PRESIDENT REAGAN has carried his budget-slashing campaign further than anyone--probably including himself--had expected. Egged on by the likes of Budget Director David A. Stockman and under pressure to make up for his outrageous tax-cut promises, Reagan has asked Congress to eliminate or cripple many valuable programs and agencies, including several that support higher education. The legislators must refuse the president's reckless proposals and instead consider ways the government can help ensure the future health of colleges and universities.
In addition to his well publicized efforts to reduce aid to students--cuts which, as they stand, will not redirect funds from the rich to the poor, as intended--Reagan has put forth plans to cut drastically government support for the arts and humanities, educational and scientific research, and training in many other areas. Entire divisions of agencies, such as the National Science Foundation (NSF), will collapse under the Reagan proposals.
He has, for instance, recommended that the NSF sacrifice more than 90 per cent of the $111.9 million it was to receive in fiscal year 1982 for science education--funds that provide pre-doctoral fellowships and teacher-training programs for many students at Harvard. By totally eliminating a $75-million grant for the reinstrumentation of university laboratories proposed by former President Jimmy Carter, Reagan has denied Harvard researchers millions of dollars, which would have been used to revamp outdated facilities such as the Mallinckrodt Chemistry Labs.
The president has vowed to recharge the nation's engines of productivity by bolstering private-sector research and development. But by putting the corporate scientists' academic counterparts out of business, Reagan will eliminate a needed source of basic investigation and innovation. Furthermore, he has focused many of his most severe cuts on the "non-essential" social sciences in a move many educators have labeled purely political and restrictive of academic freedom. By reducing support for research in areas such as abortion and family mental health, educators say, Reagan hopes to see programs he considers taboo or not justifying government involvement swept into a corner and forgotten.
In the long run, Reagan's misguided proposals will help undermine higher education and many fields of research, both of which we depend on in the struggle to improve our society. Something seems very wrong with a government determined to stock its military with every deadly gadget demanded by the Pentagon, no matter what the price, but unwilling to spend enough to maintain the quality of academic research and improve the education of its youth.