Policy Update: February 13, 2013

Last night, President Obama gave his State of the Union address, which was an opportunity for him to flesh out the themes he highlighted in his recent inaugural address. The President focused on the importance of targeted federal investments to fuel economic growth and a strong middle-class: “It is not a bigger government we need, but a smarter government that sets priorities and invests in broad-based growth.”

Below are some highlights where President Obama emphasized many issues that are relevant to Northeastern and our policy agenda, including funding for research and higher education issues

Sequestration

The President made it clear that he wants to avoid sequestration from going into effect. "These sudden, harsh, arbitrary cuts would jeopardize our military readiness. They’d devastate priorities like education, and energy, and medical research. They would certainly slow our recovery, and cost us hundreds of thousands of jobs."

This is very similar to what we in the higher education community have been saying. The sequester, which is expected to take affect in a few weeks on March 1st, will cut 5% across the board of all domestic discretionary budgets and will be devastating for research andeducation.

For more information on the effects of sequestration on higher education, please see a recent Inside Higher Ed article, “The Return of Sequester.

Research

President Obama noted the importance of increasing funding for research programs: “now is the time to reach a level of research and development not seen since the height of the Space Race. We need to make those investments."

While obtaining continued investments in research in the budget climate will be very challenging, it is important tomake the case that these investment pay off in terms of knowledge, improvedhealth and security, as well as economic development.

Specifically, the President discussed the urgency of research related to cybersecurity. His comments match up well with the work of our faculty and our efforts to impact federal policy in this area, including related to the area of “cyber physical” research: “America must also face the rapidly growing threat from cyber-attacks. Now, we know hackers steal people’s identities and infiltrate private emails. We know foreign countries and companies swipe our corporate secrets. Now our enemies are also seeking the ability to sabotage our power grid, our financial institutions, our air traffic control systems."

Higher Education

In addition to research, President Obama noted the implementation of the new “College Scoreboard,” which is designed to give students and their families a more in-depth look at education costs when comparing colleges and universities. Northeastern is committed to strengthening college affordability and access for students, and we will continue to work on this issue with the Obama Administration.

Tax Reform

Once again the President called for comprehensive tax reform, but he was not very specific. “To hit the rest of our deficit reduction target, we should do what leaders in both parties have already suggested, and save hundreds of billions of dollars by getting rid of tax loopholes and deductions for the well-off and the well-connected.” We will continue to advocate for the preservation of certain deductions, including the charitable tax deduction, which are important to Northeastern and other academic institutions.

Our office will continue to advocate for robust investments in research funding and education programs. We will provide additional information as it becomes available.