On February 4, the U.S. House passed H.R. 4521, the America COMPETES Act of 2022. The goal of the legislative package is to make transformational new investments in research, innovation, and American manufacturing that will accelerate U.S. production of critical semiconductor chips, strengthen the supply chain to make more goods in America, and increase research capacity, and advance global competitiveness while supporting strong labor standards and human rights.
The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) tracked multiple amendments of particular interest to higher education institutions, including visa and immigration pathways for students and researchers, extension of small business innovation and tech transfer programs, and inclusion of the College Transparency Act. The act would remove the ban on student-level data collection and provide more robust data on student outcomes, including comprehensive graduation rates, typical debt load, and earnings throughout students’ careers. This set of amendments were adopted as part of the legislation.
Higher education coalitions praised the passage of the legislation and the inclusion of the College Transparency Act.
APLU President Peter McPherson stated “Today’s passage of the College Transparency Act is a monumental victory for millions of students and their families who stand to benefit from more robust data on student outcomes such as comprehensive graduation rates, typical debt load, and earnings throughout students’ careers. For most students, choosing an institution and academic program is one of the most consequential decisions of their lives. Current federal data paints an incomplete picture of student outcomes, failing to count all students’ accomplishments and leaving prospective students in the dark on critical outcomes. The College Transparency Act would fix this.”
The bill also includes important investments in research and a focus on research security provisions. Association of American Universities President Barbara R. Snyder noted in a statement that the bill will help “bolster the United States’ global scientific and technological leadership and economic competitiveness by balancing the need to secure critical federally funded university research with the need to grow and attract both domestic and international STEM talent.”
Congress may now take action through a conference committee or other approach including the possibility that the US Senate will swap in the Senate-passed U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (USICA) language and take action on the America COMPETES Act. Congress has less than a year before the 117th Congress ends. Interest is high in Congress in taking action on US innovation and research security. Some observers speculate action could come as soon as the coming weeks although the upcoming President’s Day recess limits the number of days available for votes.