DC Shuttle: Could STEM Visa Bill Sprout During Lame Duck Session?

STEM visa bill fails On Thursday, a proposal to increase the number of visas offered to immigrants with advanced degrees in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math) from American schools failed to pass the House. The bill (H.R. 6429) needed a two-thirds vote of members in order to be passed on the House suspension calendar. It fell shy of the two-thirds mark, rejected by a vote of 257-158. Sponsored by House Judiciary Committee Chair, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), the legislation would have dedicated 55,000 green cards to highly skilled foreigners with American degrees in science, technology, engineering and math by eliminating the Diversity Visa Program and thus keeping the total number of visas allocated the same. Democrats have expressed opposition to eliminating the Diversity Program, favoring instead an outright addition of visas. They have introduced bills in the House and Senate that do just that and, while it is unlikely any bills will be considered before the election, the matter may be considered during the lame duck session.

House passes vet student loan debt bill On Wednesday, the House passed legislation (H.R. 5044) by a vote of 400-0 that would exclude any forgiven student loan debt of deceased veterans from that veteran’s family’s taxable income. Under current law, if a private company forgives student loan debt for a deceased veteran, that amount is considered as gross net income for tax purposes. Under the bill, refunds could be given for taxes imposed after 2001.

Senators discuss Student Right to Know Before You Go Act At a discussion on education sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) discussed legislation they introduced earlier this year (S. 2098) that would require more stringent data to be produced by institutions of higher education. The two announced Wednesday at the right-leaning think tank that they would like to have their bill, the Student Right to Know Before You Go Act, included in next year’s reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. The bill would require institutions of higher education to submit data to a state system which would then make it easily accessible and searchable. All institutions that participate in the federal student loan program would be required to report on graduation rates, tuition costs, rates of remedial enrollment, projected student loan debt and earnings projections for each academic program. The bill would not require schools to gather any additional data, but would require that the information be provided to prospective students differently. Sen. Rubio said the intent of the bill is to help students see what professions are hiring before they enroll. Some Republicans have voiced concern that new requirements could increase bureaucratic burdens on schools.  Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) and Rep. Robert Andrews (D-NJ) have introduced companion legislation (H.R. 4061) in the House.

As a member of New England Council, we publish the DC Shuttle each week featuring higher ed news from Washington. This edition is drawn from the Council’s Weekly Washington Report Higher Education Update, of Sept. 24, 2012.

Founded in 1925, the New England Council is a nonpartisan alliance of businesses, academic and health institutions, and public and private organizations throughout New England formed to promote economic growth and a high quality of life in the New England region. The Council’s mission is to identify and support federal public policies and articulate the voice of its membership regionally and nationally on important issues facing New England. For more information, please visit: www.newenglandcouncil.com.


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