May 23, 2017 Update on the Federal Budget Process

This week, President Trump released his full fiscal year 2018 budget proposal to Congress. The President’s full budget mirrors closely his “skinny budget”, a stripped down budget outline which was released earlier this year. The President’s full budget proposal calls for drastic cuts across the federal government, including to many agencies that support academic research such as the National Institutes of Health, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Department of Energy, and the National Science Foundation. The National Science Foundation, which was notably absent from the President’s skinny budget, has a proposed funding level of $6.5 billion (down from $7.4 billion or 10.7%) in the President’s full budget proposal.

A few agencies that support research efforts see slight funding increases, including research and development accounts at the Department of Defense, as well as the Department of Homeland Security.

In addition to cuts to federal research funding, the President’s budget also proposes a ten percent cap on indirect cost reimbursements. This would be problematic for Northeastern, and many other higher education institutions, because we rely on indirect cost reimbursements to fund the administrative and operational costs associated with the research our faculty do.

The President’s budget also includes several other items that impact higher education institutions, including funding for year-round Pell Grants, allowing the Perkins Loan program to end upon its current expiration later this year, and eliminating existing federal loan forgiveness and subsidized loan programs. 

Congress will now take up the budget process using the President’s proposal as a starting point for negotiations. Many of the cuts proposed by the President are likely to be non-starters even with Congressional Republicans, and if recent history is any guide the budget debate for the 2018 fiscal year, which begins October 1, 2017, will stretch into the winter and perhaps further.

As the budget process wages on, here at Northeastern we will continue to advocate for funding for scientific research, especially in the areas of health, security, and sustainability, and to take advantage of areas of continued interest for the federal government, including cyber security, homeland security, and defense. We will also be fighting for increases in federal student aid, additional flexibility in the Federal Work Study program, and other policy proposals that help make college more affordable and better prepare our students to enter the workforce.