NAICU Washington Update

Introduction by Barbara Mistick

December 03, 2021

Dear Colleagues,

I hope you were able to enjoy a happy, healthy, and restful Thanksgiving holiday break. As campuses sprint toward the end of the year, so too is Congress, which has several vital bills pending that need to be addressed before year’s end.

Congress passed one hurdle late last night when the Senate passed a continuing resolution, which passed in the House earlier, to fund the government at FY 2021 levels through February 18, 2022 thus avoiding a government shutdown.

Several other items remain on the to-do list for Congress to get done this month, including raising the debt ceiling and passing the National Defense Authorization Act. Additionally, early next year, the Senate is expected to take up the Build Back Better bill. All three of these are expected to face challenges in the Senate.

The lead story in today’s Washington Update provides additional details on the year-end scramble by Congress to move these bills along.

Today’s edition also covers issues related to students who are veterans and the concerns regarding compliance with the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) 85/15 rule. This rule is intended to ensure that no more than 85% of a course study (major) be made up of veteran students using VA benefits. 

We know that many of you have questions about the VA guidance and we and others in the higher education community are working on several clarifications. While the 85/15 rule continues to be vexing, we are hearing rumors that a deal may be in the making on the legislation to fix several other VA concerns, including the rounding up rule and the veterans information disclosures, and that flexibilities that have been put into place due to COVID will be extended.

You can read more details on the status of the 85/15 rule in our second story below.


  • A federal district court issued an injunction temporarily blocking implementation of the vaccine mandate for federal contractors in Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee.
  • Last month, we reported on the ability of institutions to apply for the Rural Postsecondary and Economic Development Grant program. The application deadline has been extended to December 13, 2021, and public and private, nonprofit organizations and agencies that partner with institutions are now eligible to apply.
  • Next week, the Department of Education will embark on its last session of the affordability and student loan negotiated rulemaking committee session. During this last session, a consensus vote will be taken regarding the issue topics. We have been very involved in this process and will provide an update with the final outcome once this session has been concluded.
  • I am pleased to announce that NAICU’s Emmanual Guillory, director of student and institutional aid policy, has been named one of Washington’s top lobbyists by The Hill for the second year in a row. Emmanual received the recognition in the publication’s Association category and is just one of two lobbyists included who represent higher education. Emmanual is such a strong advocate for private, nonprofit higher education here in Washington.

Double Pell

The Double Pell Alliance, and the case for increasing the Pell Grant, was featured in a recent USA Today story (subscription required), that included several prominent voices advocating for doubling the grant. The story also featured the perspective of a first generation college student who was quoted as saying: “Higher education students are the future of this nation – the future economy, future doctors, frontline workers, future lawmakers and if we’re not being a priority right now, when are students ever going to be one?”

As is the case in the USA Today article, student voices are so important to our advocacy efforts. The Double Pell Alliance currently has 95 student voices but we need to continue to add more. I hope you will work to engage your students in the effort to double the Pell Grant and ensure that the voices of our private, nonprofit higher education students are being captured. Students can be directed to the Student Voices section to take a just a few minutes to tell us the impact the Pell Grant has had on their education.

Thank you for your continued engagement with this important effort.


Barbara K. Mistick, D.M.
President, NAICU

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