Government Relations

Government Relations Legislative Update

Government Relations Legislative Update

Updates on state and federal issues relating to the UW System.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Federal Update for January 26, 2012

In his State of the Union address, President Obama discussed three issues of particular interest to higher education institutions: college tuition increases and student aid; basic research; and immigration. The White House released a summary document, "Blueprint for an America Built to Last," which can be found at the following link: In addition, the President's FY13 budget is expected to be released February 13.

Tuition Increases and Student Aid. The President in his speech put the nation's colleges and universities "on notice" that the government could not continue to "subsidize skyrocketing tuition." He did not specify how that would be done, but the Blueprint document says the President will propose to "shift some federal aid away from colleges that don't keep net tuition down and provide good value." He urged state governments to elevate higher education in their budget priorities and also called for doubling funding for the Federal Work-Study program over five years, permanently extending the American Opportunity Tax Credit, and preventing interest rates on subsidized federal student loans from rising from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent on
July 1, as scheduled. It is not clear how the Administration will propose to pay for the changes in federal law. President Obama will address these issues further in a speech this Friday, January 27, at the University of Michigan.

Research. Without providing specifics, the President reiterated his support for spurring innovation by investing in research and development that can support the economy and improve quality of life. He said:

"Innovation also demands basic research. Today, the discoveries taking place in our federally financed labs and universities could lead to new treatments that kill cancer cells but leave healthy ones untouched. New lightweight vests for cops and soldiers that can stop any bullet. Don't gut these investments in our budget. Don't let other countries win the race for the future. Support the same kind of research and innovation that led to the computer chip and the Internet; to new American jobs and new American industries."

Later, in his discussion of natural gas extraction, the President noted that "it was public research dollars, over the course of 30 years that helped develop the technologies to extract all this natural gas out of shale rock – reminding us that government support is critical in helping businesses get new energy ideas off the ground." He made a similar argument in his discussion of federal investments in renewable energy sources, and he made yet another reference to medical research in talking about taxes.

Immigration. The President said that although comprehensive immigration reform is unlikely in this election year, Congress should approve legislation to allow young people brought to this country illegally at a young age to earn citizenship (the DREAM Act) and to allow foreign students who earn college degrees in business and STEM fields to remain in the U.S. for work.

(AAU and the UW System Office of Federal Relations contributed to this report.)