Washington has gone home for the holidays.
The House adjourned after President Obama signed the year-end appropriations bill, while the Senate remained in session this week to finish its "must do" items that included tax extenders and judicial nominations.
Both houses will return on January 6, 2015, when the 114th Congress is sworn in.
Higher Ed Tax Breaks Extended
This week, the Senate extended a number of tax breaks that benefit universities, including the IRA charitable rollover, which incentivizes private giving for those above age 70 1/2. It also extended an above-the-line tax deduction for qualified tuition and related expenses and the R&D tax credit. The package allows tax benefits for 2014 only. President Obama is expected to sign the measure into law this week.
A permanent extension of the IRA rollover remains a priority for the UI Foundation going forward because it provides tax-planning certainty and allows campus advancement officers to work with donors in a more organized and proactive manner in support of their charitable gifts.
College Ratings System Framework Unveiled
The U.S. Department of Education (ED) released a long-anticipated draft framework for their college ratings system. The ratings system will use existing federal data—specifically from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS), and earnings information. Below are some the metrics that are being considered:
- Percentage of students receiving Pell
- First-generation college status
- Average net price (cost of attendance after accounting for all federal, state, and institutional grant aid)
- Completion rates (IPEDS Graduation Rate—though they are exploring alternatives)
As reported by Inside Higher Ed, the department's approach "appears to be moving away from a system that lets students and families draw comparative value judgments between colleges and closer to something that resembles a set of minimum standards for institutions."
ED will accept public comments on the framework, which will be due February 17. Following this comment period and a series of public meetings, ED intends to officially publish the ratings system by the start of the next academic year.
In the days leading up to the draft's release, several Republicans voiced their opposition. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), chairman of a key Senate education committee, said he would block funding for the initiative.
Rodney Davis to Chair Key Ag Subcommittee
After only one term on the House Agriculture Committee—which included serving a pivotal role as a Farm Bill conferee—Rep. Rodney Davis was selected to chair its subcommittee that supports agricultural research, horticulture and biotechnology. The subcommittee oversees USDA's National Institute of Food & Agriculture (NIFA)—an agency of great significance to Urbana's College of Agricultural, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences (ACES).
Rep. Davis credited universities within his district--including the University of Illinois—for being "at the forefront of cutting-edge research that has the potential to transform the future of agriculture." Click here to read his complete press release. Congratulations, Rep. Davis!
Kirk Resolution Praises Urbana’s Partnerships with China
Sen. Mark Kirk co-authored a Congressional resolution recognizing 35 years of cooperation in science and technology between the United States and China. It specifically included language highlighting examples of collaboration between American universities and China, including this excerpt relating to the Urbana campus:
"...the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has signed 97 inter-institutional cooperative partnership agreements with various institutions that are headquartered in China in the fields of engineering, food sciences, and transportation, including a high-speed rail research partnership between the university’s Railway Transportation and Engineering Center and China’s oldest and most recognized railway engineering school, Southwest Jiaotong University."
This will be our final electronic newsletter of the year. Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!
Jon Pyatt and Melissa Haas | OGR Federal Relations