May 16th, 2011 | View Archive
DHS EXPANDS LIST OF STEM ACADEMIC FIELDS ELIGIBLE FOR EXTENDED OPTIONAL PRACTICAL TRAINING (OPT)
Last week, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) division of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) expanded its list of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines approved for extended optional practical training (OPT). Under certain conditions, graduates are now able to remain in the United States for an additional 17 months beyond the original 12 months with OPT.
The expanded list now includes general mathematics, computer science, agricultural science and other disciplines that reflect a more comprehensive view of STEM education
You can view the new list of disciplines eligible for extended OPT here (PDF).
The ICE announcement is available here (PDF).
HOUSE COMMITTEE BACKS MEDICAL MALPRACTICE REFORM BILL
The House Energy and Commerce Committee voted 30-20 on May 12, 2011 to approve the HEALTH Act (H.R. 5), medical liability reform legislation. Introduced by Reps. Phil Gingrey, M.D. (R-GA), Lamar Smith (R-TX) and David Scott (D-GA), the legislation is based on California's Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act, which caps non-economic damages at $250,000. It also would establish a three-year statute of limitations for medical malpractice claims, with certain exceptions, and replace joint-and-several liability with a rule that would limit defendants' liability to the percentage of the final award that equaled to their share of responsibility for the injury.
The bill was approved by the House Judiciary Committee in February, and is expected to go to the full House of Representatives for a vote in June. In recent years, a similar measure has repeatedly passed in the House but failed in the Senate.
REPORTS RELEASED ON ECONOMIC IMPACT OF NIH RESEARCH
On May 10, 2011, the United for Medical Research (UMR) released a report on the economic impact of NIH research. The report, which looks at NIH research funding in the context of economic output, employment, and global competitiveness, was highlighted extensively in NIH Director Francis Collins' testimony this last week before the Senate Labor-HHS appropriations subcommittee. As federal agencies and their advocates approach another round of cuts from Congress, UMR hopes to emphasize the reach of NIH research.
The report showed that NIH supported nearly 488,000 jobs and produced $68 billion in new economic activity in 2010 alone. Much of its annual budget is sent to researchers across the country, and its basic research is often used as a foundation for research and development in areas such as the development of new drugs. A similar report from Battelle provided the first comprehensive analysis of the economic impact of the mapping of the human genome, a project that created 310,000 jobs in 2010 and drove $796 billion in economic gains between 1988 and 2010.
The Battelle report also discusses the vital need for the U.S. to continue competing globally through advancements in new medicines, treatments, tests and equipment. The report sites specific examples of NIH-sponsored research that has become critical and lifesaving such as cardiovascular treatment, genomic sequencing, neurotransmitter chemicals and monoclonal antibody therapies.
You can find the full UMR report here.
DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION DISCUSSES FUNDING ISSUES FOR HISPANIC SERVING INSTITUTIONS
On Friday, May 13, key leaders from the Department of Education and the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics met with stakeholders via conference call to discuss funding issues for fiscal years 2011 and 2012. The officials reported that Education Secretary Duncan is indeed obligated to implement the $50 million cut in funding to Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs) this fiscal year. The cut was called for in the recently passed continuing resolution funding the government for the remainder of this fiscal year.
Officials assured stakeholders that continuation of existing grants will be the highest priority. Cuts are expected to be made on a proportional basis across existing awardees. The cuts could go as high as 12%, but that is expected to be the "worst case scenario." Given the current fiscal crisis, FY12 funding for HSIs will be challenging as well, but the representatives left the door open for additional funding opportunities next fiscal year. The Department of Education will announce its operating plan and plan explanation early this week. Program officers are expected to start contacting existing grantees regarding potential cuts late this week.
In addition to discussing HSI funding, the officials also assured stakeholders that it is working to protect current Pell grant funding. Facing an over $11 billion shortfall and a 60% increase in the number of students served, the Department reiterated its commitment to the program.
FY12 APPROPRIATIONS PROCESS MOVES FORWARD IN THE HOUSE
In the coming weeks, members of the House of Representatives will submit their FY12 requests to the House Appropriations Committee. Earmark requests will not be considered. Last week, OFR submitted the attached list of key programmatic priorities to the Texas delegation. While this is not a comprehensive list of every programmatic concern, it highlights key concerns raised by campus and System administrators. As the appropriations process moves forward, the Office of Federal Relations will continue to work with the Texas delegation to educate them about System funding priorities and any additional specific campus concerns.
FY12 System priorities congressional letter (PDF)
FY12 System programmatic priorities (PDF)
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