Committee Chairs Say President’s Budget Is DOA

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White House Budget Includes Education Proposals. President Obama sent his final budget request to Congress. The budget includes many education-focused proposals including expanding Pell Grants, new tax credits for companies that invest in community colleges, and hiring new enforcement officials at the Department of Education. The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that the budget has drawn criticism from many in the academic community for asking for an unrealistic increase in research funding, which they fear could backfire. The budget is largely viewed as dead on arrival, as Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) and Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY), the chairs of the House and Senate budget committees, announced that they would not hold hearings on the budget.

King Officially Nominated to Lead Department of Education. Obama nominated Acting Secretary of Education John King Jr. to officially take over the role. The Washington Post reports that the president had initially planned not to nominate King, but rather have him remain as acting secretary for the final year of the administration. However, King was officially nominated after calls from Congress for a nomination and guarantees from Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Chair Lamar Alexander (R-TN) that he would receive “a prompt and fair hearing.”

Lawmakers Send Letters to Schools with Largest Endowments. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), and Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL) sent letters to the presidents of the 56 colleges and universities with endowments worth more than $1 billion. The lawmakers, who all chair committees or subcommittees with oversight of federal revenue, posed a series of questions to the presidents about their individual endowments. The schools have until April 1 to respond to the questions. The Boston Globe has more on the letters.

Senate Democrats Send Letter to Department of Education. A group of six Senate Democrats sent a letter to Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell about DeVry University. The Department of Education and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) both recently took action against DeVry for misleading students. However, the senators noted in the letter that the school received more than $1 billion in federal funding through Title IV in 2015, even though its students hold over $8 billion in federal student loan debt.

Department of Education Announces New “Enforcement Unit.” The Department of Education announced the creation of a new “enforcement unit” that will be responsible for investigating misconduct at colleges and universities. The new office will be led by Robert Kaye, who previously served as the top consumer protection official at the FTC, and will be housed within the Department’s Office of Federal Student Aid, which ensures colleges are following federal rules.

House Passes Bill Requiring Research to be in National Interest. The House passed a bill which would require the National Science Foundation to certify that research is in the “national interest” before funding it. The bill was introduced by House Science Committee Chair Lamar Smith (R-TX), and passed on a nearly party-line vote, with many Democrats citing concerns about political involvement in scientific research.

Congressman Introduces Price Calculator Bill. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) introduced a bill, H.R. 4533, which would make technical changes to the Net Price Calculator system that all colleges and universities are required to have on their websites.

GAO Releases Special Education Report. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) publicly released a report on federal efforts to reduce the administrative burden in special education. The report found that many tools created to ease the regulatory burden for schools and districts were underutilized because their benefits weren’t great enough to justify the application and implementation process.

We publish the DC Shuttle each week featuring higher ed news from Washington collected by the New England Council, of which NEBHE is a member. This edition is drawn from the Higher Education Update in the Council’s Weekly Washington Report of Feb. 15, 2016. For more information, please visit:


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