Press Releases

WASHINGTON – Today U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), a member of the Congressional Bipartisan Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCU) Caucus, celebrated the Senate’s passage of the bipartisan FUTURE Act, which would restore $255 million in federal funding for HBCUs and Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) that expired on September 30.

Virginia is home to Virginia Union University, Norfolk State University, Virginia State University, Hampton University, and Virginia University of Lynchburg – all of which stand to lose resources and face continued uncertainty if the funding is not extended.

“I’m glad the Senate was able to put partisanship aside and keep our commitment to these important institutions of higher education,” said Sen. Warner. “This is an investment in our students, which represented nearly $4 million for Virginia’s HBCUs last year, and I’m hopeful the House will swiftly get this legislation to the President’s desk.”

“Today, the United States Senate passed an amendment to the FUTURE Act that will extend mandatory Title III funding for ten years. For Norfolk State University, this represents more than $5.8 million in federal funding for our teacher preparation and STEM programs,” said Norfolk State University (NSU) President Dr. Javaune Adams-Gaston. “NSU expresses appreciation to Senators Tim Kaine, Mark Warner and Congressman Bobby Scott for standing with Virginia’s HBCUs, and urges the members of the House of Representatives to pass this legislation and send it to the President’s desk without delay.”

Last month, Sen. Warner joined more than three dozen Senators in a letter to Senate leaders calling for passage of the bipartisan FUTURE Act to renew this vital funding for Virginia’s HBCUs. Sen. Warner also spoke last month on the Senate floor, as well as at a press conference with HBCU students and advocates, in support of the FUTURE Act.

In the mid-1990s, as a successful tech entrepreneur, Warner – who is also a former member of the Board of Trustees at Virginia Union – helped to create the Virginia High-Tech Partnership (VHTP) to connect students attending Virginia’s five HBCUs with internship opportunities in tech firms across the Commonwealth.

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Tim Scott (R-SC) introduced the Ensuring Seniors Access to Quality Care Act to help senior living facilities caring for aging adults to better screen, hire, and retain quality staff. The Ensuring Seniors Access to Quality Care Act would provide nursing home operators with access to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) – an existing national criminal background check system – a move that would give employers greater ability to screen and vet potential employees to ensure that caregivers do not have a history that would endanger the seniors under their care.

“Anyone with a loved one in a senior living facility should have the peace of mind of knowing that they are receiving care from compassionate, dependable, and well-qualified staff as they live out their golden years,” said Sen. Warner. “This bipartisan legislation will help provide these facilities with the tools they need to hire experienced staff and to continue to meet the demands of high quality care without losing staffing levels.”

Our senior citizens, and their families, know the importance of having well-qualified, compassionate and trustworthy caregivers in senior living facilities,” said Sen. Scott. “The Ensuring Seniors Access to Quality Care Act will help these facilities more efficiently hire the best candidates, and, in turn, provide better care for seniors everywhere.” 

Currently, senior living facilities are not authorized to use the NPDB and instead must rely on state-level criminal background checks that can often omit key details about an employee’s background.

Additionally, the bipartisan legislation amends overly restrictive regulations that bar certain senior living facilities from conducting training programs for in-house Certified Nurse Assistants (CNAs) – individuals who assist patients with their daily activities – for a two-year period after a care facility is found to have deficiencies, such as poor conditions or patient safety violations. Under existing regulations by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), senior living facilities that receive a civil monetary penalty (CMP) over $10,000 are automatically prohibited from conducting CNA staff training programs for a period of two years.

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the need for nursing assistants to care for the growing aging population is projected to rise 9 percent from 2018 to 2028. With this growing need for caregivers, in-house CNA education at senior living facilities often helps meet the need for CNAs. But with the existing two-year lockout period, it can make it more difficult for senior care facilities to properly train new employees and retrain existing employees. Research by CMS also indicates that there is a direct correlation between facilities that are staffed adequately and the high-quality care they provide.

Specifically, the legislation would allow senior living facilities to reinstate its CNA training program if:

    • The facility has corrected the deficiency for which the CMP was assessed;
    • The deficiency for which the CMP was assessed did not result in an immediate risk to patient safety and is not the result of patient harm resulting from abuse or neglect;
    • And the facility has not received a repeat deficiency related to direct patient harm in the preceding two year period.

“CNAs are essential to the quality care provided in long term care facilities. In addition, the jobs provided by nursing homes and assisted living communities are important to many communities, especially rural areas, where they are often a major employer,” said Mark Parkinson, President and CEO of the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living. “This bill does two important things. First, it will help ensure that long term care providers have the ability to provide training programs for CNAs. Just as important, it will allow skilled nursing facilities access to the National Practitioner Data Bank, providing a better way to conduct background checks on potential employees. We applaud Senator Warner and Senator Scott for taking this important step to address the worker recruitment and retention challenges facing providers.”

“Workforce development is crucial to our members’ ability to provide top-notch care. The loss of nurse aide training authority is an obstacle to quality improvement for nursing homes, and particularly when increased staffing levels are needed,” said Katie Smith Sloan, President and CEO, LeadingAge. “We have for years advocated for changes to the training lockout mandated under the Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987. This legislation, like similar legislation in the House (H.R. 4468), offers a much-needed solution to help alleviate the severe workforce shortage in long term care. CNAs, who provide direct care to residents, are the backbone of every nursing homes’ team.”

“LeadingAge Virginia applauds Senators Mark Warner and Tim Scott for introducing legislation that will enable training of certified nursing assistants (CNAs). Under federal law, nursing homes are inspected annually and fines are assessed for any deficiencies in compliance with federal regulations. If these fines exceed a certain level, a nursing home automatically loses its authority to train CNAs for two years,” said Melissa Andrews, President and CEO of LeadingAge Virginia. “This ‘CNA Training Lockout’ runs counter to a nursing home’s ability to provide the highest quality of care and we appreciate the Senators for introducing legislation to overcome this barrier.”

“Having started my career in long term care as a nursing assistant, I know how critical they are to providing direct care to thousands of patients and residents every day. Ending the CNA training lockout will have a tremendously positive impact on our ability to train more caregivers to work in our nursing homes,” said David Tucker, Chairman of Virginia Health Care Association – Virginia Center for Assisted Living (VHCA-VCAL) and President and COO of Commonwealth Care of Roanoke.

“Westminster Canterbury Richmond believes that a qualified workforce is crucial for the overall success of a nursing home to provide the highest quality of care. The training lockout is an obstacle to achieving this goal, and we believe this legislation is a positive step forward,” said John Burns, President and CEO of Westminster Canterbury Richmond, and a member of the LeadingAge Virginia Board of Directors.

“At a time where we need more individuals to choose the important and meaningful work of service to older adults throughout this country, limiting the ability to train future generations of care workers is not the answer,” said Rob Liebreich, President and CEO, Goodwin House Incorporated.

“Having access to the National Practitioner Data Bank would be extremely beneficial for us. It would help prevent bad actors from hopping from state to state,” said Melissa Green, Chief Clinical Officer of Trio Health Care, LLC, Hot Springs, VA and a nursing home operator who has facilities close to neighboring states. She cites an incident when it was revealed that an employee had stolen an identity to work as a nurse—without access to the NPDB there was no way to know the actual nurse’s identity was stolen even though the nursing home completed the required background checks.

“Because of the CNA training lockout, we’ve reduced the number of qualified CNAs entering in the workforce, which has had a trickle-down effect on a facility the size of ours,” said Keith Denson, Administrator, Snyder Nursing Home, Inc., Salem, VA. “If we’re not training our people to take care of our unique and wonderful residents, who will do it? Training programs in the community lack the continuity of care and the CNA to resident experience that provider programs offer. I am very appreciative of the trust Sen. Warner has in our ability to train our staff to take care of our residents.”

Sen. Warner has been a longtime advocate of improving long-term care for seniors. In 2000, Sen. Warner’s mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, passing away in 2010 after battling the disease. Her diagnosis and the family’s subsequent struggle to find qualified care and support resources inspired Sen. Warner to launch SeniorNavigator.com, an online information and referral network for older Virginians and their caregivers. In the Senate, Sen. Warner serves as a Co-Chair of the Alzheimer’s Caucus and has helped lead efforts to secure robust funding for Alzheimer’s research, prevention, and treatment. He’s also introduced bipartisan legislation designed to give people with serious illnesses new tools to plan for their care, and empower them to have those choices honored. Sen. Warner has also sponsored legislation that allows seniors with multiple chronic conditions to receive enhanced care in their homes – an effort to decrease hospital readmissions – and expand telehealth services for seniors to increase access to primary care services in rural communities. The Senate unanimously passed this bill in September of 2017, and the bill was signed into law in 2018.

The text of the Ensuring Seniors Access to Quality Care Act is available here.

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WASHINGTON – Today U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), a member of the Congressional Bipartisan Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCU) Caucus, joined Senate colleagues and leaders from HBCUs – including a student from Virginia Union University in Richmond – in calling on the Senate to pass the bipartisan FUTURE Act, which would restore $255 million in federal funding for HBCUs and Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) that expired on September 30. While the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the FUTURE Act in September, Senate Republicans have blocked this critical legislation from coming to the Senate floor for a vote.

Virginia is home to Virginia Union University, Norfolk State University, Virginia State University, Hampton University, and Virginia University of Lynchburg – all of which stand to lose funding if the Senate fails to act.

“In Virginia, we’re talking about nearly $4 million in funding last year that is at risk unless we pass the FUTURE Act,” said Sen. Warner during today’s press conference. “This is an investment in our students. It’s an investment in the middle class. And it’s time for the federal government to live up its commitment.”

Sen. Warner was also joined today by Jalynn Hodges, a biology major currently serving as the first-ever elected student representative for the Board of Trustees at Virginia Union University (VUU), who underscored how renewing this funding would enable the Virginia Union community to continue to support students who pursue a career in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.

“When I arrived at my prestigious HBCU in fall of 2017, I entered the gateway into my future. During my first year, I conducted research in our neuroscience and chemistry laboratory where I learned technical and analytical skills that are essential to my long-term academic and professional goals,” said Jalynn Hodges, biology major at VUU.  “With continued mandatory funding, students and faculty will be afforded access to ever changing equipment and laboratories that are consistent with industry standards. It is because of VUU that I am a better version of myself - one who is confident and assured that resources that have been afforded to me have prepared me for my graduate studies in medicine.”

Earlier this week, Sen. Warner joined more than three dozen Senators in a letter to Senate leaders calling for passage of the bipartisan FUTURE Act legislation to renew this vital funding for Virginia’s HBCUs.

“As Virginia’s most affordable 4-year public university, Norfolk State provides access to a quality higher education in a culturally diverse and supportive learning environment. Failure to restore Title III Part F mandatory funding for HBCUs will represent more than a $5.8 million loss for NSU. Without this funding, Norfolk State’s educational programs in both teacher preparation and the STEM fields will be put at risk at a time when we are working to increase diversity in the front of our classrooms, and grow the pipeline of diverse STEM graduates to fill the jobs of the new economy. Norfolk State University expresses appreciation to Senators Warner and Kaine for their leadership on this critical issue, and urges all Senators to join them in securing the future of America’s HBCUs and the students they serve by passing the FUTURE Act,” said Dr. Javaune Adams-Gaston, President of Norfolk State University.

“Failure to pass the FUTURE Act will have serious consequences for America’s HBCUs, their students, and my peers. Norfolk State University’s supportive and culturally aware learning environment has helped me to grow as a leader and put me on the path to success. I would likely not have had these opportunities at other schools. All students regardless of their socio-economic background deserve access to a quality higher education and the opportunity to realize their full potential. It is time for Congress to stand with the students of America’s HBCUs by voting to pass the FUTURE Act,” said Linei Woodson, President of Norfolk State University’s Student Government Association.  

In the mid-1990s, as a successful tech entrepreneur, Warner – who is also a former member of the Board of Trustees at Virginia Union – helped to create the Virginia High-Tech Partnership (VHTP) to connect students attending Virginia’s five HBCUs with internship opportunities in tech firms across the Commonwealth.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA), members of the Congressional Bipartisan Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCU) Caucus, today joined 36 of their colleagues in a new push to pass funding for HBCUs and other minority-serving institutions (MSIs). In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), the Senators called for the immediate passage of the bipartisan FUTURE Act, which would reauthorize $255 million in mandatory federal funding for these institutions, which expired on September 30, 2019. The House of Representatives approved the legislation unanimously in September.

“HBCUs, TCUs, and MSIs are an essential component of America’s higher education and workforce development system,” the Senators wrote. “Given the importance of this funding to hundreds of institutions and millions of students, we request that the Senate delay no longer and take up the bipartisan FUTURE Act immediately to avoid permanent damage to our nation’s historic colleges.”

Virginia is home to five HBCUs whose funding would be preserved by the FUTURE Act. Virginia State University, Norfolk State University, Hampton University, Virginia Union University, and Virginia University of Lynchburg received nearly $4 million in funding last year, which is now at risk unless Congress passes the FUTURE Act.

Sens. Warner and Kaine continue to be longtime advocates of HBCUs. Earlier this year, both Senators supported the permanent reauthorization of the Land Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which also includes a provision to support the preservation of HBCU campuses that are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Last year, Virginia Union, Hampton University, Virginia State, and Virginia University of Lynchburg received grants totaling $2.27 million under the HBCU grant program.

In addition to Sens. Warner and Kaine, the letter was led by Sens. Doug Jones (D-AL) and Jon Tester (D-MT) and signed by Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Chris Coons (D-DE), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Tom Udall (D-NM), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Tina Smith (D-MN), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Bob Casey (D-PA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Tom Carper (D-DE), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Gary Peters (D-MI), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Ed Markey (D-MA), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI).

A copy of the letter can be found below.

 

November 4, 2019

Dear Leader McConnell and Leader Schumer:

We write today to respectfully request immediate Senate consideration of the Fostering Undergraduate Talent by Unlocking Resources for Education (FUTURE) Act. This important bipartisan legislation would reauthorize funding for Title III, Part F of the Higher Education Act of 1965, which provides mandatory funds for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs), and other minority serving-institutions (MSIs). Mandatory funding benefiting these institutions lapsed on September 30, 2019.

HBCUs, TCUs, and MSIs are an essential component of America’s higher education and workforce development system. MSIs serve nearly 6 million students, accounting for more than one-quarter of all undergraduates across the nation. These institutions enroll a significant share of all students of color. For example, HSIs account for nearly 15 percent of all non-profit colleges and universities, but enroll two-thirds of all Hispanic students. Also, while HBCUs only comprise 8.5 percent of all four-year institutions, they enroll, on average, 24 percent of all black undergraduates pursuing a bachelor’s degree, graduate 26 percent of all black bachelor’s degrees, and graduate 32 percent of STEM degrees earned by black students. The student population across all TCUs is 78 percent American Indian and Alaska Native. Similarly, these schools disproportionately enroll low-income students – more than 75 percent of students at HBCUs and 90 percent of students at TCUs receive Pell Grants, compared to only 32 percent of all students.

Title III, Part F funding is critical to ensuring these institutions are able to best serve their students. This funding is used for an array of purposes across campuses. Many schools use these funds to improve student services and academic programs like counseling, tutoring, mentoring, and STEM and career training programs. Numerous institutions use the funding to perform technology maintenance and expansion in order to provide students with up-to-date technology and vital learning opportunities such as computer labs, research institutes, and educational experiences. Others put the investment toward capital improvements like constructing affordable housing, renovating facilities, and creating learning spaces for students. All told, the Title III, Part F funding is a lifeline for these institutions to strengthen their academic, administrative, and fiscal capacities.

The bipartisan FUTURE Act will allow HBCUs, TCUs, and MSIs across the country to keep their doors open and continue to generate more opportunities for their students, disproportionate percentages of whom are for the low-income students and students of color. This funding stream plays a vital role in increasing institutional capacity at MSIs and in generating more opportunities for students of color to attain degrees in STEM fields and secure good-paying jobs, generating a strong economic impact. HBCUs, for example, have created over 134,000 jobs and have produced over $10 billion in gross regional product and a total annual economic impact of nearly $15 billion. 

Unfortunately, funding for this program lapsed due to Senate inaction last month. The House of Representatives passed the FUTURE Act by a voice vote last month. Given the importance of this funding to hundreds of institutions and millions of students, we request that the Senate delay no longer and take up the bipartisan FUTURE Act immediately to avoid permanent damage to our nation’s historic colleges.

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) has urged the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to require companies to disclose more information regarding their investment in workers, such as turnover rates, amounts spent on employee training opportunities, and whether workers are considered full-time employees or contractors. Sen. Warner’s letter comes as the SEC considers public comments regarding its proposed modernization of Regulation S-K, the set of SEC rules that establish disclosure requirements for public companies.  

“As our nation continues to evolve and our economy becomes more knowledge-based, workers are easily becoming the most valuable asset a company can have. Human capital can affect a company’s potential, and when properly cultivated, can boost its ability to adapt, innovate, and compete,” said Sen. Warner, regarding the letter he sent to the SEC. “I appreciate the SEC’s commitment to fostering a culture of increased investment in our workers, but urge it to take this effort a step further by requiring companies to disclose exactly how they’re investing in their labor force.”

The SEC’s current proposed rule would require that companies broadly disclose human capital resources, measures, and objectives, but not necessarily specific metrics, which can be valuable for potential investors across a variety of industries.

In the letter to SEC Chairman Jay Clayton, Sen. Warner applauded the SEC’s efforts and urged the SEC to take additional steps, including requiring disclosure of specific metrics related to worker training, turnover rates, and full versus part-time workers. This kind of information can be easily compared across industries and companies, and can help shareholders better understand risks to company performance, and potential long-term systemic risks to the economy.

Sen. Warner has been an outspoken advocate of investing in our workers, and ensuring they are adequately equipped to participate in the 21st century labor force. Earlier this year, the SEC announced this proposed rule following advocacy by Sen. Warner, who last year urged the Commission to heed the calls of investors and utilize its rulemaking authority to require companies across the board to provide further details relating to human capital management.

The letter text can be found below and a PDF copy is available here.

 

The Honorable Jay Clayton

Chairman

Securities & Exchange Commission

100 F Street, N.E.

Washington, DC 20549

United States File Number S7-11-19

Dear Chairman Clayton,

I applaud the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (Commission’s) recent actions on the Modernization of Regulation S-K, particularly with regard to Item 101, and welcome the opportunity to comment on an issue that has long been a focus of mine. Human capital is among a company’s most valuable assets. It is critical to a firm’s ability to innovate, adapt, and compete as companies in the United States transition to a 21st-century knowledge-based economy. As the proposed rule notes, “intangible assets [including human capital] represent an essential resource for many companies.”

Beyond the value that human capital holds for a company itself, shareholders increasingly expect public companies to disclose material issues affecting a businesses’ financial performance – such as investments in human capital and worker training. These disclosures are relevant and important to shareholders, not only in order to better understand risks to company performance, but also to understand potential long-term systemic risks to the economy. You have also raised the issue of the importance of human capital disclosures to shareholders, most recently in May 2019 at the Investment Company Institute, stating, “If I am an investor looking at businesses today, I want to know what you are doing with your human talent, how you are growing your human talent, how you are accessing new talent, how you are retaining existing talent . . .”

The route that the Commission has taken with the proposed rule is encouraging, however, I believe the more appropriate route should be a principles-based approach that incorporates some prescriptive elements. As the Commission notes, the current human capital element in Item 101(c) “dates back to a time when companies relied significantly on plant, property, and equipment to drive value.” With regard to the Commission’s proposed amendments, I could not agree more that Item 101(c) should be modernized to include human capital resources, measures, and objectives as a disclosure topic. Further, I recognize the value that a principles-based approach holds for human capital management disclosures. Setting objectives and letting management judge what information best satisfies the disclosure requirements for the registrant is beneficial, but cannot be the entire picture. Human capital management, and the metrics used to measure it, differs from one industry to the next and even among companies within the same industry. A purely prescriptive approach may miss important subjective information, but a purely principles-based approach would fall short by losing the benefits of increased consistency and comparability for investors.

I understand that you have expressed concerns about the value of mandating certain metrics as disclosure items across all industries, but I encourage the Commission to consider the value of quantitative information that is of a high value to investors across a variety of industries. Specific disclosures make it easier to compare registrants, which is important to potential investors. You have commented on the importance of comparability yourself, for instance in February 2019 during a phone call with Investor Advisory Committee Members: “for human capital, I believe it is important that the metrics allow for period to period comparability for the company.” There are certain disclosure items, such as whether workers are full-time or contractors, turnover rates, and spending on employee training opportunities, that can provide universal value across all industries. I recognize the risk that prescriptive metrics can pose – that companies may “manage to the metric,” as the SEC Investment Advisory Committee put it. However, I encourage the Commission to engage with investors, registrants, and experts further to learn more about metrics that may serve useful purposes while minimizing unintended consequences.

With regard to the utility of non-exclusive examples, I believe that the Commission should provide these to registrants. Principles-based disclosure can lack direction. Examples will be especially useful for registrants when disclosing on new human capital management metrics.

I believe the addition of more human capital management disclosure requirements to Regulation S-K furthers the Commission’s mission to “protect investors, maintain fair, orderly, and efficient markets, and facilitate capital formation.” Thank you for your attention to this critical matter.

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine applauded $4,849,792 in federal funding from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) through its Partnership for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization (POWER) initiative for communities in the Appalachian region of Virginia.

“We’re excited to support these investments to strengthen Virginia’s economy,” the Senators said. “This funding will help promote job growth, allow more people to access job training, and support rural businesses.”

The funding will be awarded as follows:

  • The Southwest Virginia Workforce Development Board in Lebanon, VA will receive $1,500,000 for the Recovery Opportunities and Pathways to Employment Success (ROPES) project. The ROPES program combines recovery and treatment from substance abuse with reemployment opportunities and workforce development to create a recovery-to-employment pathway.
  • Appalachian Community Capital (ACC) in Christiansburg, VA will receive $1,039,500 for the Opportunity Appalachia project. ACC has worked with five organizations, including the University of Virginia’s College at Wise, to develop a program that helps bring investment funding to federally designated Opportunity Zones in Central Appalachia. The initiative is estimated to bring in approximately $7.5 million in new investment in Central Appalachian coal communities, and will invest in 15 businesses and create 720 jobs, 70 of which are estimated to be for people recovering from substance abuse.
  • Appalachian Headwaters will receive $622,280 for the Appalachian Beekeeping Collective Diversification and Expansion project. Appalachian Headwaters aims to expand its programs focused on the apiculture (honey and bee products) industry to five counties in the Appalachian region of Virginia and 17 counties in southern West Virginia. The project will develop a training and marketing program for new bee products and services as well as create a new processing and training hub in Southwest Virginia.
  • The BARC Electric Cooperative in Millboro, VA will receive $1,000,000 for the BARC Rural Economic Development via Broadband project. The project will bring broadband access to 8 businesses and 301 households in Goshen.
  • Southwest Virginia Community College (SWCC) in Cedar Bluff, VA will receive $588,072 for the SWCC Automotive Service Excellence Center. The project will create a fast-track curriculum to prepare students for entry-level automobile technician positions.
  • The LENOWISCO Planning District Commission in Duffield, VA will receive $50,000 for the Technology Innovation Ecosystem for Rural Water Systems project. The project will identify innovative and emerging technologies that can be used to address potential leaks in small, rural public water systems.
  • Appalachian Voices will receive $49,940 for the Taking a Proven Energy Model to Scale project. The project will provide technical assistance to grow the emerging solar energy cluster in Central Appalachia. This funding will support a program in Southwest Virginia that helps building owners who want to use solar energy navigate the process of a commercial-scale solar installation. The program also pools purchasers together to reduce their costs.

The ARC’s POWER Initiative provides grants to communities that have been affected by severe job losses in the coal industry and the changing dynamics of America’s energy production. ARC's mission is to innovate, partner, and invest in the growth of new industries in Appalachia to diversify the region’s economy. Warner and Kaine have been strong advocates for a fully funded ARC so that it can continue to increase employment and economic opportunities for those living in Appalachia.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) today applauded $284,142 in federal funding from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) to boost innovation and skills training in the Town of Pulaski, and to provide direct technical assistance for initiatives that help develop local economies and infrastructures in Virginia’s 25 Appalachian counties and eight Appalachian cities

“As our economy continues to evolve, we need to make sure that we’re investing in workers across Appalachia and making sure they’re equipped with the skills they need to succeed in new industries,” said the Senators. “We are glad to know that these grants will help set the groundwork for important skills training and economic development in the region.”

  • The Town of Pulaski will receive $44,142 for a project that will help create a plan for a training center and makerspace. The center will seek to increase the number of workers trained in skills needed in the region and provide a location for innovators and entrepreneurs to work. The plan will also assess the potential for programming to include individuals not traditionally able or inclined to seek training such as those pursuing second careers, post-incarceration, or post-addiction.
  • The Virginia Department of Housing & Community Development will receive $240,000 to assist in the administration of the Virginia ARC program, which helps promote long- and short-term economic development, infrastructure development, skills training, telecommunications, local capacity building, entrepreneurial assistance, education, and health care in the Commonwealth’s 25 Appalachian counties and eight Appalachian cities. The funding will support direct technical assistance for initiatives in ARC communities, as well as the salaries and benefits for nine staffers.  

The funding was awarded through ARC, an economic development agency of the federal government and 13 state governments focusing on 420 counties in the Appalachian region. ARC's mission is to innovate, partner, and invest in the growth of new industries in Appalachia to diversify the region’s economy. Warner and Kaine have been strong advocates for a fully funded ARC so that it can continue to increase employment and economic opportunities for those living in Appalachia.

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Washington, D.C. – Led by U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, 45 Senators sent a letter to Acting Secretary Patrick Pizzella opposing the Labor Department’s recent proposal to undermine the highly effective and widely supported registered apprenticeship program. The proposed rule would create duplicative, unnecessary, and lower-quality “industry-recognized apprenticeship programs” (IRAPs), that would not provide the same crucial benefits and protections as long-established registered apprenticeships. The Department has also proposed the establishment of new “standard recognition entities” to oversee the IRAPs, allowing these programs to potentially evade accountability, even to apprentices themselves.

“Rather than invest federal taxpayer dollars in a duplicative, less rigorous, and unproven model of workforce training with little to no accountability, the Department and the Trump Administration should work with Congress and stakeholders to strengthen and modernize the registered apprenticeship system to build more pathways for workers to enter middle class jobs,” wrote the Senators.

The Senators also questioned whether the proposed rule is truly consistent with National Apprenticeship Act, which entrusted the Labor Department to “safeguard the health, safety, and welfare of apprentices.” In February, Senator Murray and her colleagues pressed the Department of Labor for answers on the proposed rule and raised questions about whether the Department was using funds appropriated by Congress for registered apprenticeships for IRAPs.

In addition to Senator Murray, the letter was signed by Senators Baldwin (D-WI), Bennet (D-CO), Blumenthal (D-CT), Booker (D-NJ), Brown (D-OH), Cantwell (D-WA), Cardin (D-MD), Carper (D-DE), Casey (D-PA), Coons (D-DE), Cortez Masto (D-NV), Duckworth (D-IL), Durbin (D-IL), Feinstein (D-CA), Gillibrand (D-NY), Harris (D-CA), Hassan (D-NH), Heinrich (D-NM), Hirono (D-HI), Kaine (D-VA), King (I-ME), Klobuchar (D-MN), Leahy (D-VT), Manchin (D-WV), Markey (D-MA), Menendez (D-NJ), Merkley (D-OR), Murphy (D-CT), Peters (D-MI), Reed (D-RI), Rosen (D-NV), Sanders (I-VT), Schatz (D-HI), Schumer (D-NY), Shaheen (D-NH), Smith (D-MN), Stabenow (D-MI), Tester (D-MT), Udall (D-NM), Van Hollen (D-MD), Warner (D-VA), Warren (D-MA), Whitehouse (D-RI), and Wyden (D-OR).

Full text of the letter is below and the PDF is HERE.

 

August 26, 2019

 The Honorable Patrick Pizzella

Acting Secretary

Department of Labor

200 Constitution Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20210

RE: DOL Docket Number. ETA-2019-000, RIN 1205-AB85, Apprenticeship Programs, Labor Standards for Registration, Amendment of Regulations

Dear Acting Secretary Pizzella:

We write in strong opposition to the U.S. Department of Labor’s (“Department” or DOL) proposed rule to create Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Programs (IRAPs or “Industry Programs”), and to request a 60-day extension of the public comment period for the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM). The NPRM would undermine important standards around wages, training structure and quality, and equal opportunity employment, would create uncertainty for the regulated community by establishing a confusing, unnecessary, and duplicative program, and disregards congressional intent to “safeguard the welfare of apprentices.”[1]

In enacting the National Apprenticeship Act of 1937, Congress authorized and directed the Secretary of Labor to formulate and promote labor standards to safeguard the health, safety, and welfare of apprentices.[2] The Department’s regulations implementing the Act establish such standards and prescribe policies and procedures for the registration of acceptable apprenticeship programs with the Department.[3] Under the Department’s longstanding regulations, apprenticeship programs seeking the Department’s approval, support, and financial assistance must commit to providing apprentices with a number of crucial protections and benefits.

The Department’s proposal, however, would not guarantee most of these benefits to apprentices who participate in IRAPs instead of registered apprenticeships.  This NPRM would enable so-called Industry Programs to circumvent the quality assurance standards and protections of the registered apprenticeship system. Instead, the Department proposes to authorize new, nongovernmental Standards Recognition Entities (SREs) to establish, recognize, and monitor the quality of IRAPs—with minimal accountability to the federal government, states, or apprentices themselves. We are especially concerned that the Department’s purported hallmarks of quality for IRAPs do not include some of the most crucial standards required of registered apprenticeship programs. In particular, this proposal would not require IRAPs to guarantee: minimum hours or specific requirements for on-the-job training and classroom-based instruction, nationally recognized stackable and portable credentials of value, workplace safety and equal opportunity protections beyond those already required by law, or guaranteed wage progression.

It is not clear how the Department’s proposal to upend registered apprenticeship is consistent with Congressional intent. The National Apprenticeship Act empowers the Department to “bring together employers and labor for the formulation of programs of apprenticeships”—that is not what the Department proposes. Rather, this rule would create a parallel system that outsources the Secretary’s statutory role in overseeing the Nation’s registered apprenticeship programs to unaccountable, nongovernmental entities.

The Department’s proposal is yet one more attempt to undermine the Nation’s registered apprenticeship system, which has existed for 80 years and enjoys broad support from Congress, workers, and industry alike. The Department undercuts the standards that have been the hallmark of registered apprenticeships by allowing IRAPs to bypass the Department’s longstanding approval and quality assurance process, removing the crucial role of state governments in maintaining the integrity of programs operating within their states, substantially weakening protections and guarantees for workers, and causing confusion for businesses and industries. This is particularly troubling coming on the heels of the Department’s repeated attempts to divert the annual discretionary appropriation to support the development of IRAPs, despite the Department having acknowledged on record that it must be spent exclusively on the registered apprenticeships in accordance with the law.

The Department asserts its proposed “industry-led, market-driven approach provides the flexibility necessary to scale the apprenticeship model where it is needed most and helps address America’s skills gap.” However, the Department has presented no evidence showing IRAPS will be effective, let alone superior, to registered apprenticeship programs. On the contrary, existing apprenticeship programs have one of the highest rates of return on investment for employers of any workforce advancement programs.  Rather than invest federal taxpayer dollars in a duplicative, less rigorous, and unproven model of workforce training with little to no accountability, the Department and the Trump Administration should work with Congress and stakeholders to strengthen and modernize the registered apprenticeship system to build more pathways for workers to enter middle class jobs.

We oppose the Department’s efforts to water down the quality of apprenticeship programs by removing worker protections, lowering the quality of credentials and training, and providing federal funds to unaccountable organizations to provide unproven training. We urge the Department to reconsider its proposal. We also request a 60-day extension of the public comment period for the NPRM to allow Congress, stakeholders, and the public adequate time to respond to these potential changes, as well as a Departmental briefing on the proposal as soon as possible.

Sincerely,

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine announced $17,417,978 in federal grant funding through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for Head Start programs throughout Virginia.

“The Head Start program plays an important role in helping schools and organizations across the Commonwealth get the resources they need to support young children,” the Senators said. “We’re excited to announce this funding that promotes early childhood development.” 

The following organizations will receive funding:

  • Stafford County School District will receive $2,604,803.
  • Rooftop of Virginia Community Action Program in Galax will receive $2,400,889.
  • Southside Training Employment and Placement Services Inc. in Farmville will receive $3,245,314.
  • Richmond City Public Schools will receive $7,838,807.
  • Williamsburg James City County Community Action Agency Inc. will receive $1,328,165.

As Governors and Senators, Warner and Kaine have advocated for investments in early childhood education. Head Start programs promote school readiness for children under 5 years old from low-income families through health, education, family support, and social services.

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WASHINGTON – This week, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) proposed modernizing the reporting and disclosure of human capital management practices. 

The SEC’s announcement follows efforts by U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) to require companies to disclose more information about their human capital management policies and practices. These additional disclosures will provide greater insight into workforce development and help drive value in an increasingly knowledge-based economy.

Last July, Sen. Warner, a former business executive and current member of the Senate Banking Committee, pressed the SEC to use its rulemaking authority to require companies to tell shareholders whether and how they are investing in their workforces through human capital management disclosures. The SEC’s proposed rule contains many of the suggestions Sen. Warner called for in his July letter.   

“I’m excited to see the SEC take this important step to recognize the significance of human capital management and the role it plays in the 21st century economy. Many of the ideas outlined in the proposed rule would go a long way in providing investors with the information they need to evaluate whether a company is making the appropriate investments in its workforce. As this rulemaking moves forward, I look forward to working with the SEC to develop a robust human capital disclosure regime for companies to help promote workforce training and investment, and sustain long-term economic growth,” said Sen. Warner. 

Human capital management disclosures provide a snapshot of how U.S. companies compensate, train, retain, and incentivize their employees. Several studies have found that human capital management disclosures are an important predictor of a company’s long-term success in a changing economy. For example, a 2015 McKinsey study found that firms that prioritize learning programs for their employees perform better overall than those that do not. As the Investor Advisory Committee also noted, a recent Harvard report found a positive correlation between disclosed training programs and financial performance. Requiring companies to disclose human capital management indicators would provide investors with a better understanding of a firm’s performance and potential for long-term growth. 

The SEC’s current human capital disclosure requirements are extremely limited, requiring disclosures only of the number of employees, their median compensation, and CEO compensation. In a July letter, Sen. Warner urged the SEC to heed the calls of investors and utilize its rulemaking authority to require companies across the board to provide further details relating to human capital management. Specifically, Sen. Warner encouraged the SEC to revise and modernize Regulation S-K to require public reporting companies to disclose more qualitative and quantitative information regarding human capital. While the SEC would be responsible for developing and finalizing the requirements, human capital disclosures could potentially require firms to make public information about employee education and training programs; workforce demographics; employee turnover; employee compensation; and workforce compensation and incentives.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine joined Senator Patty Murray and 27 of their colleagues in sending a letter to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos urging the Department of Education to fulfill its duty by providing assistance to the 32,000 students that have been impacted by the recent and sudden closures of three for-profit college chains: Education Corporation of America, which operated Virginia College in Chesterfield; Vatterott Educational Centers; and Dream Center Education Holdings, which operated the now closed Argosy University’s Northern Virginia campus.  Recent Department of Education data shows that only 11 percent of the students eligible for “closed school” loan discharge have received the relief they are owed. Additionally, only 4 percent of those impacted have been able to continue their education at another college.

“Thousands of students and their families impacted by the sudden closure of for-profit college chains across the country deserve assistance in moving on with their educational careers and shedding the debt they acquired during a tumultuous experience with higher education,” wrote the Senators.

Instead of helping students who were cheated or defrauded by these predatory colleges, Secretary DeVos hired former for-profit college executives and lobbyists at the Department and abdicated her responsibility to investigate these institutions. She rescinded an Obama Administration-era rule to protect students from being scammed by for-profit colleges. Secretary DeVos has also refused to provide relief to cheated and defrauded students for over a year—leaving almost 180,000 students without answers, including many who have been struggling to pay back loans on worthless or non-existent degrees.

In addition to Warner, Kaine, and Murray, the letter is also signed by U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Tom Carper (D-DE), Bob Casey (D-PA), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ed Markey (D-MA), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Jack Reed (D-RI), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Tina Smith (D-MN), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Ron Wyden (D-OR).

Full text of the letter is below and the PDF is HERE.

 

August 5, 2019

The Honorable Betsy DeVos

Secretary of Education

U.S. Department of Education

400 Maryland Avenue, S.W.

Washington, D.C. 20202

Dear Secretary DeVos:

We are extremely concerned by the U.S. Department of Education’s (“Department”) inadequate response to the recent abrupt closures of multiple institutions of higher education. Three major collapses of for-profit college chains, including those owned by Education Corporation of America (ECA), Vatterott Educational Centers, Inc. (“Vatterott”), and Dream Center Education Holdings (DCEH), have severely disrupted the lives of more than 32,000 students nationwide. The vast majority of those affected have not received meaningful assistance in continuing their education, nor have they received the debt relief owed to them under the law, after their lives were upended by the pursuit of profit over the interest of students.

Recent data provided by the Department shows how few of the former students from ECA, Vatterott, and DCEH have been able to continue their education elsewhere or discharge their debt. Just 11 percent of borrowers that the Department estimates to be eligible for a “closed school loan discharge” from the three for-profit college chains have received such discharge.[1] Just 4 percent of students who were enrolled at the time of the closures have successfully transferred to another college.[2] 

The Department has a duty to help students impacted by school closures. Providing such students with prompt information about loan discharge and transfer options is critical to allowing them to recover. The Department must, therefore, ensure that every closing institution of higher education carries out its regulatory requirement to “provide all enrolled students with a closed school discharge application and a written disclosure, describing the benefits and consequences of a closed school discharge as an alternative to completing their educational program.[3]

As indicated by the Department’s own guidance, the underlying regulations have been in effect since July 1, 2017 and therefore were applicable when ECA, Vatterott, and DCEH closed.[4] However, when asked about its legal obligation to enforce this regulation, the Department recently and falsely stated that ECA, Vatterott, and DCEH were“not required to comply with the March 15, 2019 borrower defense guidance.”[5] The receivers and trustees of ECA, Vatterott, and DCEH must still ensure compliance with federal law. We, therefore, urge the Department to fulfill its responsibility to enforce applicable regulations and ensure students affected by these closures are fully informed of their options.

The Department also has the authority to help borrowers who left closing institutions more than four months (120 days) before the precipitous closures—often when the colleges were showing clear signs of financial instability, accreditation problems, or regulatory scrutiny.[6] Previous requests to extend the “120-day window” for closed school discharges for students who attended ECA, Vatterott, and DCEH colleges have gone largely unanswered. Yet, in recent information provided to Congress, the Department stated that “the Secretary has not issued a decision on whether to extend the date for determining eligibility for a closed school loan discharge” For any of the three college chains.[7] The Department’s extensive delay in making this important decision in each of these cases actively denies borrowers relief.

The Department should also more broadly examine the closed school loan discharge process. Data provided to Congress indicate that even borrowers who successfully discovered the option for such discharge and have submitted the application are experiencing high rates of denial. Nearly 60 percent of borrowers who submitted a closed school discharge application on or after January 20, 2017 have been denied, representing more than 35,000 borrowers.[8] Among students who specifically attended ECA, Vatterott, and DCEH, and submitted a closed school discharge application, fewer than half (44 percent) have actually been approved, leaving nearly 5,600 of these applicants in limbo.[9] When so many borrowers that submit a closed school discharge application are being rejected, the Department must reevaluate its processes to ensure that borrowers receive the support and assistance they need, deserve, and that Congress intended.

The Department must fulfill its obligations to assist students in the aftermath of a traumatic event such as a sudden school closure. To ensure that students receive the relief they deserve, we strongly urge the Department to:

  1. Examine the full record of all press articles, accreditation agency sanctions, state agency notices, lawsuits, investigations, public complaints, discontinuation of programs, faculty layoffs, and any other adverse actions that may have reasonably caused students to leave their college to determine the dates for extensions of the 120-day window for closed school discharge for ECA, Vatterott, and DCEH.
  2. After extending the discharge window, begin an outreach campaign, through all of its federally contracted servicers and debt collectors, to borrowers that are eligible for closed school discharge but have not yet successfully submitted an application or transferred to another institution. This outreach campaign should include proactive, outbound calls to borrowers who have submitted a closed school discharge application but have been denied.
  3. Enforce its own regulations that closing institutions of higher education provide students with information regarding loan relief and transfer opportunities.
  4. Reexamine its policies for processing closed school loan discharge applications to ensure students are quickly given the relief to which they are entitled under the law.
  5. Publish quarterly information on closed school discharge applications by state (disaggregated by approved, pending, and denied), and the primary reasons for all denials, similar to information the Department publishes about other types of discharge.

Thousands of students and their families impacted by the sudden closure of for-profit college chains across the country deserve assistance in moving on with their educational careers and shedding the debt they acquired during a tumultuous experience with higher education. The anemic rates of approval for closed school discharge or transfer for these students threatens to erode their confidence in our system of higher education and in federal financial aid.

We urge you to take the above steps to assist the former students of ECA, Vatterott, and DCEH as soon as possible. If you have any questions, you may contact Bryce McKibben with the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions staff at (202) 224-5501. Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter.

Sincerely,

 

WASHINGTON – Yesterday, U.S. Senators Todd Young (R-Ind.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and Chris Coons (D-Del.) introduced the ISA Student Protection Act to improve an innovative financing tool for students pursuing postsecondary education.

Income Share Agreements (ISAs) provide opportunities for students to design financial aid best suited to their needs based on their future income and job success. Under an ISA, a student agrees to pay a percentage of their income over a given time period in exchange for tuition payments from nongovernmental sources. When the agreed timeframe ends, the student stops payments regardless of whether the initial amount was paid back to the ISA funder. 

This bipartisan bill would help safeguard ISAs with consumer protections to improve their effectiveness – protecting students and ensuring their success in the workforce.

“Far too often I hear of students and their families being forced to endure financial hardship in exchange for a quality education. Government-provided student loan debt continues to skyrocket while the average household income decreases,” said Senator Young. “That’s why I have introduced a bill to offer students from all backgrounds with a private – or philanthropically – funded, debt-free financing option catered to their own income needs through the use of Income Share Agreements (ISAs). If we strengthen the framework of ISAs, we can help colleges and career and technical schools prepare Americans for rewarding careers, all without any additional cost to taxpayers.”

“Income-Share Agreements are a promising way to finance postsecondary education and an attractive alternative to private student loans and PLUS loans. ISAs are also proving to be uniquely responsive to the needs of students who are ineligible for existing federal student aid programs—including DACA recipients, some justice-involved individuals, and those attending short-term training programs,” said Senator Warner. “There are students across the country who are already benefitting from ISAs and deserve the safeguards and certainty the ISA Student Protection Act would provide, including protections during periods of low earnings, dischargeability in bankruptcy, and oversight authority by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. I’m pleased to be introducing this legislation with a bipartisan group of my colleagues and look forward to working to ensure ISAs continue expanding in a student-focused way.”

“It’s getting harder and harder for American families to afford the rising costs of college, and graduates are often forced to run up tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt,” said Senator Rubio. “I am proud to re-introduce this innovative legislation to empower students to leverage their future income today and access the financial resources of businesses, individuals, and nonprofit organizations in order to achieve their higher education goals.”

“Despite $1.6 trillion in U.S. student loan debt, millions of well-paying jobs continue to go unfilled. In an economy in need of more investment in postsecondary education and training opportunities, Income Share Agreements are a promising tool. Most importantly, ISAs protect students from the risk of onerous debt and elevate programs that guide students to well-paying jobs. The ISA Student Bill of Rights Act will allow the innovation of ISAs to proceed safely and with more government oversight, to the benefit of American students and families,” said Senator Coons.

This legislation has been endorsed by The Aspen Institute’s Future of Work Initiative, Colorado Mountain College (CMC), JFF, Marymount University, the Progressive Policy Institute, the San Diego Workforce Partnership, Purdue University, and the University of Utah.

President Mitch Daniels, Purdue University said, “Purdue will offer ISAs for a fourth academic year at Purdue this fall. Since its inception, our ‘Back a Boiler’ program has drawn a flood of inquiries from universities hoping to implement similar ISA programs. This bipartisan legislation should receive prompt consideration to provide the framework necessary to expand this student-friendly option to more students nationwide who wish to be protected against the risks of excessive student loans.”  

Chok Ooi, CEO and Co-founder of Kenzie Academy, an Indianapolis-based career college focused on providing technology training to anyone looking to accelerate their career said, “ISAs are a tool that can make post-secondary skills training more accessible and affordable for the millions of adult learners aspiring to acquire today's most in-demand jobs. Given ISAs are a powerful – and necessary – access tool, we want to make sure there are standards and best practices in place so they are used appropriately to protect the consumer and hold bad actors accountable.”

Dr. Irma Becerra, President of Marymount University in Arlington, Virginia said, “As a small university with finite resources in a major metropolitan area, we are constantly looking for solutions in support of our students who face unique challenges in completing their postsecondary education. Marymount has identified income-share agreements as a promising solution to some of these challenges. Income-share agreements will help us fill financial gaps in serving all of our students, regardless of their socioeconomic background. I applaud the sponsors of the ISA Student Protection Act for their efforts to support programs like ours and ensure income-share agreements continue expanding in a student-focused way.”

Kevin James, Founder and CEO of Better Future Forward said, “ISAs have tremendous promise as a tool to help address gaps in educational equity. However, like any financial tool, ISAs also create opportunities for bad actors. We, therefore, commend Sens. Warner, Young, Rubio and Coons for their critically important work to protect students and foster innovation in the student financing space. We believe this bill will advance a healthy public conversation about ISAs and the best approach to crafting a legal framework that protects students and supports access to this innovative new option."

Former Governor Jack Markell said, “Income Share Agreements have given students who have not otherwise had access to financial aid - such as Dreamers and adult learners - the ability to finance their postsecondary education. I commend the bi-partisan sponsors of The ISA Student Protection Act for legislation that authorizes critical consumer protections which will provide greater certainty to students and this growing market.”

To see a full list of endorsement quotes, please click here

The ISA Student Protection Act would codify the following safeguards and consumer protections for ISA recipients:

  • Individuals making less than 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level ($24,980 in 2019) are exempt from making payments towards their ISA.
  • ISA providers cannot make agreements with students that require payments higher than 20 percent of income for shorter-term contracts, with the cap decreasing to 7.5 percent for the longest contracts allowed (30 years).
  • ISAs are dischargeable in bankruptcy.
  • Funders must disclose to students how their monthly payments would compare under the ISA to payments on a private or federal loan for the same amount of money and number of payments.
  • Applies federal consumer protection laws (i.e. Fair Credit Reporting Act, Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, Military Lending Act, Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, Equal Credit Opportunity Act) to ISAs.
  • Gives the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau oversight authority over ISAs.
  • Clarifies the tax treatment of ISA contributions for both funders and recipients.

Last Congress, Senators Young and Rubio introduced a version of this bill entitled the Investing in Student Success Act, and other versions were previously introduced in the House and Senate. This is the first Senate version of the bill to have bipartisan support.

For the full bill text, click here.

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“ISAs have tremendous promise as a tool to help address gaps in educational equity. However, like any financial tool, ISAs also create opportunities for bad actors. We, therefore, commend Sens. Warner, Young, Rubio and Coons for their critically important work to protect students and foster innovation in the student financing space. We believe this bill will advance a healthy public conversation about ISAs and the best approach to crafting a legal framework that protects students and supports access to this innovative new option,” said Kevin James, Founder and CEO of Better Future Forward.

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) today sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer, urging the Department to strongly consider Hampton Roads as the location for a first-of-its-kind Naval University System-Naval Community College (NUS-NCC) Center of Excellence.

“I write today to bring your attention to a proposal by Old Dominion University (ODU) to locate a Naval University System-Naval Community College (NUS-NCC) Center of Excellence in the Hampton Roads region of Virginia, and to ask that you give this proposal serious consideration,” wrote Sen. Warner.

In a February memo by Secretary Spencer, the Navy suggested that enlisted servicemembers would highly benefit from further educational opportunities to help with naval readiness and professional development. To assist in that effort, the memo recommended that the Navy create a new Naval University System to assist with that mission. In response, Old Dominion University (ODU) President John R. Broderick proposed that the Navy consider Hampton Roads to house the future institution.

“We stand ready to move forward with a Naval University System-Naval Community College Center of Excellence in our region,” said John R. Broderick, President, Old Dominion University. “Hampton Roads already benefits from a spirit of collegiality and cooperation, with close interactions linking higher education, government agencies, the military, and the private sector. With our region’s unrivaled strengths in areas such as sea level rise, maritime trade and supply chain management, and modeling and simulation, we believe we are strongly positioned to help the Navy provide a dynamic educational experience and professional development to its personnel.”

In today’s letter, Sen. Warner urges the Navy to strongly consider ODU’s proposal to select Hampton Roads for the location of their Naval University System as the region boasts a large naval footprint. Additionally, with existing partnerships between the U.S. Navy and many local institutions – including ODU’s Virginia Modeling and Simulation Center (VMASC) and William and Mary’s Whole of Government Center of Excellence – Hampton Roads is the logical choice for this endeavor.

A copy of Sen. Warner’s letter can be found here and below.

 

The Honorable Richard Spencer

Secretary of the Navy

1000 Navy Pentagon, Room 4D652

Washington, DC 20350

Dear Secretary Spencer:

I write today to bring your attention to a proposal by Old Dominion University (ODU) to locate a Naval University System-Naval Community College (NUS-NCC) Center of Excellence in the Hampton Roads region of Virginia, and to ask that you give this proposal serious consideration.

On February 5, 2019, you released a memo entitled “Education for Seapower Decisions and Immediate Actions,” making a set of recommendations to create a Naval University System, including a Naval Community College, in order to integrate and align naval education and strengthen the professional development and war fighting competence of U.S. Sailors and Marines. 

In response to your memo, ODU submitted a proposal on May 15, 2019, in collaboration with a number of other stakeholders in the Commonwealth of Virginia, to partner with the Navy and offer the Hampton Roads region as an ideal location for the NUS-NCC Center of Excellence. The Hampton Roads region includes the seven cities of Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Portsmouth, Newport News, Hampton, and Suffolk. For the purposes of this proposal, Williamsburg – home to The College of William and Mary (W&M) – is also included. 

The Hampton Roads region includes 14 universities, colleges, and community colleges, plus many satellite campuses, offering an intellectual ecosystem, significant infrastructure and partnership opportunities for your effort. In addition, it is strategically positioned given the large U.S. Navy presence in the region, existing relationships many institutions have with the U.S. Navy, and unique capabilities such as the ODU Virginia Modeling and Simulation Center (VMASC) and the W&M Whole of Government Center of Excellence, which are exclusive to this region.

I understand the search for the ideal partners and location for a NUS-NCC may be a complex and highly competitive process, and I appreciate your consideration of the ODU proposal. Please do not hesitate to reach out if you have any questions about my request.

Thank you again for your consideration.

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) today applauded more than $590,000 in federal funding for Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University to expand digital access to library collections.

“Academic libraries are an invaluable resource with the potential to benefit universities and communities across the Commonwealth, said the Senators. “We are thrilled that this grant will allow Virginia Tech and the Blacksburg community to activate a wealth of existing knowledge and continue to foster learning and innovation.”

  • $505,214 will allow Virginia Tech University Libraries to deploy cutting-edge computer science and machine learning technologies to advance discovery, use, and potential for reuse of the knowledge hidden in the text of books and book-length documents. In collaboration with Virginia Tech Computer Science and Old Dominion University Computer Science, the effort will devise methods for the extracting and analyzing segments of long documents (chapters, reference lists, tables, figures), as well as methods for summarizing individual chapters of longer texts to enable findability.
  • $87,151 will go towards developing a model for community engagement that fosters robust partnerships among academic libraries and regional organizations in Blacksburg, Va. This model will help expand digital access to collections and networks that are rich in cultural heritage but are isolated due to a lack of robust digital infrastructures.

This funding was awarded through the Institute of Museum and Library Services National Leadership Grants for Libraries program, which funds projects that enhance the quality of library and archive services nationwide by advancing theory and practice.

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WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine released the following statement regarding the Trump Administration’s decision to scrap plans to transfer Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to the Department of Labor (DOL) and close nine Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers – including the Flatwoods Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center in Coeburn, a top performing center: 

“Job training facilities like Flatwoods are critical to prepare Virginians for success in our economy. It’s welcome news that following our bipartisan calls for the Trump Administration to reverse course on their misguided proposal, they listened and will keep the Flatwoods facility open. We are thrilled that Flatwoods will be able to keep expanding economic opportunities in Southwest Virginia.”

Following the initial USDA and DOL announcement that the Flatwoods Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center in Coeburn and eight other Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers were scheduled to close as part of the program’s transfer from USDA to DOL, Senators Warner and Kaine introduced legislation to prevent the Trump Administration from closing these facilities. The bipartisan Job Corps Protection Act would block the Administration from using federal government funds in 2019 or 2020 to close any Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers in the United States. The Senators also joined Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA) in writing a letter urging DOL and USDA to reconsider the closure of these facilities. Separately, Warner and Kaine joined a bipartisan, bicameral group of 18 Senators and 33 Representatives in pushing USDA and DOL to reverse their decision to end the Civilian Conservation Center program in its current form and shutter nine facilities across the nation.

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Mark Warner (D-VA) and Rob Portman (R-OH) introduced bipartisan legislation, the Go To High School, Go To College Act, which will make college more affordable for low-income students by letting them earn college credits while still in high school, funded through the Pell Grant program. The legislation will create the College in High School Federal Pell Grant Pilot Program, which will build upon the Department of Education’s Experimental Site for Dual Enrollment. Representatives Marcia Fudge (D-OH) and Elise Stefanik (R-NY) are leading the legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“Cost alone shouldn’t deter motivated young people who are willing to work hard and get an early start on their postsecondary education," said Warner. “This legislation will provide an essential resource for low-income students for whom college or a competitive start in the workforce might otherwise seem out of reach.”

“The average cost of college tuition and fees at national universities continues to skyrocket,” Portman said. “For high school students from low-income households, that can make college feel out of reach. Our legislation will let these students get a head start on college, make it more affordable for them and their families, and help them live out their God-given potential.”

“What’s always been important is now imperative: the rising cost of college and our nation’s need for a skilled workforce mandate that all students can engage in early and affordable pathways to high-quality credential and degree programs,” said Joel Vargas, JFF vice president. “JFF applauds the Go to High School, Go to College Act for its innovative approach to expanding equitable access to high-quality dual enrollment programs that have continually proven to enable more low-income students to earn college credit while in high school. We are also pleased that a robust evaluation is included, which will ensure policymakers and practitioners can learn from the program’s results. This effort will expand access to dual enrollment programs, reduce the time and cost of earning a college credential, and improve educational outcomes while strengthening our economies and communities.”

“College in High School programs, such as dual and concurrent enrollment, engage a wide variety of students in an equivalent variety of courses. Dual enrollment programs are not just for the academically élite, although they certainly thrive here, but inclusive of aspiring welders, pilots, carpenters, nurses, engineers, database architects, and entrepreneurs: all students and all courses,” said Amy Williams, Executive Director of the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships. “Students in these programs find early access to and success in college, helping them advance to college with focus and direction. The data show that students participating in these programs are more likely to go to college, to persist in their studies, and complete a degree or credential in a timely manner. This is a high-value program that benefits educators, students, families, employers, and the American education system as a whole, yet access and affordability are still fundamental barriers to participation. The Go to High School, Go to College Act creates an innovative space to support students early exposure to a successful future through affordable access to postsecondary education and training. NACEP, the nation's leading organization working to advance quality college courses for high school students by supporting programs, practitioners, and policy. We enthusiastically support this legislation as an important step to address higher education access and affordability for all Americans.”

“At KnowledgeWorks, we’ve seen the power of early college firsthand as students who are the first in their family to go to college get a jump start on their dreams with a high school diploma and an associate degree. While a university president, I saw how dual enrollment could reduce the cost of college, reduce the time to a degree and significantly reduce student loan debt. The Go to High School, Go to College Act can provide a multiplying effect to students and their families on the basis of costs and an opportunity for institutions to provide innovative opportunities to accelerate degrees. This bill has the potential to make the opportunity of college real for many more students and the dream of a degree a reality,” said KnowledgeWorks President and CEO, Chuck Ambrose, EdD.

“Students in middle/early college programs are guided through post-secondary degree earning pathways while in high school,” said Dr. Cece Cunningham, Executive Director of the Middle College National Consortium. “Our average student completes over 20 credits prior to high school graduation, and many graduate with an associates degree. The support from the Go to High School Go to College Act is a tremendous opportunity for our first-generation low-income students.”

“Research and experience demonstrate that students who have the opportunity to earn college credits and degrees while still in high school are significantly more likely to enroll in and complete postsecondary education,” said Clara Botstein, Associate Vice President at Bard Early Colleges. “Early college high school is an effective, powerful free college approach, but access is currently far too limited. The Go to High School, Go to College Act will allow many more low-income students to access high-quality early college opportunities, increasing postsecondary completion nationwide.”

“In today’s economy, postsecondary education is not a luxury, it’s a requirement. Too often, however, students’ pathways through college are thwarted by mounting debt. Thus, a significant challenge is how to increase access to college while decreasing student debt? While it doesn’t require a silver bullet, it will take a smart policy. The Go to High School, Go to College Act is exactly that. It offers an opportunity for underserved students to earn college credit while in high school, at no cost to them,” said Deb Delisle, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education. “Given that students with early college experiences are five to seven times more likely to earn a postsecondary credential, the evidence shows that this type of solution works.  There is no question that it must be included in a reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.”

NOTE: The Go to High School, Go to College Act will authorize a pilot program for 250 institutions of higher education to allow high school students participating in dual enrollment programs offered by that institution the opportunity to apply for Pell grant funding to earn transferable college credits, including core general education requirements. The proposed College in High School Federal Pell Grant Pilot Program will build upon the Department of Education’s Experimental Site for Dual Enrollment in two important ways:

  • Students will have the opportunity to earn up to two semesters worth of college credit before drawing down from their 12 semester Pell Grant limit, ensuring that students participating in dual enrollment programs are not penalized financially.
  • The pilot program includes a robust evaluation mechanism, which the current experimental site lacks.

In addition, the pilot program retains and builds upon other student protections and quality assurance mechanisms in the existing experimental site, including ensuring that students have credit transfer options available to them for college credit earned in a dual enrollment program beyond just the issuing institution of higher education.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) released the following statement on the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) proposal to relocate two research agencies, the Economic Research Service (ERS) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), from Washington, D.C. to Kansas City.

“USDA’s proposed relocation of the Economic Research Service and National Institute of Food and Agriculture will unnecessarily uproot hundreds of dedicated federal employees and could negatively impact the missions of both agencies,” the Senators said. “These agencies play a critical role in setting agricultural, nutritional, and environmental policy in the U.S. Disconnecting them from other vital research agencies in the National Capital Region will undoubtedly disrupt the work they carry out and impact their ability to attract and retain highly-qualified personnel. We have introduced legislation to block this ill-conceived move and will continue to work with our colleagues to keep these agencies in the National Capital Region.”

 In May, Sens. Warner and Kaine, along with other members of Congress representing the National Capital Region, sent a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue urging him not to relocate ERS and NIFA. The Senators have also introduced legislation barring the research agencies from leaving the National Capital Region. In addition, Sen. Warner has placed a hold on nominee Scott Hutchins for Undersecretary for research, education, and economics at the Department of Agriculture in opposition to the proposed relocation.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) introduced legislation that would prevent the Trump Administration from closing the Flatwoods Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center in Coeburn, Va. The bipartisan Job Corps Protection Act would block the Administration from using federal government funds in 2019 or 2020 to close any Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers in the United States.

The legislation is in response to a Department of Labor (DOL) and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announcement that the Flatwoods facility and eight other Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers are scheduled to close as part of the program’s transfer from USDA to DOL. Civilian Conservation Centers provide valuable job training for young adults ages 16 to 24 in rural communities across the country, including in Southwest Virginia, while assisting in the conservation of the nation’s limited public natural resources. This legislation also comes on the heels of a letter that Sens. Warner and Kaine, along with Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA), sent to the Trump Administration last week, urging DOL and USDA to reconsider the closure of these facilities.    

“For decades, the Flatwoods Job Corps facility in Coeburn, Virginia has helped equip young Virginians with the skills needed to succeed in today’s changing economy,” said Sen. Warner. “Closing the door on this vital program would not only make it harder to expand economic opportunities in Southwest Virginia, it will also make it harder for Virginia’s employers to find the kind of high-skilled talent that the jobs of tomorrow will require.”

“Job training is at the core of preparing our next generation for good-paying jobs in Virginia and across the country. I’m worried about the Trump Administration’s decision to close nine Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers – including Flatwoods Job Corps in Coeburn, Va., a top performing Center that has a tremendous economic impact in Southwest Virginia. There’s agreement on both sides of the aisle that President Trump shouldn’t take funding away from these critical job training programs, and Congress can prevent him from doing so by passing our bill,” Sen. Kaine said.

In addition to Sens. Warner and Kaine, the Job Corps Protection Act is sponsored by Sens. Jon Tester (D-MT), John Boozman (R-AR), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Steve Daines (R-MT), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI).  

Separately, Sens. Warner and Kaine joined a bipartisan, bicameral group of 18 Senators and 33 Representatives in pushing USDA and DOL to reverse their decision to end the Civilian Conservation Center program in its current form and shutter nine facilities across the nation.

We write to express strong opposition to your Departments’ recent decision to permanently close over a third of Civilian Conservation Center program facilities and end the program in its current form. We strongly urge you to reconsider this decision,” the Senators and Representatives wrote in a letter to U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. A copy of the letter is available here.

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WASHINGTON – With the Senate preparing to reauthorize the Higher Education Act, Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) today reintroduced three pieces of legislation aimed at providing urgent relief to borrowers amid the ongoing student debt crisis. The bills would give borrowers much-needed support by promoting financial literacy, thus empowering students to make more informed decisions and better manage their debt; making it easier for students to put their existing college course credits to use and receive the degree or credential they have already earned; and providing legal recourse for borrowers needing to sever a joint consolidation loan, including those being held responsible for an abusive or uncommunicative spouse’s loans.

Nationwide, Americans owe more than $1.5 trillion in student loan debt—surpassing credit cards and auto loans as the country’s leading source of non-housing debt. In the Commonwealth of Virginia, 62 percent of recent graduates have student loan debt, with an average debt of more than $33,000, according to the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV).

“Like many Americans, I had to rely on student loans in order to pay for my tuition and graduate from college. However, the rising cost of education has forced more and more people to rely on exorbitant student loans just to have a chance at competing in the workforce,” said Sen. Warner. “As we prepare to reauthorize the Higher Education Act, I am proud to reintroduce three pieces of legislation designed to assist Virginians saddled with unmanageable student loan debt. I urge my colleagues to quickly pass these measures, which empower young borrowers and eliminate pointless policies that make it more difficult for students to receive the degrees they have earned.”

The Empowering Students through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act will take the important step of tackling student loan debt on the front end by increasing financial literacy among prospective borrowers and empowering them to make better-informed decisions about their higher education financing. Current law only requires that institutions provide one-time entrance and exit counseling to student loan borrowers receiving federal student aid, excluding Parent PLUS loans and consolidation loans. This bill will promote financial literacy by requiring that federal student loan borrowers – both students and parents – receive annual counseling that reflects their individual borrowing situation; increasing awareness of accumulating financial obligations by requiring borrowers to consent each year before receiving federal student loans; requiring annual counseling for Pell Grant recipients; and directing the U.S. Secretary of Education to maintain and distribute an online counseling tool that institutions can use to provide the counseling required by the bill.

In addition to Sen. Warner, the Empowering Students through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act is being cosponsored by Sens. Tim Kaine (D-VA), Cory Gardner (R-CO), and Tim Scott (R-SC). This legislation has the support of the National Education Association, Bipartisan Policy Center, UNCF, TICAS, Chiefs for Change, and American Student Assistance.

Another piece of legislation, the Reverse Transfer Efficiency Act, will cut through bureaucratic red tape and make it easier for students to receive degrees they have already earned by facilitating the process of “reverse transferring” college credits – or transferring credits from a four-year institution to a two-year institution in which a student was previously enrolled to identify whether they earned enough credits along the way to receive a degree. The bill creates an additional exemption under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) to explicitly allow for the sharing of credit data between post-secondary institutions that a student previously attended, for the purpose of determining whether they earned an associate’s degree or certificate along the way. A cautious interpretation of FERPA currently requires students to give their institutions proactive permission to determine whether they have earned enough credits to be awarded a degree or certificate. As a consequence of this unnecessary bureaucratic step – which is proven to diminish credential attainment rates – four million Americans, including more than 123,000 Virginians, have left school without receiving the valuable credentials they paid for and worked hard to earn.

In addition to Sen. Warner, the Reverse Transfer Efficiency Act is being cosponsored by Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA). The legislation has the support of the Virginia Community College System, American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admission Officers, American Association of Community Colleges, Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, Institute for Higher Education Policy, and Student Veterans of America, among others.

“As Virginia's Community Colleges continue working to prepare students with the skills they need to be successful in on-demand jobs and growth industries, credential attainment is a key indicator of their career readiness and our effectiveness in serving them,” said Glenn DuBois, chancellor of Virginia’s Community Colleges. “The bipartisan Reverse Transfer Efficiency Act will provide much needed clarity in facilitating communication between institutions and removing bureaucratic obstacles to credential attainment. I applaud Senators Warner and Isakson for working across the aisle to find common ground and introduce this sensible approach to advancing workforce readiness.”

Lastly, the Joint Consolidation Loan Separation Act will provide much-needed relief for borrowers who previously consolidated their student loan debt with a spouse’s. Congress eliminated the program in 2006 but failed to provide a way for borrowers to sever existing loans, even in the event of domestic violence, economic abuse, or unresponsiveness. As a result, too many borrowers nationwide remain liable for their abusive or uncommunicative spouse’s debt with no legal options for relief. The bill would establish a process at the U.S. Department of Education through which affected borrowers, including survivors of domestic violence or economic abuse, would be able to separate their student loan debt from that of their former spouse.

In addition to Sen. Warner, the Joint Consolidation Loan Separation Act is being cosponsored by Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and John Cornyn (R-TX). It has the support of the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance, the National Network to End Domestic Violence, the National Consumer Law Center (on behalf of its low-income clients), and the North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

“The Action Alliance is pleased to support these efforts to provide victims of domestic and economic abuse with student loan relief,” said Jonathan Yglesias, Policy Director at the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance. “This bill will make a difference for the people who need it, and I hope Congress will move swiftly to enact it.”

Click here for more information on the Empowering Students through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act, the Reverse Transfer Efficiency Act, and the Joint Consolidation Loan Separation Act.

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WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) met with the National Teacher of the Year, Rodney Robinson, at Sen. Warner’s office in Washington, D.C. Robinson, a social studies teacher in Richmond, Va., was recently named the 2019 National Teacher of the Year by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). He teaches at Virgie Binford Education Center, a school inside the Richmond Juvenile Justice Center.

“It’s clear that Mr. Robinson has devoted his career not just to teaching, but to making meaningful change in the lives of students who need it the most,” said Sen. Warner. “By designing a unique curriculum focused on understanding the history of prison and the juvenile justice system, Mr. Robinson is working to redirect justice-involved students and equip them with the educational opportunity they need to empower themselves. I am proud that teachers in Virginia and all across our nation can look to Mr. Robinson as an example of an educator who uses his classroom to actively tackle a larger structural issue in our society.”  

“Our kids need more – they need more specialized curriculum, more specialized courses,” said Robinson. “I’ve noticed that the kids that have the lowest recidivism rates are the ones we help set up with job or mentorship programs to get them in some sort of positive activity where they can make something out of their lives.”

Robinson has worked for Richmond Public Schools for 19 years, and has been teaching at Virgie Binford Education Center since 2015. In the meeting, Sen. Warner and Robinson discussed the importance of providing students with the resources and opportunities they need to learn technical skills and earn industry certifications that will allow them to make a living in the future.  

The National Teacher of the Year Program is managed by the Council of Chief State School Officers. Each year, the nation’s top teacher is selected from among state teachers of the year representing the 50 states, the District of Columbia, U.S. territories, and the Department of Defense Education Activity.

 

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) joined Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and a bipartisan coalition of Senators in reintroducing legislation to combat sexual assault on college and university campuses. The Campus Accountability and Safety Act would reform the way institutions handle incidents of on-campus sexual assault and ensure that investigations and disciplinary proceedings are fair and consistent. It would also create new resources and support services for survivors, and set new notification requirements for both survivors and accused students involved in the campus disciplinary process. 

“In recent years, the brave individuals behind the #MeToo movement have successfully increased public awareness and discussion about sexual assault and harassment, and Congress has a responsibility to support these efforts with legislation that focuses on preventing sexual assault in colleges and universities across the nation,” said Sen. Warner. “I am very proud to reintroduce the bipartisan Campus Accountability and Safety Act, which demands greater transparency, consistency, and accountability from our institutions of higher learning.” 

“Sexual assault is pervasive in colleges and universities all over the country, yet Congress has not done nearly enough to address this crisis,” said Sen. Gillibrand. “For far too long institutions have gotten away with sweeping this problem under the rug. Students are demanding that Congress take this problem seriously, and we must listen to them. That’s why I am proud to reintroduce my bipartisan Campus Accountability and Safety Act, which would hold colleges and universities accountable and help give survivors the support they need. I urge my colleagues to take this issue seriously and fight with us to pass this bipartisan bill.” 

“When something as traumatic as sexual assault occurs on campus, students need a place they can go for support and unbiased information about their rights,” said Sen. Grassley. “This bill takes active steps forward to help facilitate communication and support between universities, students and law enforcement, as well as foster a positive sense of community on campus.”

Specifically, this legislation would do the following:

  • Establish new campus resources and support services for student survivors: Colleges and universities would be required to designate Sexual Assault Response Coordinators to assist survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking. Sexual Assault Response Coordinators would coordinate support services and accommodations for survivors, provide information about options for reporting, and provide guidance or assistance – at the direction of the survivor – in reporting the crime to campus authorities and/or law enforcement. Schools would no longer be allowed to sanction students who report sexual violence but reveal a non-violent student conduct violation in good faith, like underage drinking.
  • Require fairness in the campus disciplinary process: All schools would be required to use one uniform process for campus student disciplinary proceedings and would no longer be allowed to have athletic departments or other subgroups handle complaints. Schools would be required to provide written notification to the accused as well as the survivor of any decision to move forward with a campus disciplinary proceeding within 24 hours of that decision. The notice must include details of the complaint, a summary of the disciplinary proceeding, and the rights and due process protections available to both parties.  
  • Ensure minimum training standards for on-campus personnel: This legislation would ensure that everyone from the Sexual Assault Response Coordinators to those responsible for investigating and participating in disciplinary proceedings receives specialized training so that they have a firm understanding of the nature of these crimes and their effect on survivors.
  • Create historic new transparency requirements: For the first time, students at every college and university in America would be surveyed about their experience with sexual violence to get an accurate picture of this problem. This new biennial survey would be standardized and confidential, with the results published online so that parents and high school students could make an informed choice when comparing universities. The Department of Education would also be required to publish the names of all schools with pending investigations, final resolutions, and voluntary resolution agreements related to Title IX with respect to sexual violence and requirements of the Clery Act.
  • Ensure coordination with law enforcement: This legislation would require colleges and universities to enter into memoranda of understanding (MOU) with each local law enforcement agency that has jurisdiction to report to a campus as a first responder. These MOUs would ensure that the school and law enforcement clearly delineate duties and share information so that when a crime occurs, both campus authorities and local authorities can focus on solving the crime rather than debating jurisdiction. 
  • Establish stiffer penalties for violations: Schools that do not comply with certain requirements under the bill may face a penalty of up to 1 percent of the institution’s operating budget. The bill would also increase penalties for Clery Act violations to up to $150,000 per violation, from the current penalty of $35,000 per violation. Financial penalties collected from institutions in violation would be distributed back to campuses through a new competitive grant program, administered by the Secretary of Education, for which colleges and universities can apply for the purpose of researching best practices for preventing and responding to sexual and interpersonal violence on college campuses and sharing such research with peer institutions and the Department of Education.

Sen. Warner has been a lead sponsor of this bill since its original introduction in the 113th Congress.

In addition to Sens. Warner, Gillibrand, and Grassley, other co-sponsors include Sens. Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Jack Reed (D-RI), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH). 

Text of the bill is available here and a summary is available here.

 

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WASHINGTON – Today, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Investor Advisory Committee called on the Commission to modernize and improve corporate reporting and disclosure of human capital management practices. 

The Investor Advisory Committee recommendations come on the heels of calls by U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) for accounting principles and reporting requirements to view workforce investments in human capital as assets, rather than costs, in a knowledge-based economy. 

Last July, Sen. Warner, a former business executive and current member of the Senate Banking Committee, pressed the SEC to use its rulemaking authority to require companies to tell shareholders whether and how they are investing in their workforces through human capital management disclosures. The Investor Advisory Committee’s recommendations to the SEC today track closely with the human capital reforms Sen. Warner proposed in his July letter.   

“I’m very encouraged to see the Investor Advisory Committee come to similar conclusions based on the evidence: that the SEC should recognize the significance of human capital management and modernize corporate reporting and disclosure on it. In particular, I’m encouraged to see their recommendations include training per-employee. The recommendations would go a long way to provide investors with the critical information they need  to evaluate whether a company is making the appropriate investments in its workforce to compete in a 21st century economy. Just as there were increasing calls for greater and standardized disclosure of R&D in the 1970’s, there’s growing support for more human capital disclosure for the purpose of long-term economic growth. I hope the SEC responds with quick, meaningful action,” Sen. Warner said today.

Human capital management disclosures provide a snapshot of how U.S. companies compensate, train, retain, and incentivize their employees. Several studies have found that human capital management disclosures are an important predictor of a company’s long-term success in a changing economy. For example, a 2015 McKinsey study found that firms that prioritize learning programs for their employees perform better overall than those that do not. As the Investor Advisory Committee also noted, a recent Harvard report found a positive correlation between disclosed training programs and financial performance. Requiring companies to disclose human capital management indicators would provide investors with a better understanding of a firm’s performance and potential for long-term growth. 

The SEC’s current human capital disclosure requirements are extremely limited, requiring disclosures only of the number of employees, their median compensation, and CEO compensation. In a July letter, Sen. Warner urged the SEC to heed the calls of investors and utilize its rulemaking authority to require companies across the board to provide further details relating to human capital management. Specifically, Sen. Warner encouraged the SEC to revise and modernize Regulation S-K to require public reporting companies to disclose more qualitative and quantitative information regarding human capital. While the SEC would be responsible for developing and finalizing the requirements, human capital disclosures could potentially require firms to make public information about employee education and training programs; workforce demographics; employee turnover; employee compensation; and workforce compensation and incentives.

 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) today reintroduced legislation to ensure that a wide range of comparative data about higher education programs is more readily available for prospective students and their families. The Student Right to Know Before You Go Act of 2019 will increase access to information about school graduation rates, debt levels, how much graduates can expect to earn, and other education and workforce-related measures of success as they make important decisions about higher education.   

“Choosing a college or university is a major financial decision—it can affect students’ likelihood of graduating, the amount of student loan debt they will incur, and their future earning potential,” said Sen. Warner. “Students and families making such critical decisions have the right to know whether they are making a worthwhile investment, and this legislation will make important information available for those weighing different options.”                        

According to data from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV), 62 percent of recent Virginia graduates have student loan debt, with an average debt of more than $33,000. With rising educational costs and uncertainty in the job market, students must be able to inform themselves as much as possible before making costly decisions about their futures. However, individuals considering a higher education are often forced to make life-altering financial and educational decisions based on information that is inadequate, inaccurate, or both. Institutional data available through the Department of Education’s College Scorecard is limited, and similar data published by individual states typically looks only at first-time, full-time students or students who remain in the same state after graduating. 

The Student Right to Know Before You Go Act would make available accurate information about college and student outcomes while also prioritizing the privacy of student information. The bill would safeguard student privacy by using secure multiparty computation (MPC), an advanced encryption technique, to generate statistical data based on student information from colleges and universities, as well as loan and income information from government agencies like the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Department of Education. MPC ensures that no entity has to “give up” sensitive information in a way that is accessible to others. 

Sen. Warner has introduced several bills to improve transparency, accountability, and affordability in higher education, and help borrowers better manage their student loan debts. The Employer Participation in Repayment Act would allow employers to apply pre-tax income to help their employees with student loan payments. The Dynamic Student Loan Repayment Act would make income-based repayment the default option for borrowers. The Go to High School, Go to College Act would give eligible students access to their Pell Grant dollars while enrolled in early college courses. Finally, the Empowering Students Through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act would promote financial literacy by providing students who are recipients of federal financial aid with comprehensive counseling services.

Bill text can be found here. A summary and chart of the bill’s key provisions can be found here. A section-by-section summary of the bill can be found here.

 

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WASHINGTON- U.S. Senators John Cornyn (R-TX), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Tim Scott (R-SC), and Mark Warner (D-VA) today introduced the Teacher and School LEADERS Act, which would reform Teacher Quality Partnership Grants to better support school leaders and allow for greater innovation in educator preparation.

“Strong school leaders can have an outsized impact on the quality of education for our students, especially in high-needs school districts,” Sen. Cornyn said. “It’s important that educators have access to grant programs to further their impact in our local schools, and I’m proud to partner with my colleagues on this legislation.” 

“Teachers and leaders are working tirelessly in schools across the country and deserve the best training and support possible,” said Sen. Bennet. “By investing in more flexible, higher-quality training programs, we can empower educators to grow in their careers and use innovative approaches in the classroom." 

“We can never thank our teachers enough for everything they do for our children, but we can take important steps like the Teacher and School LEADERS Act,” Sen. Scott said. “By ensuring strong support for high-quality teacher and leadership preparation programs, we can help our educators gain even more tools to pass on to the next generation of leaders.” 

“Professional development opportunities allow teachers and school leaders to grow in their careers and become better educators,” said Sen. Warner. “I am proud to join my colleagues in reintroducing legislation that invests in the future of our children by supporting and empowering their educators.” 

The Teacher and School LEADERS Act would reform Title II of the Higher Education Act to expand the Teacher Quality Partnership (TQP) Grant program. Specifically, the bill would: 

  • Expand the program to provide training to educators who aspire to fill leadership roles in high-need schools.
  • Provide grant applicants and recipients greater flexibility over who they can partner with for preparation programs by removing restrictions requiring them to partner with an Institution of Higher Education to qualify. 

Several groups have announced their support of the Teacher and School LEADERS Act, including Educators for Excellence, Knowledge Alliance, Leading Educators, National Center for Learning Disabilities, National Council on Teacher Quality, National Writing Project, New Leaders, National Network of State Teachers of the Year, Teach for America, Teach Plus, Teaching Matters, and Third Way.

 

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and John Thune (R-SD) introduced legislation to help Americans tackle their student loan debt. The Employer Participation in Repayment Act would allow employers to contribute up to $5,250 tax-free to their employees’ student loans – providing employees with much-needed relief and employers with a unique tool to attract and retain talented employees. 

“As the first in my family to graduate from college, I wouldn’t have been able to afford my college tuition without the help of student loans,” said Sen. Warner. “Unfortunately as the cost of higher education continues to skyrocket, so has the rate of Americans who turn to student loans to pay for college. Today too many Americans are saddled with tough-to-manage student loan debt, with no end in sight. That’s why I’ve teamed up with Sen. Thune to create an innovative, bipartisan approach to help ease the burden of student loans. By making employer student loan repayments tax-exempt, employers will have a new tool to recruit and retain a talented workforce while also helping working Americans manage their financial future.” 

“Today’s economy is strong, and I believe we should keep our foot on the gas by passing common-sense bills like the one Sen. Warner and I have proposed that would give young career seekers additional tools to help overcome the burden of student loan debt and empower employers to attract future talent,” said Sen. Thune. “It’s no secret that as today’s college graduates look toward the next chapter in life, they often trade their cap and gown for debt and uncertainty. This bipartisan legislation, which I view as a win-win for graduates and employers, is good policy and one that I hope garners strong support.” 

According to reports, one in four Americans have student loans, and student debt in the U.S. reached $1.5 trillion in 2018. Student debt is a significant financial burden that not only influences the way our workforce saves and spends, but also has a stifling effect on the economy. The Warner-Thune bill would update an existing federal program so that it works better for employees living with the reality of burdensome student loan debt. The Employer Education Assistance Program, as currently written, only provides assistance for workers who are seeking additional education. It does not extend to individuals who have already incurred student loan debt during their undergraduate or graduate studies. 

Additional cosponsors of the bill include U.S. Sens. Angus King (I-ME), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Ed Markey (D-MA), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Chris Murphy (D-CT), John Hoeven (R-ND), Doug Jones (D-AL), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Susan Collins (R-ME), Jon Tester (D-MT), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Todd Young (R-IN), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ).

The legislation has also been introduced in the House of Representatives by Reps. Scott Peters (D-CA) and Rodney Davis (R-IL) and has support from numerous educational organizations.  

“Too many individuals and families are being hindered by the financial burden of their post-secondary education.  Student borrowers deserve access to a broad range of repayment options and loan forgiveness programs that address their variety of needs,”said Marc Egan, Director of Government Relations, National Education Association (NEA). “The NEA is proud to support Congressmen Scott Peters, Rodney Davis, Senators Mark Warner, and John Thune in creating new pathways for individuals to repay their student loans to make college more affordable and accessible for all.”

“The National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities fully supports The Employer Participation in Student Loan Assistance Act of 2019 and Reps. Peters and Davis’s efforts to expand IRC Sec. 127 to allow employers to offer both tuition and loan repayment assistance to their employees.  Incentives like Sec. 127 encourage employers to invest in the education and training of employees at all levels, which ultimately benefits society and the economy.  Expanding this benefit to allow employees to also use this tax-free assistance for student loan repayment helps the employees at two vital stages of financing their education.  Improving this benefit will encourage more employer and employee participation, and result in a more educated and skilled workforce across the U.S,” said Dr. David L. Warren, President, National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU).

“The National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO) commends Sen. Mark Warner and Rep. Scott Peters for introducing the Employer Participation in Repayment Act. The benefits currently offered by Section 127 of the tax code are an important tool for employers to attract the best possible employees and build a skilled workforce. While Section 127 is currently a valuable tool in supporting U.S. competitiveness it could, upon passage of the Employer Participation in Repayment Act, become the benefit of choice for tuition assistance and loan repayments among employers. Expansion of Section 127 would benefit employers, employees, students, and families, and help both institutions of higher learning and the U.S. workforce retain a top spot on the global stage,” said Susan Whealler Johnston, PhD, President and CEO, National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO).

“The enhanced ability for employers to contribute to student loan repayment represents an important opportunity to reduce student debt levels. We commend Senator Warner and Representative Peters for looking into this issue, as it may assist many community college students who borrow to pay for the cost of attendance of postsecondary education,” said J. Noah Brown, President & CEO, Association of Community College Trustees.

“Students shouldn't be forced to look toward a future of being stuck in debt, especially when we have so much to offer the workforce and the world. As the cost of a college education continues to rise, it is increasingly vital that students have access to programs and resources to assist in loan repayment and forgiveness. The Association of Big Ten Students supports the efforts of Congressmen Rodney Davis and Scott Peters and Senators John Thune and Mark Warner in making a debt-free life more accessible for all and encourages the implementation of programs to reduce student loan debt across the country,” said Sarah Henry, Director of Legislative Affairs, The Association of Big Ten Students.

“In today’s competitive job market, leading-edge benefits are the most powerful tool employers can wield to attract and retain talented workers. At SHRM, we advocate for efforts that create better workplaces and a better world. We strongly support The Employer Participation in Repayment Act, and I applaud Representatives Peters and Davis, and Senators Warner and Thune for their bold leadership on this critical issue. Expanding employer education assistance helps address the skills gap, which is holding back both workers and employers. When employers are able to help workers pay off student debt, more people will have confidence to pursue higher education and be better prepared to fill high-skilled fields,” said Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP, President and Chief Executive Officer, Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

Full text of the legislation can be found here. A summary of the legislation can be found here.

 

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