Public Policy News – December 2019
CSWE Participates in Biannual Full Alliance EWA Meeting
CSWE representatives attended the Eldercare Workforce Alliance’s (EWA) biannual full alliance meeting on December 9. EWA is a coalition of 35 national organizations, including CSWE, that address immediate and future workforce needs in caring for the nation’s elderly population. Members reviewed EWA’s current policy agenda and future directions for the alliance. The meeting also included a discussion on the recent National Academies report Integrating Social Needs Care into the Delivery of Health Care: Moving Upstream to Improve the Nation’s Health and potential alliance activities from the perspective of aging. There was also an update on advocacy efforts regarding the Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Program and the Older Americans Act.
CSWE Advocates for Higher Education Act Reauthorization
CSWE Public Policy Initiative representatives and CSWE Director of Accreditation Mary Deffley Kurfess met with staff members in several congressional offices to discuss Higher Education Act reauthorization efforts. In October the U.S. House Education and Labor Committee marked up and approved H.R. 4674, the College Affordability Act, a Higher Education Act reauthorization bill that proposes substantive policy and funding changes to financial aid, institutional aid, accreditation, reporting requirements, and more. The meetings were an opportunity to voice support for the provisions for increased student aid and bring attention to programmatic accreditation and the need for additional support for graduate education.
Higher Education Year in Review
It has been a year full of higher education regulatory action and reauthorization efforts. Title IX regulations were proposed and received more than 124,000 comments. The final regulations, which deal with sexual discrimination in education, may be released early next year and have been a roadblock in Higher Education Act (HEA) reauthorization efforts in the U.S. Senate. The U.S. Department of Education (ED) also reached consensus via a negotiated rulemaking for accreditation and innovation-related regulations, some of which will go into effect in July 2020.
On the HEA front, the U.S. House Committee on Education and Labor and the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions held hearings on HEA reauthorization. The House Committee approved a comprehensive reauthorization bill, the College Affordability Act (H.R 4674), which would significantly increase spending on student aid and could be passed by the House early next year. In spring 2019 the White House released an executive order (EO) that would tie federal funding eligibility to an institution’s promotion of free speech rights under the First Amendment. The EO also directed the ED to try to increase higher education transparency. Implementation is ongoing, with parts of the EO already in place and program of study earnings data now available on the College Scorecard.
Committee on Education and Labor Holds Hearing on Child Separation
The U.S. House Committee on Education and Labor recently held a hearing titled “Growing Up in Fear: How the Trump Administration’s Immigration Policies Are Harming Children.” The hearing was an opportunity for members and witnesses to speak on the continued issue of family separation and its impacts. During the hearing it was emphasized that federal laws protect the rights of immigrant children to access public education and nutrition services. Several witnesses pointed to the long-term impact toxic stress will have on children and families. Also raised during the hearing was the Trump Administration’s change to the “public charge” rule, which will make it harder for immigrants who access public benefits to gain residency. In closing, Committee Chair Bobby Scott (D-VA) noted, “we do have a responsibility to ensure that each child in this country can have a safe and healthy childhood.”
ED Updates College Scorecard
The U.S. Department of Education (ED) announced an updated and expanded College Scorecard. The College Scorecard provides data at the institution-level and data by field of study. ED expanded the College Scorecard to include program-level debt and earnings data and more extensive graduation rates. In a press release accompanying the announcement, Assistant Secretary for Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development James Blew stated, "I look forward to seeing how students, parents, and researchers alike use this new data to inform decision-making." Although many higher education observers agree that giving students more information is helpful, there is concern the Trump Administration is using transparency to evade holding bad actors accountable. One limitation of the data is that only median first-year earnings for former students who received aid are published; earnings in some fields can start low but increase significantly over time. Programs with low numbers of students are also excluded due to privacy concerns. ED has announced that it hopes to update the College Scorecard annually.
NIH Further Defines Underrepresented Populations
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) updated its Notice of Interest (NOI) in Diversity on November 21, superseding language from a prior NOI released in 2018. This notice expands NIH's definition of underrepresented populations among the U.S. research workforce. Of note to universities, “NIH encourages institutions to diversify their student and faculty populations to enhance the participation of individuals from groups that are underrepresented in the biomedical, clinical, behavioral and social sciences.” The notice further defines “individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds” to include the homeless, individuals in the foster system, and those who were eligible for the Federal Free and Reduced Lunch Program for 2 or more years. A complete list of the expanded criteria outlined for the new definition can be found in the NOI. In an accompanying blog post, NIH Deputy Director for Extramural Research Mike Lauer said the revised definition is a way to better describe scientists with disadvantaged backgrounds and in turn enhance diversity of the biomedical research workforce.