Bulletin July 2006
"It is not enough to offer a smorgasbord of courses. We must ensure that students are not just eating at one end of the table."
– A. Bartlett Giamatti
THE
BULLETIN
Volume 74 | Issue 4
July 2006

Public Policy Update

A legislative trend in several states to regulate the sale of food and beverages available in elementary and high schools may eventually have a significant impact on college and university food and beverage programs. Currently, a number of states have enacted or are considering legislation to limit or prohibit the sale of snack foods and beverages in schools with high sugar and fat contents. Additionally, the U.S. Congress has introduced legislation to increase nutritional safeguards for children.

Legislation ranges from limitation on available hours to elimination of specific items in vending machines. Bill S2592, introduced by Sen. Tom Harkin, amends the Child Nutrition Act of 1966 by updating the definition of “food of minimal nutritional value” (FMNV) to conform to current nutrition science. The bill further restricts the sale of FMNV by imposing location and time constraints.

Based on concern for the growing problem of childhood obesity, local school districts, as well as state legislatures, have enacted tougher guidelines for the sale of FMNV in schools. In the United States, California represents a comprehensive example of nutritional protection for school children by requiring all groups selling food to students at school to follow the state’s nutritional standards. Food sold as fundraisers that do not meet standards may be sold at least 30 minutes after the end of the school day or off the school premises. In addition, by July 1, 2009, beverages sold in K-12 schools between 30 minutes before and 30 minutes after the school day must be limited to beverages on an approved list. Soda will no longer be available to students. In the United Kingdom, England and Wales have already passed sweeping legislation to ban junk food in schools.

The William J. Clinton Foundation, in conjunction with the American Heart Association, has created the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, which has brokered a deal with major beverage distributors to establish new guidelines for distribution of food products in schools. The guidelines limit portion sizes and calories in beverages available to children during the school day. The agreement calls for full implementation of these standards in U.S. schools by the 2009–10 school year.

The changes in foods available for sale at the elementary and secondary school level, combined with restrictions on marketing FMNV to children, will impact the purchasing habits for future generations of college students. As this population matures, colleges and universities may need to adapt their dining and retail programs to meet changing expectations.

Federal

As of the beginning of June, it appeared unlikely that the Senate would bring the Higher Education Act reauthorization up for a vote in the next month or so. However, there was a slight possibility that it would make it onto the Senate calendar during “Education Week,” scheduled for the last week of June. The extension filed early this year extended the bill until June 29, if it did not make it to a floor vote by that date, it would have to be extended again. If it is not passed before Congress adjourns after the November elections, then the entire bill would be redrafted and have to be passed again in the House as next January starts a new session of Congress.

The Senate and the House have passed significantly different immigration bills. The Senate bill covers border security, a guest worker program, and path to citizenship. The House bill is strictly a border security bill. The White House is working to push conservative House members to support the Senate bill through conference. The two bills will be difficult to conference due to their differences. The provisions that were included in the Senate version that directly affect higher education include measures that would create a new visa category for foreign science and engineering students, as well as making it easier to obtain work in the United States upon graduation or through the increased number of H-1B visas and the employment-based visas. Some workers with advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering, or math will be exempt from both H-1B and employment-based visa caps. The Senate legislation also incorporates the DREAM Act, which would allow immigrants who entered the United States before they turned 16 and have been living here at least five years to be granted conditional legal residency under specific conditions.

Several measures that impact student financial aid are under consideration. The Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Bill offers a provision that will repeal the single-holder rule, which will allow borrowers the option to shop around for competitive interest rates and better repayment terms for their consolidation loans. The efforts to increase Direct PLUS loan interest rates to 8.3 percent to match those of private loans have been dropped because the interest rate fix would cost parents in the Direct Loan program an additional $365 million over the next five years. The House markup for the 2007 Labor, Health, and Human Services and Education Appropriations Bill includes a Pell Grant Award increase of $100 to $4,150.

The Senate and the House have a limited number of days left in their legislative sessions due to holidays and other congressional recess periods, providing only a short time to complete all appropriations bills, reauthorization bills (including the Higher Education Act), and conferences on passed bills.

For current updates on federal legislation, please visit the ACUI Public Policy Center at www.acui.org/acui/resources/policy.