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Research, financial aid raised in Clinton budget

In a speech at the California Institute of Technology in January and again in his State of the Union Address, President Clinton said that "university-based research provides the kind of fundamental insights that are the most important building blocks of any new technology or treatment." The administration's budget for fiscal year 2001, released on February 7, calls for significant across-the-board increases in funding for essentially all university-based research.

The President also is seeking increased need-based financial aid for undergraduates and restoration of the "Section 127" tax exemption for employer-provided education benefits for graduate education. The proposed maximum Pell grant award is $3,500, an increase of $200.

In addition, the budget would increase the Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant (SEOG) by 4.8 percent and the federal work-study program by 8.2 percent. The GEAR UP and TRIO programs would both see increased budgets, and the Javits fellowship and GAANN program would be unchanged.

As Congress considers the President's request over the coming months, there will be an unprecedented presence of university officials, scientists and students in Washington to support the fiscal 2001 budget request.

"Again this year, we hope to engage MIT students and faculty in several of these activities," said Jack Crowley, director of the MIT Washington Office. Industry voices are also strengthening in support of greater investment in research and education. Final outcomes will come in stages between midsummer and the first week of October, when the current Congress will conclude its work and return home for the fall elections.

"President Clinton's request meets the challenge to invest in the innovative ideas, outstanding people and the cutting-edge tools that will extend the frontiers of science, technology and learning in many directions," said Rita Colwell, director of the National Science Foundation.

In addition to overall scientific research increases, the President proposes funding four key multiagency initiatives, including the National Nanotechnology Initiative, Information Technology Research, Biocom-plexity in the Environment, and the 21st-Century Workforce. MIT President Charles Vest played a key role as chairman of the President's Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology task force on the nanotech-nology initiative.

Under the President's budget request, the National Science Foundation receives the largest increase in its 50-year history. The agency's budget would grow by $675 million to $4.6 billion, a 17 percent increase. NSF research programs receive nearly a 20 percent increase, the first step toward a rapid doubling.

The Department of Energy's overall budget would increase by almost $1.6 billion, including a 12 percent increase to strengthen DOE's science program. For the first time in seven years, NASA's budget request is higher than the previous year's appropriation. In particular, the NASA Science, Aeronautics and Technology budget would grow by 6 percent.

In contrast, the Department of Defense request included far more modest increases for basic research programs. DOD applied research and development accounts are cut significantly. Finally, the National Institutes of Health received a $1 billion, 5.6 percent budget increase, bringing the agency total to $18.8 billion, a number Congress is almost certain to increase.

Budget details are available on line.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on February 16, 2000.

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