Penn State is “continuing to analyze the potential impact of the budget blueprint.”
On Thursday, President Donald Trump released his “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again.” The spending plan has prompted responses from many of those who could be impacted by the $18 billion in discretionary spending reductions.
The university released a statement Friday regarding the potential impact on its operations and students.
“While this proposal is the first step in crafting the federal budget, the potential impacts on Penn State’s ability to meet its land-grant mission of teaching, research and service cannot be understated,” Penn State President Eric Barron said. “Federal support for student aid and scientific research plays a vital role in our efforts to educate the workforce of tomorrow; train the next generation of scientists and engineers; and serve the citizens of Pennsylvania, the nation and the world.
“In the coming months we will continue to advocate strongly with our U.S. Representatives and Senators on behalf our many students who depend on federal funding to help them complete their studies, and on behalf of our researchers whose discoveries and livelihoods depend on this support.”
Penn State’s leaders are used to making a case with government for funding.
The university has been locking horns with Harrisburg for years over its annual appropriation as a state-related school. What one governor or legislator gives, another can take away, something that has become part of the annual negotiations between the branches of Pennsylvania government.
But federal funding comes to Penn State in many different ways.
There is financial aid, for instance. Everyone who gets a student aid package at Penn State starts with the same process, filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, which helps determine just what mix of grants and loans will go to help offset tuition, room and board and fees.
According to U.S. News and World Report, 61 percent of Penn State students apply for financial aid, and 46 percent receive need-based help.
About 22,000 undergraduate students receive federal Pell grants alone, according to Penn State. Another 4,600 receive help through the Federal Education Opportunity Grant, and 2,019 utilize the Federal Work Study program.
“Both programs assist students who have zero or low expected family contributions and are a vital component to financing their higher education,” Barron said in the statement. “These important programs increase access to higher education for low-income students and they should be continued, not cut.”
Then there is research.
Barron said scientific research at Penn state is responsible for 18,000 jobs and $2 billion to the state economy.
In 2016, Penn State brought in $836 million in research funding. Of that, $151.1 million came from in-house money; $71.8 million came from the state; $83.1 million came from various industry and other sources.
But $530.3 million came from federal sources.
The majority, $212.5 million, started with the Department of Defense. The university does millions of dollars in work for the Navy alone through the Applied Research Lab. Penn State said a “major new award” supports “national Cyber Operations Research and Data Analytics,” as well as continuing work on design and development of torpedo defenses.
DOD will see $54 billion in increases under Trump’s proposed budget.
The other $327.8 million comes from a variety of government agencies, such as $131.6 million from the Department of Health and Human Services, $68.6 million from the National Science Foundation and $11 million from NASA.
Of 10 separately broken out federal agencies that provide research funding to Penn State, nine are targeted in the president’s plan for budget cuts of $115 million to more than $2 billion. Only the National Science Foundation was not listed in “America First.”
So where does the money Penn State receives go?
The Department of Energy picked Penn State in May 2016 to lead up a $20 million, six-year study on fossil fuels, involving other major institutions such as MIT and Princeton.
A grant from the NSF is part of a exploring language and learning sciences with the Partnerships for International Research and Education.
Penn State gets $28.2 million from the Department of Agriculture. That does things like study pest management and special crops to working with real farmers who have a good idea. A study on mixing corn and soy to increase hardiness and production accomplished all of that.
Penn State has one other thing that gets money, too: a public television station. WPSU receives about 15 percent of its budget through the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, another target for proposed cuts.
“The interesting thing is that we’ve been down this road before,” said director of broadcasting Greg Peterson. “In fact, President George W. Bush eliminated funding for public media in every budget he sent to Congress for eight straight years. But the thing is, it’s such a bipartisan issue, it was always restored.”
That is because Trump’s proposal is just a proposal. U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Howard Township, reiterated in his response to the budget on Thursday that Congress makes the final decision on funding.
“As with any administration, a budget request is simply an outline of the executive’s prerogatives,” he said, adding, “As the process gets underway, I will continue to advocate for those programs that benefit our community the most, while using common sense to eliminate unnecessary spending, waste and redundancy in the federal government.”