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Federal Budget Cuts Research, Education Funding

By Tara W. Merrigan and Zoe A. Y. Weinberg, Crimson Staff Writers

The current draft of the federal budget for the last six months of fiscal year 2011, in an agreement reached by Congress over the weekend, calls for significant cuts in research and education, which may impact Harvard’s ability to fund its programs.

The bill has maintained the $5,550 maximum amount awarded through Pell Grants, a federal program that provides funding for low-income undergraduates. Approximately 17 percent of eligible Harvard students received Pell Grants in 2010.

However, a policy that allowed students to receive two Pell Grants in one year has been discontinued.

The Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, which also help low-income students pay for college, were cut by $20 million.

Funds allocated for the National Institutes of Health were cut by $260 million, and the National Science Foundation’s funding was cut by $53 million.

Harvard received over $600 million in federal funding for research in fiscal year 2010, according to the University’s annual fiscal report.

“These cuts are significant, and will impact scientific research and educational opportunities,” Kevin Casey, Harvard’s senior director of federal and state relations, wrote in an emailed statement.

“However, strong voices have been raised in this debate about the importance of scientific research and education to our long-term economic vitality,” Casey wrote. “We are working hard to assure that more voices join in the effort in the weeks and months ahead—to preserve these programs—they are critical to our ongoing economic wellbeing as a nation.”

Congress is expected to pass the bill this week. Overall, the bill has cut the federal budget by nearly $40 billion—the largest cut in federal spending in a single year to date.

In addition, AmeriCorps—a national community service organization which helps to fund Teach for America—suffered a $23 million cut, narrowly escaping Republican efforts to eliminate the program. Last year Teach for America saw the highest number of Harvard applicants in history. From the Class of 2010, 293 seniors applied.

With the 2011 budget drafted, Congress will soon shift gears to hammer out the 2012 fiscal budget. President Obama’s 2012 budget proposal, released in February, includes funding increases for science research and continued support for student financial aid.

Obama’s budget proposed a two and a half percent increase in funding for NIH and a 13 percent boost for the NSF.

Obama’s budget also sustains the Federal Pell Grant Program for college students, keeping the maximum grant amount at $5,550.

—Staff writer Tara W. Merrigan can be reached at tmerrigan@college.harvard.edu.

—Staff writer Zoe A. Y. Weinberg can be reached at zoe.weinberg@college.harvard.edu.

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