Federal Higher Education Act Reauthorization Proposals Released

US House and Senate Education Committee leaders recently released outlines of their plans to reauthorize the Higher Education Act, revealing an expected policy divide in approaches to reauthorization. House Republicans announced a focus on streamlining and consolidating federal student aid programs into “one grant, one loan, and one work-study program,” creating the “Flex Pell” to allow students to draw down grant funding outside the traditional academic schedule, addressing cost drivers of the Pell Grant Program, encouraging competency-based and online education, eliminating certain regulations affecting colleges, and preventing a government rating system for higher education.  House priorities can be viewed here.

Two Senate proposals also have been outlined—the Higher Education Affordability Act proposed by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and the Financial Aid Simplification and Transparency Act (FAST Act) by Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Michael Bennet (D-CO).  Senator Harkin’s proposal calls for year-round Pell Grants, new federal accountability measures for colleges, increased consumer protection for student loan borrowers, and a State-Federal College Affordability Partnership to increase state investment in public higher education and lower tuition costs.  More information on Harkin’s proposal is available here.

Senators Alexander and Bennet’s proposal includes provisions aimed at simplifying federal financial aid processes, streamlining federal grant and loan programs, discouraging over-borrowing by tying the amount a student is authorized to borrow to enrollment status (e.g. full-time, part-time), simplifying repayments, and allowing the use of Pell Grants year-round.  The proposal would eliminate the FAFSA and instead create the “Student Aid Short Form,” requiring answers to the following two questions:  What is your family size? What was your household income two years ago?  Click here for more information.

We’ll keep you updated as these proposals make their way through the federal legislative process.  Check back soon for more information.

Who is Running? A Preview of Candidates for Tennessee’s 2014 Election

Yesterday marked the qualifying deadline for candidates running in the 2014 election for Governor, state legislature, and the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate. The candidates in the document below have until April 10 to withdraw.

Several members of the current state legislature are not seeking re-election.  In the Senate, these members include Sen. Charlotte Burks (D-Monterey), Sen. Lowe Finney (D-Jackson), and Sen. Douglas Henry (D-Nashville).  Sen. Henry, now 87 years of age, is the longest serving legislator in Tennessee history.

The lineup of House members not seeking re-election is longer.  Rep. Joshua Evans (R-Greenbrier) is not running again for his House seat, instead opting to challenge incumbent Sen. Jim Summerville in Senate District 25.  Rep. Paul Bailey (R-Sparta) also is opting to run for the State Senate and has officially entered the race for Senate District 15, currently represented by retiring Sen. Charlotte Burks.

Rep. Joe Carr (R-Lascassas) is not seeking re-election to his House seat in order to challenge incumbent U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R).

Others opting not to run include Rep. Vince Dean (R-East Ridge), Rep. Richard Floyd (R-Chattanooga), Rep. Barrett Rich (R-Somerville), Rep. Mike Turner (D-Old Hickory), Rep. Eric Watson (R-Cleveland), and Rep. Kent Williams (I-Elizabethton).

We’ve covered who isn’t running, which leaves the question:  Who is running?

The spreadsheet below lists all qualifying candidates.  Click on the image to enlarge it and see who is running in your area.

(Note: This is an unofficial list as election officials are still processing petitions to determine whether the petition has the required number of valid signatures and whether other qualifying criteria have been met).

UT President Hosts Dinner for Governor’s Chairs, President Obama’s Top Science Advisor

holdrenbiocLast week, University ­­of Tennessee President Joe DiPietro hosted Dr. John Holdren, President Obama’s top science advisor, for dinner in Knoxville with the UT-ORNL Governor’s Chairs, two graduate students of the Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research, and other UT leaders.

The UT-ORNL Governor’s Chair Program is designed to attract exceptionally accomplished researchers from across the world to pursue solutions for our nation’s biggest problems.  Dinner participants each provided Dr. Holdren with a briefing of their area of expertise and current research and why they came to work or study at the University of Tennessee.

The dinner concluded with encouragement from Dr. Holdren for the University to work closely with his staff and other federal departments and agencies in seeking partnership opportunities in a number of program areas.

It was Dr. Holdren’s first visit to the State of Tennessee.

Closure of UT Martin Army ROTC Program Delayed Two Years

Promising news came from our nation’s capitol yesterday for The University of Tennessee at Martin’s Army ROTC program.  Recently slated for closure by the Army at the end of the 2015 academic year, the UT Martin program was one of 13 programs nationally and three programs statewide set for elimination.  The other institutions located in Tennessee include Tennessee Technological University and East Tennessee State University.   As the hardest hit state by the announced closures, Tennessee’s Congressional Delegation actively worked towards finding a solution.

Leaders announced yesterday that the U.S. Army will delay for two years the closure of Reserve Officers’ Training Corps programs at the three Tennessee schools, allowing them time to make improvements to their current programs to better meet the Army’s needs.

“These programs have produced some of our nation’s outstanding military leaders,” Senator Lamar Alexander said. “This is a major victory for students at these Tennessee schools, and I thank Congressmen Roe, Black and Fincher and Senator Corker for their leadership.”

Since the establishment of the Army ROTC program at The University of Tennessee at Martin, over 650 Cadets have been commissioned as Second Lieutenants in the Regular Army, the United States Army Reserve and the Tennessee Army National Guard.  Currently, the Military Science program, to include Jackson State Community College, Lane College, Freed-Hardeman University, Bethel University and Union University consists of approximately 60 Basic Course Cadets and 25 Advanced Course Cadets.

Press Releases of Interest:
Senator Lamar Alexander
Senator Bob Corker

What Every UT Advocate Should Know This Week

Government Shutdown: Week Two
Two weeks in to the government shutdown, Congress has yet to find common ground on the federal budget impasse.  Initial reports indicated that a short-term government shutdown would minimally impact colleges and universities, but as the shutdown nears the end of its second week and creeps closer to October 17 (the deadline for raising the debt ceiling) concern is growing about the shutdown’s ramifications on higher education.

The focus now shifts to a meeting happening Thursday afternoon at the White House between the President and a delegation of House Republican leaders.  Reports out of Washington hint that the Republican delegation will present the President with a new proposal, described as a short-term debt ceiling increase (that would extend the debt limit for roughly six weeks) while keeping the government shutdown and the budget debate ongoing.  However, the outcome of this meeting is still largely uncertain.

What We’re Reading On the Shutdown:
After One Week, Federal Shutdown Is Already Taking a Toll on Higher Ed

GOP to Propose Temporary Debt-Ceiling Increase

GOP Mulls Six-Week Debt Hike

White House on Boehner plan:  Obama ‘willing to look at any proposal’

UT Martin ROTC Program On the Chopping Block
The ROTC Program at UT Martin has been identified as one of thirteen programs across the nation that is projected to be eliminated at the end of the 2015 academic year.  The program has commissioned over 650 Cadets over the course of its history.  Other Tennessee programs that have been identified for closure include Tennessee Tech and East Tennessee State University.

Memphis Attorney Raumesh Akbari Wins Democratic Primary for House District 91
Memphis attorney Raumesh Akbari won the Democratic Primary this week for House District 91, the seat held by longtime lawmaker Lois DeBerry who passed away earlier this year.  Akbari will run against James L. Tomasik, an Independent candidate, in the general election on November 21.  The winner of this special election will represent District 91 until the regular 2014 general election, which occurs on November 4, 2014.

State Rep. Eric Watson Won’t Seek Reelection
State Representative Eric Watson (R-Cleveland) has announced that he will not seek reelection to the State House in 2014, instead opting to run for Bradley County Sherriff.  Watson has been a friend to the University on a number of issues during his tenure in the legislature and played a pivotal role in helping secure additional state funds for UT’s award-winning Law Enforcement Innovation Center.

State Rep. Charles Curtiss Won’t Seek Reelection
State Representative Charles Curtiss (D-Sparta) has announced that he will not seek reelection in 2014.  Curtiss was first elected to the Tennessee House of Representatives in 1994 and formerly served as a White County Commissioner and as White County Executive.  Anthony Haynes, University of Tennessee System Vice President for Government Relations and Advocacy, calls Curtiss’ retirement from the State House “a loss for common sense government and the University of Tennessee.”

The University wishes both Representatives Watson and Curtiss well and thanks them for their service to the people of Tennessee.