Faust Advocates for Research Funding

As the federal government’s looming fiscal cliff dominates conversations on Capitol Hill, University President Drew G. Faust visited Washington on Monday to advocate for a continuing commitment to education and research funding.

Faust attended events at the Economic Club of Washington, D.C., a consortium for business and political leaders, and at the Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank.

At the Economic Club, Faust joined Georgetown University President John J. DeGioia to announce that Georgetown would join edX, an online education venture launched by Harvard and MIT earlier this year.

Later in the day, Faust spoke at a Center for American Progress event entitled “Investing in the Future,” which was co-sponsored by Harvard and Google.

“We’re excited to have both Harvard and Google, because in some sense they are the beginning and end of the innovation chain,” said the Center’s president Neera Tanden as she introduced Faust.

Faust told the audience that the U.S. has benefited enormously from a national commitment to public education.

“The question now, as we debate how to address the deficit, is, ‘How do we maintain these commitments to access and opportunity, to make college affordable, and to provide paths forward for millions of students who will strengthen America’s economic foundation and will be the innovators who drive discovery in the future?’” Faust said.

Tanden agreed that innovation should be at the forefront of conversations about the national budget.

“These issues are actually inextricably linked,” Tanden said.

Faust said that she was concerned that government support for education had faltered in recent years, citing decreased funding for public universities.

“We have taken public higher education and essentially made it not public anymore,” Faust said. “I think education’s a public good. I think society ought to embrace public education as a public good, and we’ve been backing off from that.”

A month ago, Faust and 15 other leaders of universities and medical centers sent a letter to the Massachusetts congressional delegation asking that Congress avoid cuts to research funding.

The letter argued that funding should be seen not just as an expenditure, but as a budget solution.

“Support for federal research funding helps to ensure our nation’s health, prosperity, and international competitiveness,” the letter said. “It has never been more important.”

—Staff writer Samuel Y. Weinstock can be reached at