American Sociological Association

ASA Footnotes

A publication of the American Sociological AssociationASA News & Events
January-March 2017

President’s Proposed Budget Blueprint Significantly Threatens Research and Education Funding

The White House

The White House

The proposed federal budget blueprint released by the Trump Administration on March 16 makes a number of cuts that would have destructive impact on social science research and education in the nation. The proposal includes, for example, a 20 percent cut to the National Institutes of Health as well as the complete elimination of the National Endowment for the Humanities, National Endowment for the Arts, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and the Institute for Museum and Library Services. The White House also wants a ten percent across-the-board cut for a basket of “other agencies” that appears to include the National Science Foundation (NSF), though the ultimate intention for NSF will not be clear until the full budget proposal is released, slated for May.

The proposal does include $100 million more for the Census Bureau. However, this small increase falls short of expectations as the Bureau prepares for its decennial census. Annual funding normally significantly increases year to year, especially this close to 2020, as the bureau hires researchers and other staff for planning and implementing what is the largest gathering of demographic data. Whether adequate funding will be provided for preparing and executing the 2020 census remains to be seen since the largest increases—typically more than doubling annually—usually occur in the last two years.

Additionally, the president’s budget calls for a 13.5 percent reduction in the Department of Education, which would very likely impact the teaching of social studies, as well as other courses, at the K-12 level, reducing the exposure of future generations to social scientific inquiry and decreasing the pipeline to the sociology major. The proposed budget also reduces or eliminates significant overall cuts to the Pell Grant and other programs aimed at helping students with exceptional financial need or who are otherwise disadvantaged get postsecondary education. These include the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant as well as the Federal TRIO and GEAR UP programs. Such cuts would likely impact class diversity in higher education by decreasing preparatory programs and funding for those who might not otherwise be able to attend college.

To be clear, we do not expect the president’s budget to go very far in Congress as there has already been a strong negative response from congressional leaders, including those in the president’s own party. The president’s budget proposals are typically more of a demonstration of the president’s own priorities than a practical proposal. Additionally, many Washington watchers do not expect Congress to vote on spending bills in the near future but rather pass continuing resolutions, reducing the chance of a drastic change in agency budgets.

However, the president’s budget blueprint demonstrates that we must be vigilant in defending threats to research and education funding, and the ASA will continue to work to ensure that representatives in Washington know the importance of this funding to our nation as well as our local communities. Defunding research does not make America great, but rather undervalues evidence-based understanding of our society. Sociological scholarship is especially important at this moment. ASA will be monitoring the budgeting and appropriations process and will keep our membership informed of challenges and opportunities for action.

The ASA will continue to represent its members in these uncertain times. To keep up to date with the latest on these developments, follow ASA on Facebook and Twitter and keep an eye on this space and in your e-mail box for future updates.