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Penn State Officials Express Concerns with White House Budget Blueprint

by on March 20, 2017 11:49 AM

Penn State leaders say they have concerns about the federal budget blueprint presented by the White House last week.

In a statement, the university noted the proposal is the first step in negotiating the budget -- which is ultimately up to Congress -- but said that the blueprint, if followed, could have significant impacts.

“While this proposal is the first step in crafting the federal budget, the potential impacts on Penn State’s ability to meet its land-grant mission of teaching, research and service cannot be overstated,” said Penn State President Eric Barron. “Federal support for student aid and scientific research plays a vital role in our efforts to educate the workforce of tomorrow; train the next generation of scientists and engineers; and serve the citizens of Pennsylvania, the nation and the world.”

The proposal calls for reductions in federal student aid programs and recommends slashing funding to government agencies like the National Institutes of Health and Department of Energy that provide research grants to colleges and universities.

The budget blueprint proposes cutting federal Pell Grant funding, eliminating Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants (FSEOG), and reducing support for federal work-study programs.

“These proposals would negatively impact the ability of current and future low-income students to pursue and complete a college degree in a timely manner, if at all,” Barron said.

About 22,000 Penn State undergraduate students receive Pell Grants, while about 4,600 students received the FSEOG and 2,019 benefit from federal work-study funding.

The proposed budget cuts would also harm research, innovation and economic development, according to the university.

For 2015-16, Penn State totaled $838 million in research expenditures. About two-third of that -- or more than $530 million -- came from a variety of federal sources, including NASA, the Department of Agriculture, Department of Defense and Department of Health and Human Services, as well as NIH and DOE.

The university said a preliminary analysis of the White House plan indicates that Penn State research expenditures would decrease by tens of millions of dollars. Cuts to NIH funding could damage Penn State's work in improving health and saving lives, while DOE reductions would stifle efforts to advance the nation's energy security, according to the school.

"Reductions advanced by the blueprint could undermine NIH scientific research that supports more than 20,000 jobs and generates $3.79 billion in economic activity in Pennsylvania, and the proposed elimination of the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E), within the DOE could negatively impact several potentially transformative research efforts at Penn State, including research that could contribute to development of batteries that generate more power at lower costs," the university statement said.

University government relations staff and other officials are speaking with Pennsylvania's Congressional delegation as budget negotiations begin.

Penn State isn't alone in expressing concerns over the proposal.

The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities issued a statement outlining the potential impacts and said the proposed budget could have "devastating short and long-term consequences for the United States and the American people."

The American Association of Universities also released a statement saying it "would cripple American innovation and economic growth." The AAU statement added that cuts to federal student aid programs are "shortsighted" and "would be a major setback for low-income students..."

Geoff Rushton is managing editor for Contact him at or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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