Penn State leadership addresses federal budget blueprint proposal

Penn State’s leadership weighed in today (March 17) following the release of the White House’s 2018 budget blueprint, which among other things calls for significant reductions in federal aid to low-income students and critical research grant funding that drives innovation and economic activity. Penn State’s Office of Government and Community Relations, and other leaders, are in touch with Pennsylvania’s Congressional delegation as debate on the budget begins.

The proposal from the White House is the first step in a long process of negotiation that ultimately will result in a budget.

“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.”

“In the coming months we will continue to advocate strongly with our U.S. Representatives and Senators on behalf of our many students who depend on federal funding to help them complete their studies, and on behalf of our researchers whose discoveries and livelihoods depend on this support.”

The Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities and the Association of American Universities, both of which Penn State is a member, also have issued statements outlining the broad potential impacts of cuts on innovation, economic development and education in the U.S.

“As you know, Penn State is the single largest contributor to the Commonwealth’s economy, supporting more than 67,000 jobs statewide,” Barron said in a letter to Pennsylvania’s Congressional delegation. “We educate nearly 100,000 students, more than any other university in the Commonwealth. Nearly 70 percent of our undergraduates are Pennsylvania residents. Scientific research conducted at Penn State generates approximately $2 billion in economic impact and supports more than 18,000 jobs throughout the Commonwealth.”

The blueprint proposes a reduction in federal Pell Grant funding; would eliminate the Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) program; and would “significantly” reduce funding for the Federal Work-Study (FWS) program. “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 students, or 26 percent of Penn State’s undergraduate population, receive a Pell Grant. Availability of Pell Grant funds throughout the year encourages degree completion, on-time graduation, and lower levels of student debt. Additionally, the FSEOG and FWS programs play an important role in helping students to finance their educations, with 4,600 recipients and 2,019 recipients, respectively.

“Both programs assist students who have zero or low expected family contributions and are a vital component to financing their higher education,” Barron said. “These important programs increase access to higher education for low-income students and they should be continued, not cut.”

Though the University continues to review the budget blueprint and its potential impacts, Barron said that in general, proposed cuts to federal organizations such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) could endanger critical funding that drives research and discovery that positively impacts Pennsylvanians and all Americans.

Federal funding for scientific research is critically important, and the proposals in the blueprint are likely to have negative consequences on Penn State's ability to conduct scientific research. A preliminary estimate is that the University's annual federal research expenditures could decline by tens of millions of dollars if the proposal were enacted. Proposed reductions in NIH funding could limit Penn State’s ability to make new discoveries that enhance patient care in Pennsylvania, improve health outcomes, and save lives of residents; and elimination of energy programs could jeopardize work to promote American energy security.

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.

Penn State’s leadership will continue to monitor developments and to study potential impacts of the blueprint, and of the White House’s full 2018 budget request when it is released in May.

Last Updated March 22, 2017