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Trump Tax Proposal Unclear for Higher Ed

President Trump released a tax proposal Wednesday that would dramatically cut both individual and corporate tax rates.

The plan is silent on many of the tax issues important to colleges, universities and their donors, employees and students, said Matt Hamill, the senior vice president for advocacy and issue analysis at the National Association of College and University Business Officers.

"Where the plan does intersect with higher education, there is a potential for some reduction in the amount of private support of colleges and universities if this were adopted as proposed."

Terry Hartle, the senior vice president of government and public affairs at the American Council on Education, said the proposal was "big, bold, expensive and vague."

"It's obvious they are anxious to put something forward so the public sees that major tax cuts are a big priority for the administration," he said.

Brian Flahaven, senior director of advocacy at the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, said that by doubling the standard deduction and lowering tax rates, the White House proposal would reduce the incentive for charitable giving. That's concerning in a higher ed funding environment where both states and the federal government could be cutting back support for colleges and universities, he said. While comprehensive tax reform would affect those institutions in a variety of ways, the implications for charitable contributions were the clearest in the spare outline released Wednesday.

"Anything that discourages charitable giving to institutions is a concern of ours," Flahaven said. "It's essentially another resource that goes to institutions to help provide student aid."

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Higher ed observers call James Manning a steady hand at Department of Education

James Manning, acting under secretary of education, receives praise from Republicans and Democrats with government experience for his knowledge of the Department of Education and aid programs.

West Virginia Loosens Public University Oversight

A newly signed West Virginia bill cuts the authority of the state’s Higher Education Policy Commission, a move backers say will give local campuses more decision-making flexibility and increase efficiency as potential budget cuts loom over public higher education in the state.

Governor Jim Justice signed the bill Tuesday, according to WAJR.com. It gives West Virginia University, Marshall University and the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine more power over their hiring, firing and operations. It also could allow them to avoid some fees.

Presidents at the three universities supported the legislation, saying it aligns the state with others where large public universities gained greater autonomy as state funding fell for higher education.

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100 Companies Formed From U.S.-Funded Research

A report released Tuesday by the Science Coalition identifies 102 companies whose creation was fueled by competitive federal research grants from agencies like the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy.

Those companies received about $265 million in public investment over multiple decades and employ 8,900 workers across the country, the report finds. An accompanying database includes profiles of each company.

"If Washington, D.C., is serious about creating good jobs, producing American goods and keeping the U.S. ahead of our international competitors, then, as this report shows, continued strong and steady funding for basic scientific research is a wise investment," said Glynda Becker, president of the Science Coalition.

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Cincinnati Law Dean Sues for Reinstatement

University of Cincinnati College of Law Dean Jennifer Bard is suing the university and its interim provost after she was placed on administrative leave last month, alleging violations of due process and freedom of speech as well as breach of contract.

Bard’s complaint, filed late Friday in the Western Division of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, says that she was illegally placed on leave after she responded to media reports about faculty members who were attempting to have her removed. Bard told The Cincinnati Business Courier a “small but vocal cabal” of faculty members was trying to have her ousted after she moved to close a multimillion-dollar budget deficit.

In response, University of Cincinnati Interim Provost Peter Landgren placed Bard on leave, the complaint alleges. It also alleges that Bard attempted to go through a mediation process with faculty members but was blocked by the interim provost.

The suit seeks Bard’s reinstatement as law school dean and a statement from the university and interim provost that she engaged in no misconduct. It also requests compensatory and punitive damages from Landgren for allegedly violating Bard’s First and Fourteenth Amendment rights, along with monetary damages from the university for breach of contract.

“I came to UC in good faith, deeply committed to addressing the College of Law’s failure to adapt to a rapidly changing legal market,” Bard said in a statement. ”Although I enjoyed the support of the students and many highly talented faculty and staff, the university now seems committed to seeing a small, entitled minority of faculty hijack reform efforts that should be dedicated solely to the welfare of its students. I have no recourse but to protect my good name and encourage an open discussion of the deeply rooted and ongoing problems that existed here well before my arrival.”

Bard is the first woman to be dean of the university’s College of Law. She was placed on leave less than two years after her hiring in July 2015.

A University of Cincinnati spokesman told The Cincinnati Enquirer that the university was reviewing the lawsuit and welcomed the chance to “present the truth” in court.

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Hatch: Endowments Will Be Part of Tax Review

Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, the Republican chairman of the Senate Finance committee, said this week that university endowments would be part of a planned review of the tax code.

The tax-exempt status of mega endowments at elite colleges has come under repeated congressional scrutiny since 2015, and Republicans have proposed legislation to force institutions with large endowments to provide more tuition relief to students. In apparent preparation for a renewed push on endowments, several colleges and universities have added endowment issues to their federal agendas in lobbying disclosure forms.

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University System of Georgia announces new administrative review

As consolidation efforts continue, the public university system sets its sights on assessing campus and systemwide administrative costs and performance.

Louisiana Lawmaker Opposes University Beers

Controversy is brewing in Louisiana after a state legislator took exception to public universities designating “official” beers.

Now, Democratic Representative Cedric Glover has introduced legislation that would prevent public universities in the state from licensing official alcoholic beverages. His bill would also ban the two universities that prompted his action, Louisiana State University and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, from renewing current contracts they have with local breweries when those contracts expire.

LSU has a deal for Bayou Bengal Lager, made by Tin Roof Brewing Co., located about a mile away from its campus in Baton Rouge. UL Lafayette has one for Ragin’ Cajuns Genuine Louisiana Ale, produced by Bayou Teche Brewing in Arnaudville, which is located about 20 miles to the north of its campus.

The practice of colleges and universities officially licensing alcoholic beverages is controversial, given that binge drinking and underage drinking are major issues on college campuses, where many students are below the legal drinking age of 21. But supporters of licensing adult beverages contend that it allows colleges and universities to tap a valuable revenue source at a time when state governments are pulling back from public funding -- Louisiana officials are considering cutting LSU’s state appropriation for the 17th time in nine years. Some have also argued that the beers licensed to Louisiana’s universities have flavor profiles that appeal to older drinkers instead of college students.

Glover is stout in his stance against the licensing practice.

“Deep in my heart, I just know it’s wrong for us as a state to allow a public university to put our official stamp of approval on an alcoholic beverage,” Glover told The Advocate of Baton Rouge.

But LSU President King Alexander said the university licenses many products. He said they should be able to include a beer from a local business that started in the university’s business incubator and now pays the university 15 percent of the proceeds from a licensed product it sells.

“It’s nonsense. Glover likes to throw stones,” Alexander said, according to The Advocate. “He’s never been a fan of LSU.”

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N.M. Governor Vetoes All Higher Education Funding

New Mexico's governor has vetoed all public higher education funding in a standoff with the state's Legislature over tax increases and spending, The Washington Post reported.

The move by Governor Susana Martinez, a Republican, to eliminate $745 million in planned state contributions to the state's colleges and universities appears to be a game of chicken, where one side will blink eventually. But it's unclear how the situation will resolve or how much damage New Mexico's institutions may sustain during the fracas. The fiscal year in question begins in July.

Higher education leaders at the state's seven public four-year universities last week wrote to Martinez to urge her to reinstate the funding, the Albuquerque Journal reported. They said the financial instability could hurt students, faculty, economic development and the universities' accreditation status.

“The message the veto sent to our 133,505 registered students and their families, while unintended, leaves them confused and wondering whether they should enroll in a New Mexico college, whether they’ll be able to finish their degree or whether they’ll be able to graduate," they wrote. "While we are trying to calm their fears, there is concern that many of our state’s brightest students will move to other states to pursue their higher education."

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Santa Fe University of Art and Design to Close

Days after negotiations over a possible sale collapsed, the board of Santa Fe University of Art and Design announced Wednesday that it would cease operations after the 2017-18 academic year. The regionally accredited for-profit university, which is affiliated with but not owned by Laureate Education, had been in discussions with Singapore-based Raffles Education Corp. about a possible purchase. Regulatory hurdles reportedly held up that deal.

In its statement, the Santa Fe University Board of Directors said that it would continue to explore "viable options for the future" of the institution, collaborating with city officials in the New Mexico enclave to "further the educational and arts mission of the campus." In the meantime, though, citing students' need for clarity about its future, the board said "significant ongoing financial challenges" led to its conclusion that the "university cannot continue to operate" after next academic year. The university plans to help students transfer and to teach-out those who are within reach of graduating by next spring.

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