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Contributed by Tom Netting, Chief Executive Officer, TEN Government Strategies

What follows is a summary of the current status and key content of three primary pieces of legislation containing proposals important to the higher education community.

The America COMPETES Act (H.R. 4521)

Current Status: Both the House and Senate have passed comprehensive proposals – with substantial differences – which must now be melded into one final bill. The deliberative process used to work out compromises on the considerable difference between the House and Senate versions of the bills is called “Conference Negotiations”.

Brief Summary: This bill addresses U.S. technology and communications, foreign relations and national security, domestic manufacturing, education, trade, and other matters.

Key Points of Interest for Higher Education: The House version seeks to:

  1. reauthorize international education programs under title VI of the Higher Education Act of 1965;
  2. limit contracts and agreements between institutions of higher educations and Confucius Institutes;
  3. sustain the Truman Foundation and the Madison Foundation;
  4. require the disclosure of Foreign Gifts and Contracts at Institutions of Higher Education;
  5. eliminate Short-term Education Loan Programs and replace the financing with a new Job Training Federal Pell Grant program as proposed under The JOBS Act; and establish the collection of detailed higher education data as proposed within the College Transparency Act.

The Senate’s version has a more limited focus which does not include the elimination of Short-term Education Loan Programs, the replacement of the loan financing with the new Job Training Federal Pell Grant program as proposed by the JOBS Act or the additional higher education data collection proposals contained within the College Transparency Act. Thus the Education Conferees selected to negotiate whether or not all six of these topics are included in the final bill, and whether or not revisions are made to any of the proposals are pending based upon the outcome of the negotiations.

With respect to the proposed revisions to short-term program eligibility, both the proprietary educational community and the distance education community are currently precluded from eligibility to participate in the new Job Training Pell Grant program.

Advance 360 Education is aware of considerable efforts currently underway to request revisions that would be inclusive of all students and educational providers. If you are interested in contacting your elected officials regarding this issue a letter template has been developed to assist you in that outreach.

Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2022 (H.R. 7309)

Current Status: On April 5th the House Committee on Education & Labor held a mark up of H.R. 7309 – Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2022 – seeking to reauthorize the expired Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014. The bill, as amended, was passed out of the Committee on a party-line vote and is currently awaiting full U.S. House of Representatives floor consideration. While no clear timetable for House floor consideration has been set, the Biden-Harris Administration and the House Democratic Education leadership are anxious to move the bill forward.

Brief Summary: The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2022 proposes to more than double the number of individual receiving workforce training services and successfully fill the large number of job openings and employer demand for skilled workers.

Key Points of Interest for Higher Education: Key targets for expanded workforce training services include:

  1. combating recidivism by funding and making permanent a Department of Labor (DOL) program to assist justice-involved individuals obtain and sustain employment;
  2. expanding summer and year-round subsidized employment for disconnected youth, in addition to reauthorizing Youth Build;
  3. codifying and expanding sector-based training programs at the national and local level so that we can fund entire sectors, such as electric cars; and
  4. building community colleges’ capacity to provide employment and training programs leading to credentials in in-demand industries.

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Heading into the mark up, the original version of H.R. 7309 contained a provision that removed for-profit institutions from the definition of institution of higher education, maintaining the ability of for-profit skills development providers to provide skills development services under WIOA. This proposal was immediately opposed by the proprietary community which urged the Democrats to restore the sectors eligibility to provide skilled workforce educational offerings. The efforts to revise the exclusion were successful, as the Amendment in the Nature of a Substitute (replacing the original bill with a new, updated version) struck the harmful language.

However, in restoring eligibility, Democrats added a provision in the new version prohibiting for-profit education providers from being designated or certified as a one-stop operator or being awarded funds to operate a one-stop center and prohibits them from participating as members of state or local boards.

As the bill moves to the floor efforts are underway to repeal or modify the new limiting provisions contained within the House Committee passed version of H.R. 7309. In the weeks ahead Advance 360 will share talking points and templates providing interested parties with resources to contact your elected officials if these changes are a concern for your institution.

Fiscal Year 2023 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Appropriations

Current Status: The House Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee held a hearing with Education Secretary Miguel Cardona on the President’s Fiscal Year 2023 Budget Request on Thursday, April 28, 2022. Similar hearings are scheduled for presentations by the Secretary of Labor and Health and Human Services presenting the President’s FY23 Budget Requests for their agencies. This process will take us into May at which point the full House Appropriations Committee will work together to determine top-line spending levels for each Subcommittee. The Subcommittees will then begin the process of determining how the overall allocation is disbursed within the three Departments and work on a proposed bill.

Brief Summary: The annual appropriations bills sets the funding levels for all programs under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Education., Labor, and Health and Human Resource.

Key Points of Interest: As part of his remarks on April 28th Secretary Cardona outlined the Biden Administration’s broad spending requests for FY23, including a $12 billion increase over FY22 spending, as well as more detailed information on five core themes “that are at the heart of this Administration’s vision for education in America.”

One of the five core themes is “Making Higher Education Inclusive and Affordable” and a key spending priority to make higher education more inclusive and affordable per the President’s Budget is the request for Congress to approve a $1,775 increase in the maximum Pell Grant over the 2022-2023 award year. As noted in Secretary Cardona’s testimony, “This historic increase is one piece of the Budget’s comprehensive proposal to double the maximum Pell Grant by 2029.” Another key portion of the higher education theme is a focused effort to improve the services provided by the Department through a historic investment in Student Aid Administration of $2.65 billion to administer the Federal student aid programs in FY23.

A second core them is “Building Pathways Through Postsecondary Education That Lead to Successful Careers” and the proposed establishment of a new Career-Connected High School Initiative within Career and Technical Education National Programs. It is envisioned that the new program would provide competitive grants that support partnerships between local educational agencies, institutions of higher education (specifically noting community colleges) and employers to support early enrollment in postsecondary and career-connected coursework; work-based learning opportunities; and academic ad career-oriented instruction across the last two years of high school and the first two years of postsecondary education.

While there is a long, long way to go in the process, which has just begun, the Appropriators are already behind and are likely to attempt to move quickly to catch up on the annual process. As the next steps unfold it will be important for the higher education community to see what of the President’s priorities are supported and whether or not policy provisions to limit proprietary institutions participation or revise their eligibility under the 90/10 Rule will once again be promoted in the House bill.

We will continue to provide the higher education community with updates as the process moves forward.

About the author

Tom Netting, Chief Executive Officer at TEN Government Strategies, is an experienced Public Policy Advisor with a demonstrated history of working in higher education legislative and regulatory affairs. Skilled in Nonprofit Organizations, Negotiation, Analytical Skills, Governmental Affairs, and Government. Strong community and social services professional with a Bachelor of Science focused in Business Administration from Presbyterian College.  

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