The House was in session and considered a spending bill for energy and water programs as well as legislation to strengthen federal workforce development programs. The Senate was also in session and considered legislation regarding recreational hunting, fishing, and shooting.
Both the House and Senate will be in next week.
House Ed Committee Takes Up First Set of HEA Reauthorization Bills
The House education committee kicked off its consideration of a series of HEA reauthorization bills on Thursday by easily advancing a trio of bills with bipartisan support, including:
The Advancing Competency-Based Education Demonstration Project Act, which would authorize the Department of Education to provide waivers from federal requirements in order to facilitate competency-based education demonstration projects.
The Strengthening Transparency in Higher Education Act, which would replace the College Navigator website with a simplified and streamlined version, entitled the "College Dashboard website."
The Empowering Students Through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act, which would increase financial literacy requirements for Pell Grant and federal loan recipients.
Chairman John Kline hopes to have these bills voted on by the full House before August recess.
NCAA on Senate Hot Seat over Support for Student Athletes
NCAA President Mark Emmert faced tough questions from Democrats and Republicans this week at a Senate Commerce committee that focused on the on the well-being and academic success of college athletes. The Committee heard from administrators, former student athletes, and collegiate athletics experts. Of particular concern to the committee were the health benefits and scholarships provided to injured athletes. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), who is leading a national discussion around sexual assault on college campuses, expressed frustration with institutions, such as NCAA football champion Florida State University, which allow athletic departments to adjudicate assault allegations against student athletes. She also threatened to expose institutions that voted to oppose the shift from recurring annual to four-year scholarships. Presidents and Chancellors from the Big Ten Conference recently promised to gurantee health insurance and four-year scholarships for all athletes.
The hearing is just one of several developments following the decision by the National Labor Relations Board's (NLRB) Chicago regional director, which ruled that Northwestern University scholarship football players could unionize as university employees. After granting a review, the NLRB invited the filing of briefs. ACE, APLU, and other higher ed associations have filed an amicus brief to the NLRB. Republican leaders from the House and Senate education committees have also filed an amicus brief to the NLRB.
Campus Sexual Assault Survey Results Released
On Wednesday, Sen. Claire McCaskill hosted a press conference to announce the release of the aggregate results of the campus sexual assault survey she sent to 440 four-year institutions of higher education. According to the report, only 16% of the institutions conduct climate surveys and 20% of the institutions provide no sexual assault response training for faculty and staff. Senator McCaskill is working with Senators Kirsten Gillibrand, Richard Blumenthal, and Dean Heller to draft legislation, which is anticipated to be introduced following the August recess.
Palatable Patent Legislation Moves Forward in House
A House Energy & Commerce subcommittee reported favorably the Targeting Rogue and Opaque Letters (TROL) Act, which seeks to curb the practice of abusive demand letters that “patent trolls” send to small businesses demanding a royalty for use of patented technology in products the firms bought off the shelf. This abusive practice was a driving force behind the urgency for much broader patent troll legislation the House passed and the Senate considered—but shelved, at the urging of the University of Illinois and the united push of research universities—this spring. While the university community continues to work with the bill’s sponsors to strike the right balance around some definitions in the bill, its forward movement is a good sign; rather than watering down intellectual property rights for all patent holders (including universities), it instead targets clearly abusive behavior by bad actors in the system. OGR will continue to monitor this issue closely.
Higher Ed Tax Bill Could Move to Full House
Rep. Danny Davis' student tax benefits consolidation bill—the Student and Family Tax Simplification Act—may be brought to the floor as soon as next week. The legislation was passed by the House Ways & Means Committee in June. This week, the Congressional Budget Office reported that it would raise the deficit by $96.5 billion over ten years. While positive changes have been made to the bill as a result of our conversations with the sponsors', universities have some remaining concerns. In its current form, graduate students would no longer benefit from the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC). We will continue working with other universities to represent our concerns.
ILLINOIS IN DC
U of I Econ Development Vision Touted at Brookings Panel
UI LABS Chief Operating Officer and former Associate VP for Economic Development Caralynn Nowinski joined other manufacturing and innovation thought leaders Wednesday in DC at the prestigious Brookings Institution to explore the impact regional manufacturing hubs will have on innovation and economic development. Before leaders from academia, business, and government, Nowinski described the university’s leadership behind the creation of UI LABS, touting the great engineering and supercomputing strengths of the university and the desire by UI President Robert A. Easter and Board of Trustees Chair Christopher G. Kennedy to provide additional career opportunities in Chicago, the state of Illinois, and the greater Midwest. She clarified that regional innovation hubs, like Chicago’s $320 million Digital Lab for Manufacturing, were not federal “charity”—but instead would be an engine for economic growth and show considerable return on investment to its partners as well as the federal government. She highlighted the Digital Lab’s first project call: developing revolutionary approaches to the design, verification, and manufacturing of complex defense systems and vehicles by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), as part of its Adaptive Vehicle Make (AVM) program.
Center for Global Studies Brings International Teachers to DC
Having been awarded a 3-year grant by the U.S. State Department Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs to host a Study of the U.S. Institute (SUSI) for Secondary Educators, Urbana's Center for Global Studies is currently hosting a delegation of international educators. As part of the 6-week program, the international educators participate in "study tours" to gain a better understanding of the U.S., including one this past week in Washington, D.C. In addition to meetings at the State Department and Department of Education, they met with the office of Sen. Dick Durbin—who serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee—where they learned about the legislative process, Sen. Durbin's foreign policy priorities, and the role of education in our democracy. Urbana's Jeffrey Friedman, Lynn Charters, Kathleen Anderson-Conner, and Charlene Dudley accompanied the group.
Major Federal Grant to Chip Away at Health Disparities
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that the University of Illinois will receive a $19.6 million Health Care Innovation Award grant for its CHECK (Coordination of Healthcare for Complex Kids) program, which seeks to build a "medical neighborhood" through a network of more than 40 practices throughout Cook County. The program will focus on children and young adults from low-income households with chronic conditions like asthma and diabetes. Sen. Dick Durbin submitted a support letter. Kudos to all those in the UIC College of Medicine's Department of Pediatrics and at UI Health who collaborated to win this highly competitive proposal!
It's Official: UI Designated an 'Innovation & Economic Prosperity' University
This week, APLU designated the University of Illinois as an "Innovation & Economic Prosperity (IEP) University" in recognition of UI's work in statewide economic development efforts. Kudos to VP for Research Larry Schook—who has led efforts to elevate UI's economic engagement initiatives in the areas of technology transfer, entrepreneurship, innovation, and workforce development—and to Assistant Director of Economic Development Joey Mak, who was the driving force behind UI's application. After a successful regional economic development summit last week in southern Illinois, OGR and OVPR will collaborate on future summits in other parts of the state in months to come.
ACES Research Lauded in House Ag Committee Hearing
In a subcommittee hearing on the the implementation of the commodity and crop insurance titles of the Farm Bill, the sole witness, Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Under Secretary Michael Scuse, lauded Urbana's College of ACES for its work to develop online decision-making tools for farmers on Farm Bill programs. ACES received a grant this past May to lead a consortium in producing these critical decision aids.
Jon Pyatt and Melissa Haas
OGR Federal Relations