By Cynthia Littlefield, Vice President for Federal Relations, AJCU
20th Annual AJCU Federal Relations Conference
The Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU) hosted the 20th annual AJCU Federal Relations conference from October 3 – 4 on Capitol Hill. The conference was well-attended, with 37 representatives from Jesuit colleges and universities. This year’s conference focused on student financial aid, with a particular emphasis on the Perkins loan program, and updates related to the Dream Act and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
The conference opened with Perkins advocates Representatives Elise Stefanik (R-NY) and Mark Pocan (D-WI), who reiterated their support for Perkins loans, in spite of the undergraduate program's recent expiration on September 30. Their goal over the next three months will be to assure an extension of Perkins reauthorization. As of this writing, 237 Members of Congress have signed the Perkins support letter, including 45 Republicans.
The conference proceeded with a panel on the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA), led by key higher education staff: Robert Moran, Majority, Senate HELP Committee; Bryce McKibben, Minority, Senate HELP Committee; Amy Jones, Majority, House Education & Workforce Committee; and Christian Haynes, Ranking, House Education & Workforce Committee.
While the panel discussion on campus-based aid generated some partisan disagreement regarding which programs to reserve, all House staff reiterated Chairwoman Foxx’s desire to have legislative language by the end of this year. There was also general consensus that reconciliation discussions for House staff regarding the potential $20 billion cut to education, primarily higher education loans, is now moot given the House leadership’s desire to move forward on the budget and go directly to taxes.
Following the discussion on campus-based aid, Joseph Zogby, Minority Chief Counsel for the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Border Security and Immigration, briefed conference attendees on the Dream Act and DACA. Stephanie Gold, a partner with Hogan Lovells, LLP, followed Zogby’s brief with her own presentation on the higher education implications of Title IX, Gainful Employment, and other legal issues.
AJCU Congressional Breakfast
On Thursday, October 5, AJCU presidents and Federal Relations representatives joined 28 members of Congress (many of whom are alumni of Jesuit institutions), for a Congressional breakfast at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center. The focus of this year's breakfast was on the Dream Act, DACA, and general concerns surrounding student financial aid. Two Georgetown University students, one of whom benefits from the DACA program, discussed the current climate on campus due to students’ fears of being deported. The attendees were stirred by his testimony, as well as that of his classmate, who shared his appreciation for the Federal financial aid programs that have made it possible for him to attend college.
Toward the end of the breakfast, Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) addressed the group on the FY18 budget, which was being debated on the House Floor that day. Representatives Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA) and Juan Vargas (D-CA) also spoke briefly about the founding of the Congressional Friends of Jesuit Colleges and Universities Caucus. Finally, Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA), Ranking, House Education & Workforce Committee, spoke on higher education priorities in the upcoming HEA Reauthorization. With nearly 100 guests in attendance, the breakfast was a great success; click here for a full photo gallery.
AJCU will continue to advocate for an extension of the undergraduate Perkins loan program in the fall and winter months ahead. The preservation of DACA protections and the passage of the Dream Act also remain high priorities. Looking ahead to 2018, taxes and the budget will be central to securing the funding and reforms necessary to preserve funding for higher education.