“President Obama’s fiscal year 2016 budget proposal for research funding would provide a much needed shot in the arm and help put the nation back on track toward closing the innovation deficit. While some key figures show that the U.S. economy has been strengthening in the short-term, the threat of the ongoing budget sequester continues to jeopardize the long-term economic success of the nation and our status as global innovation leader.
“By ending sequestration, the president’s budget would enable growth in basic research and higher education programs, which together serve as the foundation for the long-term success of the nation. We are encouraged that the president’s budget calls for increases to NIH, NSF, and other science agencies and departments driving innovation. And we are especially pleased to see a large increase in funding for USDA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative. While we are pleased with overall funding levels proposed for research accounts, one disappointment in the budget proposal stands out: a significant cut to defense basic research.
“APLU has long called for ending sequestration, which forces imprudent and reckless cuts. At the same time, APLU fully acknowledges the long-term budget challenges the U.S. faces, which is why we again urge the White House and Congress to come together and strike a big deal that would include both tax and entitlement reform. Doing so would help avoid seemingly endless fights that only nibble around the edges of budget policy and have focused disproportionately on the discretionary part of the budget where investment spending in research and education occurs.
“As we work toward dramatically increasing the percentage of the U.S. working age population with a post-secondary degree, we know that such an effort will take a true and meaningful partnership between the federal government, states, and the higher education community. We also know that in order to reach that 60 percent attainment goal that many more low-income, disadvantaged students will need access to college and financial assistance to complete their degree, which is a core focus of the nearly 500 APLU and Association of American State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) institutions that have taken the Project Degree Completion pledge.
“In calling for the indexing of Pell grants in his budget, the president is proposing an important change that would help ensure that students most in need have access to critical federal resources that often make going to college possible. We urge the president and Congress to build on this latest proposal by also including policies that incentivize states to adequately fund public higher education in order to help keep tuition affordable. Many states have defunded or underfunded public higher education and thereby shifted more of the financial burden to students and their families.”