Following on our earlier report, this morning, Rep. Raul Grijalva (AZ-3) released the text of his bill (H.R. 340), the ”Protecting Financial Aid for Students and Taxpayers Act,” which would prohibit institutions of higher education from using federal education funds in marketing and recruiting. The bill, which starts with a lengthy preamble that specifically takes proprietary schools to task for their marketing activities and perceived abuses, amends 20 USC 1011m, which currently requires that all institutions of higher education certify that they have not used federal funds (received under the Higher Education Act or 42 U.S.C. 2751 et seq.) to lobby. The text of the prohibition, which appears to be identical to the text of Section 309 to from S.3295 (Labor-HHS appropriations bill that passed out of the Senate Appropriations Committee last year), prohibits all institutions of higher education (public, non-profit and proprietary) from using federal education assistance funds for “recruiting and marketing” activities.” The bill defines recruiting and marketing activities as:
(2) COVERED ACTIVITIES- Except as provided in paragraph (3), the recruiting and marketing activities subject to paragraph (1) shall include the following:
(A) Advertising and promotion activities, including paid announcements in newspapers, magazines, radio, television, billboards, electronic media, naming rights, or any other public medium of communication, including paying for displays or promotions at job fairs, military installations, or college recruiting events.
(B) Efforts to identify and attract prospective students, either directly or through a contractor or other third party, including contact concerning a prospective student’s potential enrollment or application for grant, loan, or work assistance under title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1070 et seq.) or participation in preadmission or advising activities, including–
(i) paying employees responsible for overseeing enrollment and for contacting potential students in-person, by phone, by email, or by other internet communications regarding enrollment; and
(ii) soliciting an individual to provide contact information to an institution of higher education, including websites established for such purpose and funds paid to third parties for such purpose.
(C) Such other activities as the Secretary of Education may prescribe, including paying for promotion or sponsorship of education or military-related associations.
On a first read, there are a number of things that are unclear. First, the bill does not clarify how funds spent on sports and marketing of sports teams should be treated. It is also unclear how universities should treat expenses for conferences and other activities undertaken to raise the profile of the university. Indeed, these activities could be characterized as “promotion activities” or activities that will “attract prospective students.” Although less likely, one could read this text to affect certain capital expenses being construed as efforts to “attract prospective students” (the oft-maligned rock walls, for example).
More crucially, this bill appears to prohibit the use of federal education funds to pay admissions staff. While it may be the case that institutions of higher education can find enough funds from non-federal sources to pay for these activities, it seems that with dwindling contributions from states, those resources may be tougher to come by. And unlike lobbying, admissions is a vital university function, perhaps second only to academics in importance.
Also, it is worth noting that, while this bill is unlikely to receive much Republican support, the two co-sponsors — Democrats Rep. John Conyers (MI-13), and Rep. Elijah Cummings (MD-7) — are longtime leaders within the Congressional Black Caucus. This may be a forecast of support for Rep. Grijalva by the CBC for a leadership post within the Education and Workforce Committee.
The full text fo the bill is after the jump. Continue Reading