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.
On the Hill
Lawmakers Share Details of Scaled-Down Infrastructure Plan, Moving Closer to Agreement
Updated legislative text of the Build Back Better Act (BBBA) was recently released, indicating that Democratic lawmakers may be close to passing both this package and a bipartisan infrastructure companion bill. Weeks of negotiation between moderate and progressive Democrats appear to have produced a much smaller BBBA than was initially proposed in the House, with many notable higher education provisions being cut from the latest version. However, the bill’s current draft still makes important investments in postsecondary education, including a $550 increase to the maximum Pell Grant award, an expansion of Title IV aid eligibility that will allow DACA recipients to access federal student aid for the first time, and investments in education infrastructure and research and development activities. The package also earmarks additional support funds for Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Minority-Serving Institutions, and Tribal Colleges and Universities. Notably, however, the proposal of a federal-state partnership to provide free community college has been removed from the plan.
Similarly, several tax provisions of importance to higher education, such as a return of advance refunding for tax-exempts bonds and the creation of a direct-pay bond program, have been struck from the bill due to cost. However, proposals to eliminate the taxability of Pell Grants, and to adjust net investment income tax liability based on financial aid provided by the institution, remain in the package. Also included are provisions that alter the American Opportunity Tax Credit to allow individuals with felony drug convictions to make use of the credit, as well as the creation of a new research infrastructure credit for public universities. The provisions currently contained in the BBBA package have potential for continued modification until its final passage.
House Holds Hearing on Future of FSA
The House Higher Education and Workforce Investment Subcommittee held a hearing on October 27 during which Richard Cordray testified for the first time in his capacity as head of the Federal Student Aid (FSA) Office of the Department of Education. Cordray identified current FSA priorities, such as fixing the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program and restarting federal student loan repayments in February. He also touched on potential student loan forgiveness and the finances of the federal student loan program, among other items.
White House Issues Order Supporting Black Colleges, Students
President Joe Biden has issued an executive order intended to remove “barriers that impede the access of higher education institutions that serve black students, such as Predominantly Black Institutions and HBCUs,” and ensure “equitable access to educational resources, professionals, and technology, including by addressing racial disparities in school funding and expenditures.” The order also sets as an administration policy the goal of advancing “educational equity, excellence, and economic opportunity for black Americans and communities from early childhood until their chosen career.”
Undergraduate Enrollment Down 6.5 Percent Since Fall 2019
The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center released new data showing a 3.2 percent decline in undergraduate enrollment from fall 2020 to fall 2021, which, when combined with data from the previous year, show total undergraduate enrollment down 6.5 percent. Among institution types, private nonprofit four-year institutions fared better than others, experiencing a two-year fall undergraduate enrollment decline of 1.2 percent, while in the same period undergraduate enrollment declined by 3.1 percent at public four-year institutions, and by 14.1 percent at public two-year institutions.
NACUBO, Associations Call for Further Student-Veteran Fixes
NACUBO and other higher education associations representing two- and four-year institutions sent a letter to the leaders of the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees, calling on them to quickly pass bipartisan legislation on several issues. The letter requests that the committees resolve minor differences between two existing bills so they can be passed to address needed technical corrections to veterans’ education bills passed earlier this year. Those fixes include extending some COVID-19 flexibilities that are set to expire soon and amending the Department of Veterans’ Affairs’ recent change to the “rounding out” rule to ensure student veterans can continue to receive full benefits during the last term of their program.
Broad Coalition Urges Higher Education Spending
NACUBO has joined a diverse group of stakeholders in a letter to Congress, urging them to retain the provisions of the BBBA that support college affordability and completion efforts. The letter also urges members to keep the legislative provisions that provide further support for minority serving postsecondary institutions, and highlights all investments in higher education as necessary to “ultimately ensure long-term prosperity and competitiveness for the United States.”
NACUBO Again Calls for Advanced Refunding
NACUBO has joined numerous municipal tax-exempt bond issuer organizations in a letter to reiterate support for tax-exempt bonds and to ask lawmakers to restore the tax exemption for advance refunding bonds, support small issuers, and restore and expand the use of direct-pay bonds.
NACUBO On Your Side, October 19-25, 2021