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Harmful to Students and the Nation’s Interest: APLU Statement on Trump Administration’s Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Proposal

Washington, DC – Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) President Peter McPherson today released the following statement regarding the Trump administration’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget proposal.

“Investments in research and higher education are essential for our nation’s economic growth. If enacted, the administration’s budget would have devastating short and long-term consequences for the United States and the American people. It would threaten the United States’ role as an economic superpower. We urge Congress to reject these proposed cuts and instead build upon recent progress that includes increased investments in NIH research and restoring year-round Pell grants.

“For decades, the United States has maintained its position as global innovation leader. But this budget proposal would be a retreat from that role and cede the development of new technological breakthroughs to other countries. This would, in turn, create a U.S. innovation deficit and enable other nations to reap the economic benefits, including jobs and income, instead of us. There are certain investments the United States must make.

“The proposed dramatic cut to NIH would stand in the way of critical life-saving research, dashing families’ hopes of new treatments and cures for some of the most vicious diseases and illnesses. To be clear, facilities and administrative (F&A) expenses related to NIH grants cover real and necessary research costs and must not be cut. F&A covers important research infrastructure such as construction and maintenance of high-tech labs, high-speed data processing and storage; security for sensitive and dangerous chemicals and microbes; and radiation safety and hazardous waste disposal. These are expenses essential to safe and efficient research. You cannot conduct cancer research in a parking lot! A cut to federal support of F&A would be a cut to NIH research.

“The 10 percent proposed cut to the National Science Foundation would also deliver a crushing blow to scientific advances that lead to the development of new technologies and industries that improve our quality of life, ensure our national security, and power our economy forward. Other key research programs, including those at the Department of Energy, NOAA, USDA, and EPA would also face drastic cuts, undermining their ability to support research. All of this is in the context of foreign competitors ramping up their investments in research because they know it’s an essential part of the secret sauce for economic growth. The complete elimination of the Sea Grant program would have meaningful consequences for conservation efforts and the sustainable use of coastal, marine and Great Lakes resources. Even the NASA budget is cut in this proposal, including shutting down the Space Grant program. Additionally, eliminating the Manufacturing Extension Program (MEP) in the National Institute of Standards and Technology would be counterproductive to the goal of aiding manufacturing communities. MEP helps strengthen American manufacturing activities by making them more efficient and powerful engines of innovation.

“The proposed cuts to higher education, if enacted, would be a crippling blow to our nation’s efforts to have the most well-educated, competitive workforce. It would also widen the gap of college access and success among low-income, first generation students and more affluent ones. The elimination of Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants along with significant reductions in Work-Study, TRIO, and GEAR UP would be the equivalent of erecting concrete barriers in the path of some of the neediest students who aspire to earn a college degree. While the administration would provide sufficient funding to retain the present maximum Pell Grant, rescinding $3.9 billion from the surplus on top of a recent $1.3 billion rescission in Fiscal Year 2017 takes away Pell funding that is rightfully set aside for the future needs of students. Congress and the administration should look to further improve the program by extending the mandatory inflation adjustment rather than raiding the program’s fiscal safety net.

“We are also deeply troubled by the direction this budget would take our country relative to student loans. The budget would eliminate in-school interest support for undergraduate students thus leading to interest accruing before students have even graduated. Changes to loan repayment plans requiring higher payments would be harmful to many, particularly proposed changes specific to graduate students. The elimination of the Perkins Loan Program and the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program for new borrowers are also of great concern.

“The budget would also cut or eliminate Department of Education international education programs at a time when it’s never been more important to produce graduates who are prepared to compete globally. The cumulative effect of these higher education proposals would be an astonishing self-defeating setback of the national interest.

“Further, shuttering the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts would close off the long-standing U.S. commitment to the advancement of our culture and society.

“There is no question that the United States must ensure its military has the resources needed to protect our nation, but it’s a false choice to argue that can only be achieved through deep cuts to non-defense discretionary programs, including education and research. These non-defense discretionary programs take up such a small percentage of the overall federal budget. Targeting them for cuts will not meaningfully address long-term budget issues, which need thoughtful attention. But they will severely and negatively impact the lives of many Americans and blunt economic growth.”

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