In Washington, DC, the famous cherry blossom trees have reached peak bloom, a sure sign that spring is officially upon us and warmer weather not far behind. We are also getting a clearer view of the policy priorities of the Biden Administration.
Today’s Washington Update highlights several actions the Administration took this week that will impact colleges and universities and our students. Most visible was Wednesday’s White House event announcing President Biden’s $2.25 trillion infrastructure plan, which includes significant resources for HBCUs, MSIs, and research institutions, among others.
The Department of Education took several steps to provide loan relief for students who have defaulted on their loans in the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) program as well as those who are totally or permanently disabled.
Also this week, the GAO released a study examining the government’s tracking of federal COVID relief funding. While the report focuses on K-12, it could increase pressure on the Department to track all education spending under the COVID relief bills sooner. Currently, colleges and universities only report on their usage of funds through the filing of quarterly reports. This is a good reminder to us all of the importance of carefully tracking our use of these important taxpayers funds and to be ready to demonstrate to elected officials that we are good stewards of the public investment in our institutions.
Finally, the Internal Revenue Service issued guidance on how students and higher education institutions should report pandemic-related emergency financial aid grants.
You can read more about these issues below in this week’s Washington Update.
In other news …
- White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain said yesterday that President Biden has asked Education Secretary Miguel Cardona for a memo on the President’s legal authority to cancel federal student loan debt. Klain said the President, who has expressed skepticism on both the amount of relief Democrats have urged him to forgive and his authority to even do so by executive action, has not made a final decision on what, if any, steps he might take to cancel some federal student debt.
- Earlier this week, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in National Collegiate Athletic Association v. Alston, a lawsuit examining whether the NCAA’s limits on compensation for college athletes violate federal antitrust law. The Department of Justice also participated in oral arguments and filed an amicus brief in support of the student athletes who brought the case. A ruling against the NCAA would radically transform the current model of college athletics. The NCAA is also facing pressure from Congress and state legislators to address compensation for student athletes.
- The IRS has issued a warning about a phishing scam that is targeting the education community, specifically anyone one with a .edu email address, with a message that appears as if it came from the IRS. The email asks for detailed information to be able to process a tax-refund and would include a subject line of “Tax Refund Payment” or “Recalculation of your tax refund payment.” Do not click on any links that may be included in the email or respond with any personal information. Students and staff at both public and private colleges have reported receiving the scam emails.
I hope you have happy Passover, Easter and Spring celebrations this weekend, whether in-person or virtually, with your family, friends, campus communities.
Barbara K. Mistick, D.M. President, NAICU