Stay informed: policy updates in higher education

By |2017-08-04T16:18:13+00:00August 4, 2017|Categories: Membership|Tags: , , |

NIRSA continues to monitor policy, legislation, and advocacy work that affects both the higher education and physical activity space. Below are some recent updates on topics that may be of interest to campus recreation professionals.

Comments on Changes to DOL’s Overtime Rule

Late last month, the Department of Labor (DOL) indicated it intends to revisit the salary threshold for individuals who qualify as exempt from overtime pay requirements. The Fair Labor Standard Act (FLSA) was delayed just before its December 1, 2016 start date by a preliminary injunction.

Now the DOL has called for public comments on potential changes to this rule, which has been of significant concern to many in campus recreation and, more broadly, student affairs. Comments are due by September 25 and can be filed electronically through regulations.gov. This is the first step in the agency’s plan to revise overtime regulations.

If you would like to issue a comment, remember many colleges and universities have strict rules for their employees around lobbying, including the use of institutional email addresses or phone numbers. Unless authorized otherwise, members may need to express their views as private citizens by using personal email addresses and/or phone numbers and stating their views as their own.

Supporting the CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity

Last week the National Coalition for Promoting Physical Activity (NCPPA), of which NIRSA is an active member, submitted a letter to the Senate Committee on Appropriations expressing strong support for funding for the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity (DNPAO) and opposing reducing funding across CDC during the FY 2018 budget process. NIRSA signed on its support to this letter.

CDC’s DNPAO protects the health of Americans at every stage of life by encouraging regular physical activity, good nutrition, and preventing adult and childhood obesity. In line with NIRSA’s vision and values, the DNPAO supports healthy eating, active living, and obesity prevention by creating healthy options in U.S. child care centers, schools, worksites, cities, and communities.

Senate Passes GI Bill Update

On August 2, 2017, the Senate unanimously passed an update to the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which had been passed in identical form by the House of Representatives a week prior. The bipartisan update expands access to student aid to members of the National Guard and reservists. Perhaps most significantly, it lifts the current 15-year time limit for veterans to use their GI Bill benefits for higher education and restores benefits already used by veterans at institutions that have closed.

In recent years, campus recreation has been increasingly attentive as to how to expand services to veterans, who have been returning to higher ed in growing numbers. Should this updated GI Bill be signed into law, campuses could expect to see those numbers increase even further.

The Clery Act

A recent Inside Higher Ed article, “Keeping up with the Clery Act,” took an in-depth look at the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act (Clery Act). The U.S. Department of Education has not updated the Handbook for Campus Safety and Security Reporting, its guidance for this Act, in the past year; however, with back-to-school preparations and staff trainings in full swing and an increasing number of campus recreation professionals taking on Title IX or other investigative duties, staying mindful of this guidance is critical.

Furthermore, as the Inside Higher Ed article points out, complying fully with reporting requirements can be complex and the consequences of mistakes are significant – mishandling of incidents, in addition to negatively impacting the parties directly involved, can project the appearance that campus safety is not a priority and “each inaccuracy or omission can cost an institution tens of thousands of dollars in fines” – up to $54,789 as of April 20.

The in-depth article, as well as the Handbook in full, are long reads, but ensuring you and your department have a clear understanding of the regulations, guidance, and reporting requirements can have substantial financial implications for your institution, and, even more significantly, help create a safer campus community for all.

2017 Inside Higher Ed Survey of College and University Business Officers

Conducted in conjunction with Gallop, the 2017 Inside Higher Ed Survey of College and University Business Officers, which received responses from 409 chief business officers for its seventh edition, has been released. A free copy of the report can be downloaded here.

While it is no surprise to anyone on college and university campuses that budget and financial challenges are a sharp reality, the data in the report is enlightening. This year, 71 percent of chief business officers agreed with the statement that media reports saying higher education is in a financial crisis are accurate. That number is up from 63 percent in 2016 and 56 percent in 2015. The Survey also discusses the chief business officers’ reactions to potential solutions and pending policy decisions.

Inside Higher Ed offers an in-depth article discussing this survey – “The Rose-Colored Glasses Come Off: a Survey of Business Officers.”

For additional insight, on Tuesday, August 8 at 2 p.m. Eastern, Inside Higher Ed editors Scott Jaschik and Doug Lederman will present a free webinar on the results and take questions. You can sign up for that webinar here.

For more information, please contact NIRSA Director of Advocacy and Strategic Partnerships Erin O’Sullivan.

Director of Advocacy & Strategic Partnerships at |

Erin O'Sullivan is currently the Director of Advocacy & Strategic Partnerships at NIRSA.