for his signature.
Senate Education Funding Bill Gets Perkins Amendment. An amendment offering colleges and universities some relief in the wake of the Perkins Loan Program expiration was successfully included in the recently passed Senate education appropriations bill. The legislation, introduced by Sens. Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Patty Murray (D-WA), would authorize ED to pay colleges for the cost of collecting outstanding loans made under Perkins. A similar provision is included in the most recent version of the House education appropriations bill as well.
Section 127 Support Coalition Sends Letter of Support for Expansion. NACUBO, other higher education associations, and a number of large corporations collectively working as the Section 127 Coalition sent a letter to House Ways and Means leadership in support of H.R. 795. The legislation, introduced by Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL), would expand Section 127 to cover student loan repayment in addition to tuition benefits. The letter highlights the value of Section 127 as it currently exists and illustrates the value to both employees and employers of expanding the provision.
DACA Complexity Grows as DC Judge Stays Decision. Following his April decision ordering the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to fully reinstate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, DC District Court Judge John Bates offered DHS a 90-day window during which the administration could offer better justification for the program’s initial elimination. After determining the department had failed to produce better reasoning, Bates stood by his initial ruling while also agreeing to delay its implementation for 20 days to allow DHS to appeal his decision. Bates has now decided, in light of several ongoing DACA cases, to temporarily halt implementation of the portion of his ruling that would have required DHS to resume processing new DACA applications. In keeping with earlier federal court guidance, DHS will continue processing renewal applications for existing DACA recipients.
What Did I Miss in Washington? August 2-August 13, 2018