The independent news organization of Duke University

Will the Trump administration's proposed education, research budget cuts hurt Duke?

President Donald Trump's budget proposal for 2020 would cut funding for higher education and research, in favor of increasing funding for national security and defense programs. 

The proposed $4.75 trillion annual budget, recently submitted to Congress, would cut overall Department of Education funding by 10%. It would also slash more than $6.1 billion in funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). 

It also proposes to entirely cut both the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, which is a source of financial aid for students demonstrating financial need, and Public Service Loan Forgiveness, which forgives student loans in exchange for working for the government. 

If passed by Congress, these proposed budget cuts could affect Duke. However, history shows that Congress is unlikely to pass many of the Trump administration’s proposed cuts that will affect federal funding for education and research programs that are important to Duke, said Chris Simmons, associate vice president of the office of government relations.

In the last several years the Trump administration has proposed reducing funding for agencies such as the NIH and the National Science Foundation, but it hasn't happened, Simmons said. Despite Trump's proposals, funding for the NIH has increased roughly 21% over the course of the last three years. 

Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations, emphasized that Duke will continue to advocate to maintain federal budgetary support as it pertains to research and higher education. 

“Scientific research conducted at universities is valuable to this country in many, many ways, from innovations in technology, to lifesaving cures done by medical research, to enhancements and improvements in national security," he said. "These things...start with research being done at America’s leading research universities like Duke."

Duke and other institutions will continue to advocate for the value of federally-funded research, Schoenfeld added. 

Many people are involved in making the case to Congress. Duke University leadership—including President Vincent Price, the Office of Government Relations, the Washington D.C. team and Duke faculty—are all investing time and energy in “advocating and educating” about the need to sustain federally funded programs for research. 

“We meet with members of Congress and with their staff. We generate media attention, write op-eds, write letters...we use all tactics available to us to ultimately make the case to Congress that funding for research is important,” Schoenfeld said, emphasizing that there is a “broad and deep coalition of support for federally funded research.”

Robin Rasor, executive director of Duke’s Office of Licensing and Ventures, testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee about the importance of investment in STEM and things the House and Senate can do, especially in supporting women in STEM. 

Although it is unlikely the proposed budget cuts will pass through Congress, it is still important to take these proposals seriously, Simmons said.

“We take all proposals seriously, and we’re going to continue to work hard to make sure the president’s budget actually is dead on arrival on Capitol Hill," he added.  

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the proposed budget was $4.75 billion, and it is $4.75 trillion. The Chronicle regrets the error.