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November 10, 2017



The Senate proposal put forward by Finance Committee Chair Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) "would retain critical higher education student tax benefits, including graduate student tuition remission, the student loan interest deduction, and employer-provided educational assistance," the Association of American Universities reports. The House GOP bill has alarmed higher education groups because it would subject to taxation the tuition remissions received by many graduate student research and teaching assistants. But while omitting this provision, the Senate plan "eliminates the state and local tax deduction," AAU notes. States would thus face pressure to keep taxes low and have less to spend on public colleges and universities. Like the House plan, the Senate bill would also impose a 1.4 percent excise tax on private colleges and universities whose endowments are valued at $250,000 or more per student. (The House bill originally pegged the tax at endowments worth $100,000 per student, affecting many more schools, but that was amended.) The House GOP version cleared the Ways and Means Committee on a party-line vote. The Senate version will be marked up in committee Monday. See a side-by-side comparison of House and Senate measures.

Lewis-Burke Associates adds: "Unlike the House proposal, the Senate version maintains the deduction for student loan interest and does not make changes to student education tax credits (i.e. the Lifetime Learning, Hope Scholarship, or AOTC) or education savings plans (Coverdell, 529s). Additionally, the Senate version maintains workforce educational benefits eliminated in the House proposal, including Section 117(d) and Section 127. Bottom Line:  Under the House proposal, the repeal of 117(d) would make tuition reductions taxable income, thus creating a new tax on employees, graduate students, and employers. The House repeal of Section 127 would also create a new tax on employees receiving employer-provided education assistance.  The repeal of Section 117(d), and specifically 117(d)(5), would significantly impact graduate students and system of graduate education in the U.S."

See also Moody's: Potential changes to federal funding, tax reform could limit revenue growth for US universities

CONFEREES FLATLINE DOD BASIC RESEARCH, NIP APPLIED: While authorizing an overall hike in the Pentagon's research, development, testing, and evaluation account, the FY 2018 National Defense Authorization Act that emerged from a House-Senate conference committee provides $2.27 billion for basic research (6.1), just slightly below the current enacted level, and cuts $270 million from 6.2 applied research, coming in at $5.02 billion. These numbers represent a small increase over the administration's budget request for FY 2018. Actual appropriations await whatever end-of-year budget arrangement the House, Senate, and White House agree to - or not. (See the chart below from the Coalition for National Security Research.) Penn State's John Latini, who chairs CNSR, has flagged provisions of interest to universities, including:

Sec. 213. Non-monetary prizes for advanced technology achievements. 

Sec. 215. Directed energy weapon system prototyping and demonstration program.

Sec. 216. Authorizes non-profit research institutions to enter into transactions with the Department of Defense for prototype projects.

Sec. 217. Authorizes the Secretary of Defense and each secretary of a military department to establish one or more multi-institution task order contracts, consortia, cooperative agreements, or other arrangements to facilitate expedited access to university technical expertise including faculty, staff and students. Mission areas include cybersecurity; air and ground vehicles; shipbuilding; explosive detection and defeat; undersea warfare; unmanned systems; directed energy; energy, power and propulsion; artificial intelligence; technology transfer and transition; biological engineering and genetic enhancement; materials science and engineering; and autonomous systems among others. 

Sec. 219. Reauthorizes the Defense Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (DEPSCoR). 

Sec. 225. Authorizes the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering to support national security innovation and entrepreneurial education programs.

Sec. 232. Requires the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering to review directives, rules, regulations, and other policies that adversely affect the ability of the innovation, research, and engineering enterprise of the Department of Defense to effectively and efficiency execute its missions. 

Sec. 862. Authorizes the use of Other Transactions Authority and Experimental Procurement Authority as methods for entering into research agreements with industry, academia, and other researchers and technology developers.

Source: Coalition for National Security Research


NIBIB HEAD TO JOIN TEXAS A&M: Roderic Pettigrew, director of the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB), will step down in mid-November "to assume two senior leadership positions at Texas A&M University," according to a statement by National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins. Pettigrew will become CEO of a new program, EnHealth, which "will integrate engineering into all of the Texas A&M colleges within the university’s system that are part of the healthcare enterprise." He will also be executive dean of "a new Houston-based engineering medicine track," EnMed, which will train Texas A&M medical students to invent solutions to challenging medical problems. EnMed is a partnership with Houston Methodist Hospital. Read Collins's tribute.

RECOMMENDATIONS SOUGHT . . . for membership on the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education Advisory Panel, established in October by the National Science Foundation, Department of Education (ED), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The panel was called for in the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act (AICA), the latest version of America COMPETES, which became law in early January. It's charged with "advising the National Science and Technology Council’s Committee on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Education (CoSTEM), assessing CoSTEM’s progress in carrying out responsibilities related to the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act, and helping to identify need or opportunity to update the Federal STEM Education 5-Year Strategic Plan." Learn more.

AP ENGINEERING PROGRESS? While the National Science Foundation is “all-in” when it comes to K-12 computer science, its policy body, the National Science Board, is showing increased interest in pre-college engineering. This was evident during Q&A this week between board members and Dawn Tilbury, assistant director for engineering, according to ASEE’s colleagues at Lewis-Burke Associates. Questions focused particularly on an AP engineering course, something the College Board has been working on for several years; preparing high school instructors to teach engineering;  and whether an AP course would draw more women and underrepresented minorities into engineering. Currently, the University of Arizona offers introductory engineering for credit to students in some 35 high schools. Separately, NSF has funded a National Academies exploration of “how the current education system might be adapted to better support the development and employment of precollege engineering educators.”

RESEARCH FACILITIES AND TECHNICAL ED: NSF intends to appoint a senior adviser for major research facilities who will report to the director. Meanwhile, the NSB returned from visits to Louisiana and Ohio with new enthusiasm for technical education at the community college level. Look for a “skilled technical workforce” task force to come out with a report next year. It will discuss improved industry-academic partnerships, opportunities, and challenges, such as eliminating arbitrary barriers to hiring.

PROFESSORIATE PATHWAYS: The NSF Alliances for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (AGEP) program "seeks to advance knowledge about models to improve pathways to the professoriate and success for historically underrepresented minority doctoral students, postdoctoral fellows and faculty, particularly African Americans, Hispanic Americans, American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, and Native Pacific Islanders, in specific STEM disciplines and/or STEM education research fields." Learn more

ENGINEERING FOR CIVIL INFRASTRUCTURE: NSF's ECI program "represents a new and integrated vision for fundamental research to underpin transformative innovations for the built environment that are resilient, economical, and adaptable to enhance national prosperity and societal benefits. In support of this vision, the ECI program replaces CMMI’s Engineering for Natural Hazard (ENH), Geotechnical Engineering and Materials (GEM), and Structural and Architectural Engineering and Materials (SAEM) programs. ECI will also support research in construction engineering that is compatible with this vision." Register for a Dec. 6 webinar


Source: Council of Graduate Schools

Source: The Century Foundation, College Complaints Unmasked

TCF obtained data from the U.S. Department of Education about "nearly 100,000 'borrower defense claims'—applications for loan relief from students who maintain that they have been defrauded or misled by federally approved colleges and universities." For-profit colleges generated more than 98.6 percent of them, TCF reports. Three-fourths of all claims were against schools owned by the now-closed Corinthian Colleges.


LAWSUIT TRIGGERS BACKLASH: A $10 million suit filed by Mark Jacobson, left, a Stanford professor of civil and environmental engineering, against the National Academy of Sciences and an executive at an energy research firm "has sparked angry responses from scientists who say it sets a dangerous precedent that shoves disagreements over research into the courts," E&E News reports. The suit claims NAS's Proceedings "published a study critical of Jacobson's earlier work on renewable energy without considering multiple warnings that the follow-up paper contained false statements. . . . NAS spokeswoman Jennifer Walsh said the organization does not comment on pending litigation." The energy firm executive, Christopher Clack, did not respond to an E&E request for comment "but one of the co-authors on the rebuttal paper said he stands by the contention that Jacobson made modeling errors."


BOOST FOR INTELLIGENCE ANALYSTS: "New machine analysis techniques have the potential to improve decision making and quicken product deployment in the intelligence community by automating processes and reducing the number of bottlenecks that currently exist in the pipeline," says a report on a National Academies workshop. A competition called the Xpress Challenge drew 387 registrants from 42 countries, 15 of whose solutions are currently under review by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. "The task was to create an algorithm for an analytic product, using established intelligence community formatting and evaluation criteria, that could address an intelligence question and be used to aid policy makers and war fighters." See a list of ODNI challenges. 



Applications are now being accepted for the first-of-its-kind GEM-ASEE Doctoral Engineering Research Showcase sponsored by The National GEM Consortium (GEM) and the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) January 22-23, 2018, at the Mayflower Hotel, Washington, DC.  Doctoral students, postdoctoral fellows, and new faculty are invited to display their leading-edge technical research and connect with potential agency sponsors and academic employers.Registration fees: $50 for doctoral students and postdocs; $150 for new faculty. The deadline for applications is Friday, November 17. Find out more. Watch a video.

GOFLY COMPETITION: In partnership with Boeing, ASEE is calling on the world’s greatest thinkers, designers, engineers, and builders to challenge themselves and change the future. Registration for the competition is now open and all details are available here

ASEE IS CO-HOSTING the First Annual CoNECD (Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity - pronounced “connected”) Conference next April 29 to May 1. It will be a forum on enhancing diversity and inclusion of underrepresented groups in engineering and computing. CoNECD will encompass many diverse groups, including those based on gender (including gender identity and gender expression), race and ethnicity, disability, veterans, LGBTQ+, 1st generation and socio-economic status. It's a collaboration of ASEE's Minorities in Engineering and Women in Engineering divisions and several outside groups. ASEE members can submit an abstract here (login required.) 

ASEE Board Reorganization - Feedback Needed

ASEE ED Norman Fortenberry presents rationale on a proposed reorganization of the ASEE Board of Directors. Watch a video and  leave your feedback (ASEE member login required; Firefox works best.).

THE ACCELERATOR RETURNS: Beginning this month, ASEE's free monthly newsletter for undergraduate and graduate students will resume publication with a wide array of resources:  scholarship and internship/co-op listings, student news and essays, podcasts, professional development resources (e.g., advice on how to get an internship and how to make the most of it), and academic advice - plus entertaining engineering videos. Tell your students! Click here to sign up. Click here to advertise. Send content to Jennifer Pocock at j.pocock@asee.org.


ASEE is offering two two-week courses in the spring of 2018 for researchers and innovators who want to take their STEM education vision to the next level. The application period is now open.  For more information click here.

FIRE UP THE FUTURE WITH eGFI: Filled with engaging features, gorgeous graphics, and useful information about engineering colleges and careers, the latest edition of ASEE's award-winning Engineering, Go For It is sure to get your students excited about learning - and doing - engineering!

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