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MIT, Brandeis, Boston University, UMass, Harvard presidents urge the federal government to fund research and financial aid

Posted by Your Town  August 1, 2013 12:26 PM

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Several presidents from local schools published a letter this week urging Congress and President Obama to reinvest in higher education research initiatives and student financial aid.

The Association of American Universities and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities published a letter Wednesday in Politico. The letter was signed by a number of local presidents, including Frederick M. Lawrence of Brandeis University, Robert A. Brown of Boston University, L. Rafael Reif of MIT, Drew Faust of Harvard University, Robert L. Caret of the University of Massachusetts and Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy of the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

The letter, which was signed by dozens of presidents, says that it is “troubling” that the United States has dropped to 12th place among developed countries for the number of young adults who have a college degree.

According to the letter, “the combination of eroding federal investments in research and higher education, additional cuts due to the sequestration, and the enormous resources other nations are pouring into these areas is creating a new kind of deficit for the United States: an innovation deficit.”

The letter also says that “ignoring the innovation deficit will have serious consequences: a less prepared, less highly skilled U.S. workforce, fewer U.S.-based scientific and technological breakthroughs, fewer U.S.-based patents, and fewer U.S. start-ups, products, and jobs. These impacts may not be immediately obvious because the education and research that lead to advances do not happen overnight. But the consequences are inevitable if we do not reverse course.”

Jeff Lieberson, a spokesman for the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, said today in a phone interview that the letter was sent individually to each member of Congress and the White House.

He also said that the response was “extensive” with university presidents from all 50 states voicing their support.

“Every single state is represented in this letter and you have large institutions, and smaller institutions -- all different types of schools all unified around this belief that the federal government has to invest more in research and financial aid to ensure our nation’s long term economic success,” Lieberson said.

President Brown of BU issued a statement today that explained why he signed the letter. He wrote that the university is committed to research and making scientific and technological discoveries.

“Decreases in federal support of research will harm the nation, not only by diminishing the stream of innovations that will fuel economic growth, but also by making more difficult our continued intellectual leadership and our ability to prepare the next generation of research leaders,” Brown said.

Katherine Landergan can be reached at klandergan@globe.com. For campus news updates, follow her on Twitter @klandergan.

Looking for more coverage of area colleges and universities? Go to our Your Campus pages.

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