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If Taxpayers Treat Harvard As Harvard Treats Families Of Students…

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Then Harvard won’t be getting any more federal dollars.

Here is the link to Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust’s commencement address which I discuss in my Washington Examiner column linked above.  Here are the key paragraphs on the sequester:

Yet other events this past year remind us we cannot take what universities do for granted. This year has brought home not just the threats of extreme weather and of terror and violence. It has also been a year that has challenged fundamental assumptions undergirding American higher education and the foundations of our nation’s research enterprise. I have just offered examples of how our research and teaching can contribute to addressing urgent problems facing our world. We live in an era in which knowledge is more vital than ever to nations, economies and societies. Knowledge is, I often say, the most important currency of the twenty-first century. And universities are the places that, more than any other, generate and disseminate that knowledge.

In the United States, the partnership between universities and the federal government established after World War II has been a powerful engine of scientific discovery and prosperity. Yet that partnership, now more than half a century old, is threatened by the erosion of federal support for research—a situation made acute by the sequester. An estimated almost $10 billion will be cut from the federal government’s research budget in 2013. The National Institutes of Health calculates that cuts to its resources could mean the loss of more than 20,000 jobs in the life sciences sector. Here at Harvard, we receive approximately 16% of our operating budget from federal research funding. We anticipate we may see declines of as much as $40 million annually in federal support for research.

What does all this mean? Faculty are finding that even grant applications with perfect scores in peer evaluations are not getting funded. They see existing awards being reduced. Aspiring younger scientists are fearful they will not receive career-launching grants on which their future depends. Some are entertaining overtures from countries outside the United States where science investment is robust and expanding. Students contemplating graduate training are wondering if they should pursue other options. Great ideas that could lead to improved human lives and opportunities, and improved understanding, are left without support or the means for further development.

The world and the nation need the kind of research that Harvard and other American research universities undertake. We need the knowledge and understanding that research generates—knowledge about climate change, or crisis management, or melanoma, or effective mental health interventions in schools, or hormones that might treat diabetes, or any of a host of other worthy projects our faculty are currently pursuing. We need the support and encouragement for the students who will create our scientific future. We need the economic vitality—the jobs and companies—that these ideas and discoveries produce. We need the nation to resist imposing a self-inflicted wound on its intellectual and human capital. We need a nation that believes in, and invests in, its universities because we represent an investment in the ideas and the people that will build and will be the future.

So as I report to you on the year we now bring to a close, I want to underscore the threat to universities and to our national infrastructure of knowledge and discovery that the sequester represents. Even in a year when sometimes the world felt too much with us, we have never lost sight of how much what we do here has to do with the world. And for the world. To sequester the search for knowledge, to sequester discovery, to sequester the unrelenting drive of our students and faculty to envision and pursue this endless frontier—such a strategy does more than threaten universities. It puts at risk the capacity and promise of universities to fulfill our commitment to the public good, our commitment to our children and grandchildren and to the future we will leave them. The challenges facing the world are too consequential, the need for knowledge, imagination and understanding is too great, the opportunity for improving the human condition too precious for us to do anything less than rise to the occasion. With the devotion of our alumni, with the inspiration of our new graduates and—I hope—with the support of our nation’s leaders, we must and we will.

 Harvard gets millions and millions of tax dollars a year –more than a half billion– but has an endowment of $35 billion.  Some of the federal funding is no doubt for needed products ordered up by the feds, but it is hard to imagine Harvard surviving an application of its own tests vis-a-vis financial aid that are applied to incoming students.  It is the richest university in the world.  It does not give any financial aid to the wealthiest 40% of its students.  I am eager to hear why the standard applied to families of incoming students ought not be applied to universities seeking federal research funding.


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