As things move quickly in Washington, DC, NACUBO is your constant advocate in action. NACUBO On Your Side covers important legislative and agency activity NACUBO staff are tracking, what we’re currently advocating for, and how you can take action with us.
Here are the issues we are tracking and advocating for this week.
Registration for FSA Conference Open
Registration for the Department of Education’s (ED) annual Federal Student Aid conference is now available for interested financial aid professionals. This year’s conference, to be held virtually Nov. 30–Dec. 2, will offer over 30 different learning opportunities.
ED Releases Student Mental Health Resource
ED has released a new resource for institutions addressing challenges to mental health and social and emotional well-being among students at every level of education, including postsecondary. The resource offers recommendations for key challenges to students’ mental health and examines the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on their overall well-being. It is designed to supplement prior ED COVID-19 handbooks that discuss safe returns to school spaces.
VA Takes Next Steps with 35 Percent Exemption Request from 85/15 Reporting
The Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) regulations—known as the 85/15 rule—prohibit veterans not already enrolled in a program from doing so if more than 85 percent of the students enrolled in the program have all or part of their tuition, fees, or other charges paid by the institution or VA. Schools must regularly submit information to VA or their State Approving Agency to determine if programs meet this requirement. However, VA recently submitted a new information collection proposal to the Office of Management and Budget suggesting that if the overall number of VA beneficiaries enrolled at an institution does not exceed 35 percent, the school will be granted a two-year exemption from this routine reporting, though it must still monitor and collect the data.
Court Upholds UNC Affirmative Action Policy
A federal district court judge upheld the University of North Carolina’s (UNC) consideration of race in admission decisions in a recent lawsuit, finding that, “because race is so interwoven in every aspect of the lived experience of minority students, to ignore it, reduce its importance and measure it only by statistical models… misses important context.” This latest legal challenge to affirmative action measures was brought by an organization known as Students for Fair Admissions, which has previously challenged admissions policies at Harvard University and the University of Texas. The group actively opposes any consideration of applicant race in college and university admissions decisions. UNC-Chapel Hill administrators praised the court’s decision, emphasizing that, “[w]e evaluate each student in a deliberate and thoughtful way, appreciating individual strengths, talents and contributions to a vibrant campus community where students from all backgrounds can excel and thrive.”
NACUBO, Associations Urge Congress to Retain Education Funding in Infrastructure Bill
NACUBO has joined a letter, led by the American Council on Education, urging the House and Senate majority leaders to retain “robust overall higher education funding” in the reconciliation infrastructure package known as the Build Back Better Act. While the package currently contains a number of important provisions for higher education, concerns over the cost of the bill will undoubtedly lead some provisions to be eliminated before its final passage. NACUBO will continue working to ensure that the final bill contains broad support for higher education institutions and their students.
NACUBO Thanks Congress for GI Bill Changes
NACUBO and other members of the higher education community sent letters thanking four members of Congress for their recent sponsorship of two separate bills that make technical corrections to the Isakson Roe bill that took effect at the beginning of the year and extend certain COVID flexibilities for VA education benefits. Both bills would also align some VA reporting terms and forms with those used by ED, modify certain Isakson Roe bill consumer information requirements, and allow VA to waive dual certification requirements for institutions that have a flat rate tuition and fee structure.
NACUBO Joins Association Comments on Public Charge Rule
NACUBO, in conjunction with other higher education associations, submitted comments to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in response to a recent advance notice of proposed rulemaking on what are known as “public charge” rules. These DHS rules are, in some cases, used to deny citizenship to individuals who become a “public charge” by using federal benefit programs. The comment letter highlights previous instances where unclear rules have led students, who are U.S. citizens, to erroneously turn down federal student aid packages for fear that accepting the aid would impact a family member’s path to citizenship. The letter also urges DHS to make clear that non-immigration visa applications, like F-1, J-1 and H-1B visas, be excluded from the public charge process and health and food security programs.
NACUBO On Your Side: October 5–18, 2021