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AGB’s 2021 Public Policy Priorities

By AGB May 5, 2021 August 12th, 2021 AGB Alerts, Letters & Testimony

The AGB public policy team has reviewed and prioritized the federal and state policy priorities for the association and its members for 2021. These issues are outlined below, and will change from time to time to reflect important policy decisions at the state and federal levels.

Federal Priorities:

  1. Additional COVID-19 Relief for Colleges and Universities
  2. Increasing Aid to Ensure College Access and Completion
  3. Supporting Innovation Across Higher Education
  4. Repealing the Federal Excise Tax on College and University Net Investment Income
  5. Supporting the Universal Charitable Deduction
  6. Supporting Benefits for Students in the Federal Tax Code
  7. Advocating for DACA Students and Sensible Immigration Reform
  8. Revising the Title IX Regulations

State Priorities:

  1. Protecting Institutional Autonomy and Board Independence
  2. Supporting Requirements for Annual Statewide Programs for Public Board Members
  3. Promoting Merit-Selection and Board Member Nominating Committees in States
  4. Increasing Public Investment in Higher Education

Federal Priorities


1. Additional COVID-19 Relief for Colleges and Universities

Three congressional packages totaling $76 billion have provided COVID-19 aid to colleges and universities. This aid has enabled institutions to take steps to ensure student education can continue in person and remotely. Unfortunately, these packages have not collectively met the total financial need of institutions of higher education to respond to both the health and education impacts of COVID-19. AGB supports additional COVID-19 aid to meet the $120 billion estimated by the American Council on Education that is needed to meet the needs of colleges, universities, and their students.

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2. Increasing Aid to Ensure College Access and Completion

AGB supports robust investments that would help ensure that all students are able to access and complete a higher education. Specifically, AGB supports increasing investments in campus-based aid programs and federal TRIO and GEAR UP programs; doubling the maximum Pell Grant; increasing funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic-Serving Institutions, and other Minority-Serving Institutions; and expanding programs that ensure high-speed broadband access for low-income postsecondary students. In addition, AGB supports improvements to income-driven repayment plans.

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3. Supporting Innovation Across Higher Education

AGB’s members work to support and spur academic innovation at their institutions, which is why AGB is in favor of expanding competency-based education (CBE) programs, institutional alternatives to remedial coursework, transfer credit policies, stackable credentials, workforce innovations, and industry partnerships.

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4. Repealing the Federal Excise Tax on College and University Net Investment Income

Private colleges and universities with endowments deemed to be large relative to their student enrollment, as defined by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (and amended by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018) must pay a 1.4 percent federal excise tax on the net investment income of their endowments and other institutional assets. Significant amounts of endowment dollars are now being redirected to the U.S Treasury and away from student financial aid, scientific research, and other critical mission-related activities. AGB supports the repeal of this tax because it reduces the amount of available endowment funds for institutional priorities.

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5. Supporting the Universal Charitable Deduction

Initial COVID-19-focused legislation established a universal charitable deduction, enabling tax filers who do not itemize their returns to deduct up to $300 of their cash gifts. Recent reports suggest that the deduction has increased small gifts to nonprofit organizations during the COVID-19 pandemic, colleges and universities included. The $300 deduction was extended for 2021 with a $600 deduction for joint filers. AGB supports making the universal charitable deduction a permanent part of the tax code and increasing the amount of the deduction to as much as $4,000 for individuals and $8,000 for joint filers.

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6. Supporting Benefits for Students in the Federal Tax Code

AGB supports continuing efforts to simplify, consolidate, and increase the value of the American Opportunity Tax Credit and the Lifelong Learning Tax Credit. These tax credits benefit low- and middle-income students and complement direct student financial aid programs.

AGB also supports expanding employee educational assistance programs. The CARES Act enabled the benefit to be used for employer repayment of student loans through 2025. The benefit level of $5,250 has not increased since 1978. AGB supports increasing the benefit level and making employer loan repayments a permanent feature of the federal tax code.

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7. Advocating for DACA Students and Sensible Immigration Reform

AGB has remained an ally of DACA recipients. DACA students enrolled in higher education enrich our communities, contribute to institutional research and service missions, pay taxes, and are an important part of our country’s workforce pipeline. AGB encourages Congress to pass a permanent legislative solution to allow these individuals to remain in the United States and be placed on a path to citizenship. Additionally, since institutions benefit from the international exchange of students, scientists, and researchers, AGB supports sensible visa policies that encourage and enable foreign students and scholars to study and work in the United States.

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8. Revising Current Title IX Regulations

AGB remains concerned about the impact of the current Title IX regulations pertaining to sexual harassment on college campuses. These regulations present compliance difficulties for colleges, which are expected to provide counsel for both parties and permit cross examination. AGB encourages the Biden administration to work with higher education and other stakeholders to revise this regulation in a manner that provides equal treatment and can be practically implemented by institutions.

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State Priorities


9. Protecting Institutional Autonomy and Board Independence

Institutional autonomy and board independence are central to effective governance. Strategic and effective boards receive input from various constituencies, but at the end of the day, AGB urges that board members make decisions based on their own judgement about what is in the best interest of students and the public, not external or undue influences. Policymakers and other individuals or groups must respect the legal responsibilities of the board and understand the contours of the institutions’ autonomy as established by charter, state law, or constitution. AGB supports safeguarding institutional autonomy and board independence from external intrusion.

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10. Supporting Requirements for Annual Statewide Programs for Public Board Members

State-level board education convenings and programs can be an important strategy to build board capacity for higher education’s quality and effectiveness and increase board member understanding of broader responsibilities beyond the institution or system board upon which they serve. AGB is a proponent of state efforts to create and continually improve these programs that offer important educational opportunities for board members.

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11. Promoting Merit-Selection and Board Member Nominating Committees

AGB supports public board member appointment processes that facilitate the placement of the most able, experienced, and deserving citizens on public boards of higher education—institutional and multicampus—as well as the boards of statewide coordinating agencies. No selection process is perfect, but a process with standards and some level of rigor sends the message that preparation along with skills and experiences matter when it comes to public higher education governance. Nonpartisan board member nominating committees are one proven way to instill such standards and rigor in the selection processes.

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12. Increasing Public Investment in Higher Education

AGB believes that higher education is a private and public good, one that benefits both graduates and society. Colleges and universities produce individuals with practical and soft skills, preparing them to contribute in innumerable ways to our democracy and society. AGB supports increases in public investments in higher education, as well as heightened communication and advocacy about its value and benefits.

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