Potential funding cuts took center stage this week in Washington, D.C., as leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives announced a proposal to cut $100 billion in federal spending for the current fiscal year. The announcement coincided with President Barak Obama’s presentation of the FY2012 budget proposal.
Included in the House proposal is the largest reduction in the history of the Pell grant program, which would reduce the maximum award by $845 (15.2 percent) to $4,705 from the current maximum of $5,550. While the President’s FY2012 proposal maintains the current maximum award, it seeks to eliminate summer grants — a critical source of funding for FIU students.
Although expected to pass in the House, such cuts would still be debated in the Senate, where opposition is expected. The President did threaten to veto such drastic reductions, making more likely another short-term Continuing Resolution.
More than 16,000 FIU students receive Pell Grants with a current median award of $4,000. Proposed cuts by the House would have a detrimental effect on students who count on this funding to pursue their educational dreams. It is projected that more than 61,000 students nationwide would be forced to interrupt their college education if these proposed cuts were adopted.
FIU’s governmental relations team and student leadership have mobilized to advocate for this important investment. Student Government Presidents Helena Ramirez and Cici Battle have taken the lead among local university student leaders by sending a letter to the South Florida Congressional delegation, Office of Governmental Relations intern Zach Ruiz wrote this op-ed for The Beacon. The chart below also details the current impact of Pell grants in South Florida.
Of additional concern in the House proposal is an elimination of research facilities grants program and a rescission for funds already appropriated to fund the Sustainable Communities Planning Grants nationwide. FIU provided critical leadership and collaborated with over 200 organizations in helping fund the Southeast Florida partnership with a $4.2 million grant.
President Obama’s presentation of the proposed FY 2012 federal request does advance educational, transportation and research priorities of interest to FIU. For instance, the President proposes to recruit 10,000 new teachers and train an additional 100,000 in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education, a strength of our Colleges of Arts and Sciences, Engineering and Education.
As both the proposed House cuts and new Presidential request would affect our research priorities, several stakeholders visited Washington within the last week to advocate before Congress.
College of Engineering and Computing Dean Amir Mirmiran visited with our local delegation to detail the impact of investments by research agencies such as the National Science Foundation, Department of Energy and the Department of Defense on the economy and innovation in South Florida. He also found the time to visit with alumnus Frank Reyes ’08, of the Navy’s Warfare Systems group, to discuss ways to enhance our initiatives in STEM education.
Walfried Lassar of the College of Business promoted the impact of international educational funding at an institution like FIU and its Center for International Business Education and Research. Our team also participated in meetings on Capitol Hill aimed at advancing our coastal and oceanic research via partnerships with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and its Integrated Ocean Observing System.