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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 concerns.

On the Hill

Congressional Research Service Releases Report on Charitable Giving
A September 19 report by the Congressional Research Service, “Tax Issues Relating to Charitable Contributions and Organizations,” offers a comprehensive look at challenges facing charitable giving following passage of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA). The report found that individual giving, as a percentage of GDP, declined 6 percent between 2017 and 2018. The report also suggests policy changes that could incentivize non-itemizers to give, including an above-the-line deduction and a tax credit for charitable giving. NACUBO, as part of the Charitable Giving Coalition, has been supportive of policies that will incentivize individuals to give.

Continuing Resolution Passes
President Donald Trump has signed a continuing resolution passed by Congress to fund the government at 2019 levels through November 21. It did not include any changes to TCJA provisions or new expenditures. 

New Higher Education Reform Bills Introduced
Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) has unveiled a series of bills that would update the Higher Education Act by simplifying the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), expanding Pell Grant eligibility to include incarcerated individuals, allowing the use of Pell Grants for short-term higher education programs, and standardizing the format and terminology used in financial aid award letters, among other provisions. A group of bipartisan lawmakers in both the House and Senate have introduced bills that would eliminate the provision of the American Opportunity Tax Credit that denies that excludes students with felony drug convictions.

Lawmakers Move to Block Borrower Defense Rules
Democrats in both the House and the Senate have introduced resolutions that would overturn the Department of Education’s recently finalized borrower defense to repayment rules. The resolutions utilize the seldom-used Congressional Review Act and, if passed by a simple majority in Congress and signed by the president, would prevent the rules from being enacted.

Agency Action

The National Labor Relations Board Moves to Prevent Student Worker Unionization
The National Labor Relations Board has published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would reverse its ruling that gave graduate and undergraduate student workers at private colleges and universities the ability to unionize. Read more here

Final Rule Published on Overtime Pay Thresholds
The Department of Labor’s final overtime rule raises the standard salary level from $455 to $684 per week, among other changes. Employers must comply beginning January 1, 2020.

FSA Plans Restructuring, Hiring Push 
Mark Brown, head of the Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA), has announced that the office will undergo a large-scale restructuring and hiring push to prepare for implementation of its Next Gen program. NACUBO has closely followed FSA’s progress and most recently reported on a pilot program for its payment app vehicle.

NACAC Institutes Changes Amid DOJ Investigation
Responding to pressure from a Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation, members of the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) voted overwhelmingly to remove targeted provisions from their code of ethics. The newly stricken provisions were designed to prevent institutions from trying to court students already committed to or enrolled in other schools. The DOJ argued that  these provisions violated antitrust laws and discouraged competition among colleges.

Judicial Action

Judge Rules in Favor of Harvard’s Admissions Policies
On October 1, a U.S. District Court judge ruled that the college’s admissions program does not discriminate against Asian American students. In 2018, NACUBO signed on to the American Council on Education’s amicus brief, which argued the case was an attempt to end consideration of race in admissions and “the restriction of a university’s ability to assemble a diverse student body.”


Higher Ed Community Submits Supreme Court Brief on DACA
NACUBO and 43 other higher education organizations have submitted a joint amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in support of the University of California System’s case against the Department of Homeland Security over the recission of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The brief argues that the recission of DACA will inflict harm not just on impacted program recipients, but also on colleges, universities, and the country as a whole.

NACUBO Submits Response to Endowment Excise Tax Proposal
NACUBO’s recommendations to policymakers, endorsed by 10 other higher education associations, highlight areas of concern for the sector and urge final rules that reflect an understanding of how colleges and universities serve students and operate. A coalition of colleges and universities also weighed in with comprehensive recommendations.

NACUBO Signs Community Letters Supporting Education Appropriations and the FUTURE Act
NACUBO recently signed on to two higher education community letters led by The American Council on Education. One letter thanked Senate appropriators for increasing the maximum Pell Grant award by $135 but expressed concern over a rescission of Pell funds and lack of increases for other key programs. The other letter voiced support for the FUTURE Act, a bipartisan, bicameral bill that would provide STEM funding for HBCUs and other MSIs. Chairman Alexander blocked the bill’s passage in an effort to focus committee efforts on his HEA reauthorization effort.

Take Action

Make Your Voice Heard on Section 117
The Department of Education has proposed expanding disclosures of foreign gifts and contracts under Section 117 of the Higher Education Act. NACUBO is working in conjunction with other higher education associations to respond to this proposed expansion. You can support our efforts by sharing the following institutional data about your school’s current and potential reporting burden:

  • How many foreign gifts/contracts are currently being reported in a six-month period and how long it takes to compile that information and submit the report.
  • If all foreign gifts/contracts in a six-month period had to be reported, how many would that be and how long it would take to compile that information (including obtaining the gift agreements or contracts) and to submit the report.

Responses and follow-up questions can be sent to

Previous Edition

What Did I Miss in Washington? September 9-23, 2019


Megan Schneider

Senior Director, Government Affairs


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