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December 2, 2017



The proposed Higher Education Act reauthorization introduced Friday "aims to change where Americans go to college, how they pay for it, what they study and how their success—or failure—affects the institutions they attend," reports the Wall Street Journal, which got an early look at the main provisions. "The most dramatic element of the plan is a radical revamp of the $1.34 trillion federal student-loan program. It would put caps on borrowing by parents and students and eliminate some loan-forgiveness programs for students." Inside Higher Ed, citing the Journal report, says the measure represents "the first time that the federal government tied funding to graduation rates . . . the bill would require historically black and Hispanic-serving institutions that receive targeted federal grants under Title III and Title IV of the Higher Education Act to graduate or transfer at least one-quarter of their students to remain eligible for the grant programs." The measure, introduced by House Education and Workforce chair Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) and Higher Education subcommittee chair Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.), seeks to "encourage these minority-serving institutions to use grant money for 'completion-focused initiatives such as pay for success, dual enrollment and the development of career-centered programs.'” See a bill summary  and a committee fact sheet.

'SERIOUSLY FLAWED': That's how the Association of American Universities characterizes the House GOP's higher ed overhaul. "It seeks to eliminate subsidized loans, on which nearly six million undergraduate students depend each year. It would eliminate the supplemental education opportunity grant – a program that requires universities to have 'skin-in-the-game' by supplementing federal dollars, and is proven to boost completion rates for America’s neediest students. . . . (It would) get rid of student loan programs that put graduate and professional studies within reach for many." 

The Washington Post reports that under current law, "people can opt to have their monthly loan payment capped to a percentage of their earnings, with the remaining balance of the debt forgiven after 20 to 25 years. The House plan would eliminate that loan forgiveness, but cap the interest payments on the loan after 10 years. 'It’s a very regressive and punitive change,' said Justin Draeger, president of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators. 'The cap provides some insurance that your costs will never exceed a certain amount of money. It’s useful and worth exploring, but taking away any form of loan forgiveness is a big penalty.'”

Draeger's group said in a statement: "We are concerned about the reduction in available loan funds for graduate students and seek to better understand to what extent the proposed loan limits would meet the needs of graduate students. Perplexingly, the bill proposes an increase for work-study, but then cuts graduate students out of the program."


The vote early today sets the stage for a House-Senate conference to reconcile the two chambers' versions. "Broad differences between the House and Senate plans will still need to be resolved, though the final changes made Friday brought the Senate version  (S 1) closer in line with the House-passed bill," CQ reports. Despite opposition from deficit hawk Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), GOP leaders gained support from holdouts Susan Collins of Maine, Jeff Flake of Arizona, Steve Daines of Wisconsin, and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, according to CQ. Like the House-passed version, the bill would impose a 1.4 percent tax on the investment income that colleges earn on endowments that are worth at least $250,000 per full-time student. The Senate bill leaves out "many provisions of the House plan directly affecting student benefits," Inside Higher Ed reports. These include an end to existing benefits that make "attending college and graduate programs as well as repaying student loans more affordable," the newspaper reports. How these differences will be sorted out in a House-Senate conference is unclear. "Graduate students at campuses across the country organized walkouts Wednesday to protest a provision of the House plan that would tax graduate tuition benefits as income, a change that higher ed advocates say would render graduate education unattainable for many students." Inside Higher Ed published a chart that shows specific provisions of the House and Senate bills that affect universities and students. Note: The chart appeared before the final version of the Senate tax bill emerged.

CAMPUS ANXIETY: Villanova University associate vice provost for research Amanda M. Grannas criticizes the House tax bill in an op-ed in U.S. News. She writes that "[i]f a similar change to the tax code had been enacted when I was in graduate school, I would have been forced to drop out and seek other employment to make financial ends meet."  In a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), Rebecca Blank, chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison cites "provisions in the bill would be harmful to students . . . and negatively affect our nation's research enterprise, which is directly tied to our ability to be a world-leader in scientific and technological innovation." Repeal of Section 117 d of the tax code, the tax break for grad students, would affect "approximately 5,300 Ph.D. students and 1,900 Master's degree students," whose tax liability "would skyrocket."

"College leaders I have talked with in recent weeks seem to have been blindsided by what they see as an attack on one of the strengths of the U.S. economy," Jeff Selingo writes in the Washington Post. See also Fast Company's Big Tech’s Lobbying Splurge Is About To Pay Off With The Tax Vote

HOPE FOR 'DREAMERS'? Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) said Friday that one of his conditions for supporting the Senate tax bill was obtaining “a firm commitment from the Senate leadership and the administration to work with me on a growth-oriented legislative solution to enact fair and permanent protections for DACA recipients.” CQ cites Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn as saying GOP leaders did not agree to any specific policy solution on DACA in order to win Flake's vote. House Speaker Ryan "and other Republican leaders have indicated they would rather deal with the immigration issue in 2018," according to CQ.

STOPGAP MONEY BILL IN THE WORKS: CQ reports that "The next continuing resolution will fund the government through Dec. 22, according to a GOP aide. The legislation will not contain extraneous policy riders, the aide said. The current CR . . . expires Dec. 8."


THE BIG QUESTIONS IN R&D: Presentation videos are available from the Department of Defense’s inaugural Science, Technology, and Innovation exchange (STIx), put on by the Basic Research Office last August. "[S]peakers . . .  addressed one or more of the three subtopics: The big question that my research seeks to answer; The big question that my technology addresses; The big question of identifying, nurturing, recruiting, and/or retaining top STEM talent." Titles ranged from "Virtual Reality Environments for Emergency Response, Training, & Decision Making" and "Space solar energy as the answer of our future energy needs" to "Semiconductor Quantum Dots for Quantum Technologies" and "Zebrafish to the Rescue: Using Genetic Tools to Understand Toxic Chemical Exposure Risk."

CALLING IN THEIR CHPs: Eight institutions, including North Carolina State, Pace, and Penn State Universities, the University of Illinois at Chicago and University of Maine, will share $25 million from the Department of Energy to "further the installation of cost-effective, highly efficient combined heat and power (CHP) technologies. The use of CHP can support U.S. economic competitive advantage, promote economic development, instill resiliency in businesses and communities, create and maintain local energy-related jobs, and provide solutions for modernizing energy generation and delivery." Learn more.


Higher education R&D expenditures, by source of funds: FYs 1972–2016

Source of both graphics: National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NSF)

Institutionally funded R&D expenditures, by purpose: FYs 2012–16


THE R&D 100: A number of university research projects are among winners or finalists in R&D magazine's 2017 awards. Check them out here.  

ACCESS TO RESEARCH DATA: The Association of American Universities and Association of Public and Land-grant Universities have jointly issued a report that "details steps federal agencies can take to facilitate public access to research data in a viable and sustainable manner that advances science in the public interest while minimizing the administrative burden on agencies, universities, and researchers."

WIDESPREAD USE OF 'CONTINGENT FACULTY': The Government Accountability Office, drawing on 2015 Department of Education data, found that "contingent faculty—those employed outside of the tenure track—made up about 70 percent of postsecondary instructional positions nationwide, though this varied by type of institution. In addition, data from three selected states show that contingent faculty teach about 45 to 54 percent of all courses at 4-year public institutions, and higher proportions at 2-year public institutions. . . . Administrators . . . said full-time contingent faculty generally carry heavy teaching loads, and some also take on additional responsibilities, such as conducting research or advising students." See the report.


Engineering Education Summit at NIWeek 2018

Join fellow leaders in education, industry, and research to discuss impactful trends and best practices that are affecting how students learn and how we can best prepare them to tackle the engineering challenges of tomorrow.  The Engineering Education Summit at NIWeek 2018 in Austin, Texas is a unique event that brings together a global audience of educators and researchers, alongside engineers from leading companies. Interactive panels and sessions ensure that you can learn how new teaching methodologies are enabling the hands-on, active learning in areas such as wireless communications, IoT and mechatronics. Learn more about this event and see highlights from 2017.

L’ORÉAL USA FOR WOMEN IN SCIENCE FELLOWSHIP: The For Women in Science fellowship program awards five women postdoctoral scientists annually with grants for their contributions in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields and commitment to serving as role models for younger generations. Each year, the program attracts talented applicants from diverse STEM  fields, representing some of the nation’s leading academic institutions and laboratories. L’Oréal USA partners with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) to manage the program’s application and peer review process.


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: ASEE's free monthly newsletter for undergraduate and graduate students has resumed 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 subscribe. 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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