On Dec. 5, President Obama held a meeting with Education Secretary Arne Duncan, university presidents and higher education policy experts which focused largely on the issue of college affordability and productivity. Participants discussed how new strategies for increasing affordability and producing more graduates at individual institutions could be scaled up to the state or national level. Jamie Merisotis, president and CEO of the Lumina Foundation for Education, said that Obama focused on the costs of providing college education, rather than the prices students pay. Several college presidents also brought up the "maintenance of effort" clause included in the 2009 economic stimulus law, which prevented states from cutting public college budgets below 2006 levels. They stressed that state support of public universities is vital and charged the federal government to do more to hold states accountable.
Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Charles Grassley (R-IA) released a statement Thursday urging Obama to consider changes to the tax status of college endowments. Grassley accused colleges of "hoarding assets at taxpayer expense," and urged the administration to require increased disclosure and transparency regarding revenues and expenses for institutions of higher education. Grassley expressed concern that funds raised through tax-deductible donations might be used to fund higher administrative salaries rather than preventing tuition increases. He cited a Treasury Department study, released Monday, on supporting organizations and donor-advised funds.
On Thursday, the White House announced a variety of public and private initiatives to encourage entrepreneurship and small business jobs across the country. These programs include:
- The Education Department's National Education Startup Challenge, which encourages middle school, high school, and college students to submit a business plan to deliver an innovative solution to an education problem.
- The National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship's (NACCE) Presidents for Entrepreneurship Forum. As of the program's launch on Thursday, more than 100 community college presidents had made commitments to promote entrepreneurship and economic well-being in their communities. The program's goal is 600 community colleges by the end of 2012, or about half of all U.S. community colleges.
From the New England Council's Weekly Washington Report Higher Education Update, Dec. 12, 2011. NEBHE is a member of the Council and publishes this column each week.
Founded in 1925, the New England Council is a nonpartisan alliance of businesses, academic and health institutions, and public and private organizations throughout New England formed to promote economic growth and a high quality of life in the New England region. The Council's mission is to identify and support federal public policies and articulate the voice of its membership regionally and nationally on important issues facing New England. For more information, please visit www.newenglandcouncil.com.