A $1 trillion budget agreement may have some local university officials breathing a sigh of relief.
A bipartisan agreement to keep the federal government operating through the fall keeps many resources in place at operating levels similar to or greater than where they were under President Barack Obama.
Portions of the initial budget proposal from President Donald Trump drew concern from some, including local university officials, due to proposed cuts in federal research funding.
Dr. Myron Cohen is the director of the Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases at UNC. He visited Washington DC in March to speak with lawmakers about the importance of continuing federal research funding.
“If you don’t have sufficient funding in the pipeline, then you turn away a whole generation of scientists,” Cohen said after speaking at the capitol. “The consequences are not just that you don’t make discoveries that improve human health; you also lose your leadership edge worldwide, and you lose generations of young scientists.
“You don’t have an infrastructure.”
UNC Board of Trustees chair Dwight Stone said after a March board meeting that he was confident research funding would continue to have champions in the nation’s capitol through lawmakers including North Carolina’s Senators Richard Burr and Thom Tillis.
“Both of our United States Senators are very pro-research, as are others,” Stone said at the meeting. “We’ll continue to work and explain the benefits from that research with them, and I think they get it.”
UNC Chancellor Carol Folt said the senators, in particular, had shown support for research when visiting campus. But she added they did have questions about how to be more efficient.
“Both senators have come to campus, gone to visit the research areas, talked with our faculty,” Folt said before adding, “They have very serious questions about how to use that research and see it be more impactful.”
Folt also said it was beneficial to have information that showed lawmakers the direct impact and return on the investment of research dollars.
“We did a whole report a couple of years ago,” Folt said. “And we figured that we’re leveraging things in the areas that we really specialize in at UNC of up to $7 for every $1 we get from federal money.”
In the federal funding agreement that was released, the National Institutes of Health will be receiving a $2 billion boost through September. House minority leader Nancy Pelosi said in a statement the agreement was in “sharp contrast” to Trump’s proposal.
Folt said other areas of funding were also important, including Pell Grants and other areas focused on controlling the cost of a higher education.
The agreement is expected to pass the House and Senate before the end of the week. Trump has indicated he is going to sign the legislation.