NAICU Washington Update

Introduction by Barbara Mistick

January 07, 2022

Dear Colleagues,

Happy New Year! I hope you were able to enjoy a respite, however brief, during the holiday season. I am writing to you from the Council of Independent Colleges’ annual Presidents Institute. It has been refreshing and energizing to see so many colleagues in person after such a long time. I am looking forward to seeing many of you next month in Washington, DC for NAICU’s Annual Meeting and Advocacy Day as well.

Yesterday marked the one-year anniversary of the assault on the Capitol, which refocused partisan tensions on the 2020 elections. That evening last year, I wrote:

I am confident that our system of government is strong enough to withstand today’s events. Higher education will have an important role to play in ensuring that our democracy continues to grow, evolve, and thrive. For generations, our colleges and universities have been pivotal in educating an engaged and civically-minded citizenry. Our collective voices will be needed to ensure that our democracy continues to prosper tonight, tomorrow, and for another two centuries.

I still believe that today. Our campuses, our students, under your leadership will continue to play pivotal roles in advancing our democracy. The work of Congress did not stop that night. Nor will our work in advocating for our students and institutions. 

Like you all, here in Washington, we are facing challenges in dealing with the Omicron spike. This week we have also endured a snow storm that snarled traffic coming into and out of Washington, DC. Perhaps an unfortunate metaphor. Add it all up and the second session of the 117th Congress has started off on a weary note. 

The Democratic leadership has decided to begin their focus this year on voting rights legislation, while assumedly working behind the scenes to see what kind of a deal they can make on the Build Back America Reconciliation bill.

As we look to our own agenda for our institutions and students, the role of college presidents as reliable and unbiased stewards of important educational institutions in your Congressional district and states has never been more important. In the middle of all of this national turmoil, we have a particular opportunity to once again raise our collective voices and stand for values of opportunity that resonate across the political spectrum and among our diverse institutional missions.

  • The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments today in a case challenging the OSHA rule that requires large employers to impose a vaccine or testing mandate on their employees. The Supreme Court’s decision could come at any point before the end of its term in June.

    The OSHA rule was initially blocked by a federal appellate court, but the injunction was subsequently lifted by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals on December 17. Amidst uncertainty about the status of the OSHA rule, the agency has declared that it will exercise enforcement discretion with respect to compliance dates. Specifically, “OSHA will not issue citations for noncompliance with any requirements of the ETS (emergency temporary standard) before January 10 and will not issue citations for noncompliance with the standard’s testing requirements before February 9, so long as an employer is exercising reasonable, good faith efforts to come into compliance with the standard.”
  • The Department of Education announced another extension of the pandemic-related student loan repayment pause. Students are now expected to begin repayment of their student loans on May 1, 2021. This extension includes a pause on interest and any collections activity regarding federal student loans.
  • It was announced that MOHELA will now serve as the primary servicer for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF) and the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant Program. All borrowers enrolled in PSLF and all TEACH Grant recipients will remain with FedLoan Servicing until they are transferred to MOHELA later in 2022.
  • While, the Department Education just concluded the Affordability and Student Loan Committee negotiated rulemaking last month, it is already gearing up to start a new negotiated rulemaking session with the formation of the Institutional and Programmatic Eligibility Committee, which will focus on issues such as financial responsibility, administrative capability, and gainful employment. The committee will meet in three sessions from January to March.
Double Pell 

“Doubling the Pell Grant maximum amount to nearly $13,000, as many are now calling on Congress to do, would dramatically increase the reach of this effective and popular program. Nearly 118,000 Colorado students receive more than $453 million in Pell Grants today. By doubling the grant’s maximum award, the lowest-income families would see Pell cover significantly more of the cost of their education, and the program would be extended to help more middle-class families not currently covered by Pell.”

Colorado College President L. Song Richardson in an op-ed published this week in the Denver Post.

We are continuing to see op-eds and student stories highlighting the importance of doubling the Pell Grant. Thank you for your efforts in amplifying the messages of this campaign. You will soon be seeing more advertising and additional resources, which stem from our recent national poll on the Pell Grant. Additionally, we have several sessions at our annual meeting that will focus on the Pell Grant and provide updates on the campaign.

I look forward to seeing you at our 2022 Annual Meeting and Advocacy Day, February 6-9 in Washington, DC.

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

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