President Obama’s budget proposal, if approved by Congress, would have a mixed impact both on Georgetown’s research centers and students who benefit from federal loan programs.
Georgetown University Associate Vice President for Federal Relations Scott Fleming (SFS ’72) said he mostly supported the proposal, which was released April 10.
“For the most part, the president’s budget is a positive one for higher education,” Fleming said.
In the wake of cuts to education spending resulting from the August 2011 debt ceiling fight and the 2013 automatic budget cuts, Fleming said that the president’s plan provides a blueprint for compromise that could prevent further hemorrhaging in federal funding for the university.
Two main tenets whose resolutions could dissuade lawmakers from further education cuts, according to Fleming, include the closing of tax loopholes and structural changes to social programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.
“A very good thing … is that the president’s budget does lay out a proposal that is designed to be the basis for a grand bargain, including both taxes and entitlement reforms,” Fleming said. “I think he deserves great credit for putting forward a plan that attempts to address that in a way that will hopefully lead to some progress.”
Despite his overall praise for the president’s plan, Fleming said that the lack of ceiling the student interest rates was concerning.
Another provision in the Obama budget that could significantly affect students is a proposed $150 million increase to the federal work-study program. The increase, however, would come with the stipulation that jobs be related to students’ field of study.
“It may be harder for institutions like Georgetown to get those kinds of jobs designed,” Fleming said.
Nonetheless, federal work-study participant Laura Caro (SFS ’16) said that she was excited about the idea of the change because it might mean she could seek more meaningful work than under the current work-study scheme.
“A lot of people in work-study are just swiping people into dorm halls, so I think forcing the university to connect the jobs to a person’s field of study is a really good choice,” Caro said. “I know the reason for me why it’s really hard to find a paid internship is that I just can’t afford to give up time where I could be making money. It would be amazing to be able to do both simultaneously.”
Fleming also noted that the Obama budget plan would restore funding for Title VI — a program that in part supports international education programs such as the Center for Eurasian, Russian and East European Studies; the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies; and the East Asia Center at Georgetown — to 66 percent of the budget before the 2011 cuts took effect.
Victor Cha, the director of the East Asia Center, had mixed opinions on the president’s initiative following the cuts that Title VI suffered as a result of the 2011 debt ceiling crisis.
“In today’s budget environment, I guess this should be applauded,” Cha wrote in an email. “But the  cuts to Title VI are literally pocket change in the larger national budget-cutting context and yet they are so critically important to funding foreign language study, scholarships and teaching at the universities in the [United States] like Georgetown that are committed to training our next generation of diplomats, scholars and experts about different regions of the world.”
Another provision in the budget that could impact the lives of Georgetown students is a potential restructuring of the Perkins loan program, whose revolving loan fund ensures that student repayment is reinvested in future students. The Perkins loan program’s survival hinges on Congress’ reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, a separate measure from the budget proposal which is set to expire within the next year.
“If Congress doesn’t pass the president’s budget plan or if it doesn’t act unilaterally within the next year or so, [the program] is going to expire and that is going have major, major consequences on the lives of some students here,” Fleming said.
According to Georgetown’s Office of Student Financial Services, 824 Georgetown students during the current academic year receive funds from the Perkins program, totaling just under $5 million. The total Perkins Loan Revolving Fund at Georgetown has about $34 million.
Dupree Daniels (COL ’16) said that he most likely would not be at Georgetown without the assistance of the Perkins loan program.
“For this scholarship to be taken from me would be so detrimental to me and my family,” Daniels said. “It would be such a huge step down going on from Georgetown.”
Daniels said that he could barely imagine both the disappointment and shame he would feel if he were to lose the money he receives from the federal government.
“Going to Georgetown and having to go right back — it would be a horrible thing to tell my kids,” Daniels said.