Harvard spent about $540,000 lobbying the federal government for increased research funding, financial aid simplification, and immigration reform in 2015, maintaining a pace set in previous years.
According to public records filed with Congress, Harvard lobbied the White House, both chambers of Congress, and the Department of Education last year on a range of bills including the DREAM Act, which would outline a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, and the 2016 Department of Defense Appropriations Act. Harvard primarily works with members of Congress who are alumni, members of the Massachusetts delegation, and the relevant committee chairs on pieces of legislation concerning University interests.
The records also indicate that Harvard has lobbied on legislation regarding student financial aid, specifically addressing Pell Grant funding and Stafford and Perkins loans, and issues related to tax reform and university endowments.
Harvard’s lobbying expenditures peaked at $1,170,000 in 2007, when the Higher Education Act was considered for reauthorization, but have been consistently around half a million dollars since 2011.
$120,000 of Harvard’s total lobbying expenditures was paid to O’Neill, Athy, and Casey, a relatively small law firm in Washington, D.C. that specializes in lobbying Capitol Hill. Harvard’s lobbying budget also includes salary costs for Harvard employees involved with lobbying efforts, paid dues to educational and research consortiums that lobby on Harvard’s behalf, and maintaining overhead costs. Harvard does not solely rely on employees or lawyers to lobby D.C.; University President Drew G. Faust has also made several trips to hobnob with government representatives, most recently in October when she traveled to Washington to promote climate research.
"Harvard and the federal government have a long standing partnership that involves research funding, student financial aid, tax related issues, and a range of other issues that require us to have an ongoing interaction to be able to inform the policy making around those issues,” said Kevin Casey, associate vice president for public affairs and communications. “Harvard has a small but engaged professional staff that works on behalf of the University to foster those conversations.”
Harvard’s latest lobbying efforts come as the University grapples with decreased levels of federal research funding. In the second year of wide-ranging cuts in federal spending, collectively known as sequestration, outside funding sources gave Harvard less than $800 million in 2015—the lowest figure since 2010. But in December, Congress granted the National Institutes of Health a $2 billion funding increase, a bump that will likely flow back to Cambridge; the NIH is one of Harvard’s largest research funding sources.
Harvard spent more money on lobbying in 2015 than most of its peer institutions. Yale spent roughly $430,000, Princeton spent $240,000, and Stanford $270,000. The University of Pennsylvania was the only Ivy League school to outspend Harvard, putting about $680,000 into lobbying activities.
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