The University Record, April 17, 1995

Student aid, research funding still in jeopardy on Capitol Hill

By Jared Blank

Although the House of Representatives has been busy passing nine of the 10 bills promised in the "Contract with America," legislation passed during the first 100 days of the new Congress have had little effect so far on federal support for higher education and research, according to Tom Butts, associate vice president for university relations. However, as the budget and appropriation process continues, student aid and research funding remain at risk.

Three bills before Congress and the president will have serious implications for the University.

The first of these, the Department of Defense Emergency Supplemental and Recision Bill, has been approved by House and Senate conferees and now awaits Clinton's signature. The bill includes a $75 million recision in the National Security Education Trust Fund. The House had proposed elimination of the entire amount of the appropriation. The fund provides money for international education and graduate students. A number of technology development programs would also face recisions. The Department of Defense Science and Technology and the Technology Reinvestment Program are slated for reduction in the bill. In addition, the Advanced Technology Program would have nearly 25 percent of its already appropriated 1995 funds rescinded.

On April 6, the Senate approved a $16 billion recision package by a 99-0 vote following a compromise by majority leader Robert Dole, R-Kansas, and minority leader Tom Daschle, D-South Dakota. The compromise scaled back education cuts by about $335 million from the $704 million in cuts originally suggested. This still leaves approximately $370 million in current-year education cuts.

The good news for post-secondary education is that the Senate bill makes no cuts in Javits fellowships, Title I programs, State Student Incentive Grants, or Americorps, as suggested by the House version.

Science and research programs did not fare as well as the education programs. The National Institutes of Health Building and Facilities appropriation, National Science Foundation (NSF) facilties appropriation, the Environmental Protection Agency's research and development appropriation, and NASA would all receive significant reductions in funding. The NSF recision was specifically requested by the president. Moreover, the bill rescinds $5 million from the 1995 budgets of the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Bob Samors, government relations officer for research, warns that "while science cuts aren't drastic, they give a preview of some areas where the new congressional leadership will focus when looking for reductions. What comes next could be much more significant."

The Senate version of this recision bill will be discussed by the Senate and House of Representatives, and a compromise will be worked out during the first week in May. Clinton has said that he would sign a bill that contained the numbers in the Senate package.

The last of these bills is to pay for the $189 billion tax cut package passed by the House of Representatives. To pay for the tax reduction, the House has outlined $278 billion in spending cuts over five years. Of these, $177 billion would be taken from discretionary programs, which include many research and education programs. Butts is concerned that "institutions heavily dependent on discretionary funds, like the University, are highly at risk. Further, we are concerned about possible large losses at the University for indirect cost reimbursement and the Indirect Medical Education supplement, as well as student aid."

However, the future of the House tax bill in the Senate is uncertain. While majority leader Dole and majority whip Phil Gramm, R-Texas, support large tax cuts, appropriations committee chair Mark Hatfield, R-Oregon, finance panel head Bob Packwood, R-Oregon, and budget committee chair Pete Domenici, R-New Mexico, have gone on record as opposing a deep tax cut.

The debate will continue when the House and Senate reconvene May 1 and formal action on the budget resolution begins.