July 22, 2014


Senate Bill Backs NSF's Practices and Calls for Big Funding Boost

Taking issue with its counterpart in the U.S. House of Representatives, a Senate panel has embraced how the National Science Foundation (NSF) does its business in a bill that sets policies and recommends funding levels for NSF over the next 5 years. The proposed legislation, released Friday afternoon in draft form by the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, calls on Congress to increase NSF's budget by nearly 40%, to $9.9 billion, by 2019. It also endorses NSF's current policies for reviewing grant proposals and -- in sharp contrast to a House bill -- emphasizes the importance of the social sciences as part of a balanced research portfolio. (ScienceInsider - July 21, 2014)

U.S. Urged to Require Colleges to Inform Victims of Nurse Examiners

Colleges should be required to inform sexual assault survivors that nurse examiners, both on campus and in nearby communities, are available to them, two senators told the U.S. Department of Education Monday. Senators Mark Udall, D- Colo., and Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., urged the department to include the requirement in the rules implementing the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act. The department already proposes that colleges and universities be required to provide students and faculty with notification about other counseling, health, mental health, victim advocacy, and legal assistance. (Inside Higher Ed - July 22, 2014)

Senate Panel Boosts Pentagon Research, Curbs Funding to For-Profits

The Senate Appropriations Committee last week passed a bill to fund the Defense Department that would increase the Pentagon's basic research budget and also place new restrictions on the flow of federal dollars to for-profit colleges. [T]he panel also approved a provision, pushed by Senator Dick Durbin, D-Ill., that would place a new restriction on some of the federal military benefits that are used at for-profit colleges. Durbin's language would change the so-called "90/10 rule" that caps for-profit colleges' receipt of grants and loans administered by the Education Department at 90 percent of their annual revenue. (Inside Higher Ed - July 22, 2014)

Medicare Testing Payment Options That Could End Observation Care Penalties

Medicare officials have allowed patients at dozens of hospitals participating in pilot projects across the country to be exempted from the controversial requirement that limits nursing home coverage to seniors admitted to a hospital for at least three days. The idea behind these experiments is to find out whether new payment arrangements with the hospitals and other health care providers that drop the three-day rule can reduce costs or keep them the same while improving the quality of care. (Kaiser Health News - July 21, 2014)

Talks Continue on Vets Bill As Reid Casts Doubt

The chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs (VA) Committee described leaders from both chambers as "hard in negotiations," on the same day Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., cast doubt that the conference committee would end July with an agreement. Reid said he anticipated Republican resistance over offsetting the cost of any possible deal would sink the legislation (HR 3230). But Sanders told reporters Monday afternoon that he had met earlier in the day with House Veterans' Affairs Chairman Jeff Miller, R-Fla., and Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson to discuss the department's needs to increase health care access and reduce wait times for veterans seeking medical care. (CQ News - July 21, 2014)

NEH Announces $34 Million in Awards and Offers for 177 Humanities Projects

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) today announced $34 million in grants for 177 humanities projects . . . This funding will support a wide variety of projects including traveling exhibitions, the creation of new digital research tools, the preparation and publication of scholarly editions, professional development opportunities for teachers and college faculty, the preservation of cultural collections, collaborative humanities research, and the production and development of films, television, and radio programs. (National Endowment for the Humanities - July 21, 2014)

FAFSA Fix Will Mean Less Aid for Many

The U.S. Education Department will automatically reprocess the student-aid applications of tens of thousands of applicants who inadvertently overreported their income this year, costing many of the applicants their Pell Grants, the department has announced. Excluded from Monday's fix are additional applicants whose reporting errors probably cost them a Pell Grant. Such applicants, who were initially assumed to be the majority, now appear to be the minority -- or at least, a lesser priority for the department. The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators is urging the department to take additional steps to identify such applicants, who would benefit from a fix. (Chronicle of Higher Education - July 21, 2014)

Providers, Insurers Grapple With Narrow-Network Backlash

Narrow networks are a reality of the new health insurance landscape. Nearly half of all insurance plans sold on the public exchanges in 2014 were narrow network plans, defined as those with less than 70% of area hospitals included, according to an analysis by the research firm McKinsey & Company. But given that reality, insurers and providers need to do a better job of providing consumers with accessible, easily understandable information about networks when they shop for coverage. That was the message conveyed by participants in a panel discussion about network adequacy on Monday in Washington sponsored by the Alliance for Health Reform. (Modern Healthcare - July 21, 2014)

Sweeping Change is in the Works for How Job-Training Dollars Are Allocated

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. will announce a plan on Tuesday to change how the federal government allocates millions of job-training dollars to colleges and other organizations. The plan, the culmination of a review that President Obama announced in his State of the Union address, will require applicants for some $1.4-billion in grants to follow a "job-driven checklist" that calls for increased collaboration with employers, more on-the-job training, and better tracking of employment outcomes, among other elements. (Chronicle of Higher Education - July 22, 2014)


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