On March 16, 2017, the Trump administration released what has been called its fiscal year (FY) 2018 “skinny” budget. This initial budget proposal is intended to be a top-line version of the more traditional presidential budget proposal expected in early May.
In this proposal, President Trump has made clear he intends to follow through on his plan to increase defense spending by 10 percent—or $54 billion—and offset those increases by cutting discretionary spending by a similar amount. Discretionary areas of the federal budget include many agencies and programs that are important to the higher education community, including spending on student aid programs and scientific research. Specifically, the administration proposes a reduction of $9.2 billion for the Department of Education compared to current funding, cutting its budget by 13.5 percent from current levels.
The budget calls for a reduction of $5.8 billion for the National Institutes of Health, including calling for a major reorganization of the NIH’s Institutes and Centers. Such changes could reduce funding for scientific research conducted at colleges and universities across the country.
AGB strongly opposes reductions in the federal budget that could harm students or have a detrimental effect on the research and innovation on our campuses.
To fulfill its public trust, American higher education must both be accessible to all citizens seeking postsecondary education and equipped to advance our nation through innovation and discovery. We must seek every avenue to help our students attend and succeed in college, as well as enhance programs that lead to innovations in areas of scientific research.
Questions for boards to consider:
- Is your board informed of the array of federal student aid programs in which your institution participates—such as Pell Grants, work-study, SEOG—as well as the number of students on your campus who benefit from these programs?
- What areas of research on your campus receive funding from federal sources, such as the National Institutes of Health, and how might such research activity be impacted by reductions in federal spending?
- Should these proposed reductions in federal support ultimately occur, has your institution assessed the financial risk and considered alternative sources of revenue to make up the difference?