NAICU Washington Update

Introduction by Barbara K. Mistick

September 23, 2022

Dear Colleague:

I hope the start to your academic year has been smooth, safe, and successful and as close to pre-pandemic normality as possible. In another example of things returning to their pre-pandemic ways, the NAICU staff and I are beginning to see our own signs that some of the events, meetings, and other gatherings we used to take for granted are once again being held in-person. 

Last week, I joined our colleagues in Texas to attend the annual meeting of the Independent Colleges and Universities of Texas, their first in-person meeting since 2019. Earlier this week, I was in Virginia meeting with presidents and hosted by Robert Lambeth, the president of the Council of Independent Colleges in Virginia (CICV). Robert, who has been a steadfast supporter of private, nonprofit higher education, recently announced his retirement after 40 years as the president of CICV.

This week also saw the return of the annual dinner and celebration hosted by the Committee for Education Funding (CEF). Emmanual Guillory, NAICU’s director of student and institutional aid policy, is the current president of CEF’s board of directors and emceed the event, which is the largest annual gathering of the entire Washington, DC education community (pre-K; K-12, special needs, post-secondary education and more), including elected officials and key congressional staff.

Being in person is so rewarding and energizing to our work. So, while it’s not quite business as usual in all aspects, we do seem to be inching closer and closer.

A key topic during many of these recent meetings is President Biden’s plan to forgive student debt. I know there are many questions that remain to be answered and details to be worked out. This week’s Washington Update covers the loan forgiveness plan from all angles, with four stories showing the actions taking place on Capitol Hill in the House, including that the Congressional Budget Office is looking at the potential costs of the initiative. As you’ll see from the reporting, the partisan positions on the issue are beginning to emerge and become clearer.

In other news, I am pleased to report that the Department of Education awarded Project SERV grants to NAICU member institutions Tougaloo College (release) and Fisk University (release). We are thankful to Tougaloo President Carmen J. Walters and Fisk President Frank L. Sims for the wonderful work they are doing on campus to lead their institutions through such difficult times. The grants were awarded in response to the bomb threats the campuses received earlier this year.

  • The Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) recently released a draft of its five-year strategic plan. The plan includes the following strategic goals: (1) improve customer service and outcomes for students and borrowers; (2) advance equity and access to student financial assistance; (3) strengthen engagement and accountability for educational and financial institutions; (4) increase workforce and workplace capabilities; and (5) boost operational efficiency. Anyone interested in providing comments on the plan must do so by September 28.
Double Pell
As calls to double the Pell Grant grow, (Lois) Rice continues to receive praise for her efforts and their long-lasting influence. “They (Lois Rice and Sen. Claiborne Pell) didn’t necessarily set out to transform the landscape of higher education. But, as we reflect on the 50th anniversary of Pell, it is amazing to consider how profoundly they did just that.”

The passage above quotes Susan Rice, director of the Domestic Policy Council, and is excerpted from a story that ran earlier this week in The 19th profiling her mother, Lois Dickson Rice. Lois Rice has been called “the mother of the Pell Grant” for her work advocating for the policy in the 1970s. You may recall that NAICU posthumously honored Lois Rice with our Advocacy Award during last year’s annual meeting. The story also prominently features our own Sarah Flanagan, vice president for government affairs and policy development, who was instrumental in our efforts to recognize Lois Rice and who formerly worked for Sen. Pell. 

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