Earlier this week, Congress acted just in time to prevent a government shutdown. The University of Illinois had significant representation on Capitol Hill from two of its campuses: UIC Chancellor Amiridis visited the Illinois Congressional delegation and one of Urbana's deans testified before a House subcommittee.
Congress Passes Short-Term Funding Bill, Shutdown Averted
At the eleventh hour, Congress approved a Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the federal government through December 11, 2015. The stopgap funding measure largely funds federal agencies and programs at Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 levels, with the exception of a 0.2 percent across the board reduction. On the House side, 91 Republicans voted against the CR, including three members from Illinois: Peter Roskam, Randy Hultgren, and Darin LaHood.
Over the next two months, Congress will engage in discussions to determine appropriations for the rest of FY2016. Leadership has already started initial conversations about a crafting a two-year budget deal that would address spending caps for both non-defense and defense discretionary funding. If negotiations for this kind of deal fails, we could see a full-year CR.
Congressional Spotlight on Higher Ed
There were two Senate hearings this week that dealt with higher education issues. The first hearing was held by the Joint Economic Committee and explored current challenges and potential alternatives to financing higher education. The panel included Purdue President Mitch Daniels and representatives from the American Enterprise Institute and Center for American Progress. The second hearing was held by the Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee and examined the Department of Education (ED) and student achievement. Witnesses included ED Under Secretary Ted Mitchell and leaders from the New America Foundation and the Center for College Affordability and Productivity.
Next week, the oversight subcommittee within the House Ways & Means Committee will be holding a hearing on tuition drivers and tax policy. A witness list has not yet been released.
Efforts to Extend Perkins Fall Short
To try to prevent the Federal Perkins Loan Program from expiring on September 30, the House passed legislation to extend the program for one year. It was overwhelming approved through a voice vote. Although there was an attempt to pass the measure on the Senate floor, the Chairman of the Senate education committee, Lamar Alexander, blocked the effort. Chairman Alexander has been pushing for simplifying federal student loan programs through consolidation. Senator Mark Kirk and Dick Durbin have demonstrated support for the program, which provides low-interest loans to students demonstrating exceptional need. Following the failed attempt in the Senate, Sen. Durbin submitted a statement to the Congressional Record.
The University of Illinois has encouraged Congress to extend the program until it can be evaluated as part of a broader review of student aid programs under the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA). Over 2,300 University of Illinois students received Perkins loans in Fiscal Year 2014.
UIC Chancellor Engages IL Delegation
While in DC to present at a Hill briefing on public-private partnerships, UIC Chancellor Michael Amiridis seized the opportunity to introduce himself to members of the Illinois Congressional delegation. He met with Representatives Mike Quigley, Dan Lipinski, Luis Gutierrez, Jan Schakowsky, Bob Dold, and Sen. Mark Kirk. He shared updates about campus, such as the results of UIC's Economic Impact Study, which demonstrate UIC's significant economic benefits to the state, including how it added $4 billion to the Illinois economy in Fiscal Year 2013. He also spoke about the new UIC-City Colleges of Chicago scholarship program, and UIC's strong enrollment numbers.
ACES Dean Touts Research Achievements at Hearing
At the invitation of Rep. Rodney Davis, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee's research subcommittee, Robert Hauser, dean of Urbana's College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES), served as a witness for a hearing on agricultural research innovations. Dean Hauser's testimony largely focused on the role of USDA-National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) funding for major field crops and renewable energy crops. Dean Hauser highlighted several successful Urbana research projects supported by NIFA funding, including genetic research in soybeans and our establishment of the Illinois Plant Breeding Center, which is recognized as the nation's leading academic plant breeding program. Click here to watch the archived webcast.
UIC has been awarded a $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education (ED) to enhance academic and social support services for Asian American and Pacific Islander undergraduate students. In this round of funding announcements, UIC was the only Midwest institution to be selected. Congrats to Karen Su, who led the application. To read more about the grant, see UIC's press release.
Melissa Haas | Acting Director | OGR Federal Relations