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Congress Must Not Sacrifice Scholarships

The House of Representatives appropriations subcommittee last week submitted a list of proposed budget cuts of $17 billion, including $130 million in cuts to higher education student aid programs.

Slated for termination are State Student Incentive Grants, Douglas Teacher Scholarships, Harris Doctoral Fellowships, Byrd Honor Scholarships, Javits Fellowships, the National Science Scholars Program, and several other programs.

The proposed cuts are a vicious blow to students who rely on federal aid to offset the rising cost of post-secondary education. The House should think carefully and seriously before considering the elimination of programs that encourage motivated and highly capable students to pursue college degrees.

While we can take a little solace in the fact that funding for university-based research and core student aid programs have remained for the most part untouched, reports say the Senate appropriations committee may still be considering a $100 million reduction in university-based research funded by the Department of Defense.

Money saved from the scholarship cuts will be applied to defense spending and deficit reduction, all in line with House Speaker Newt Gingrich's "Contract with America." It is disturbing that Gingrich, who has always claimed to be a futurist and a technologist, seems to lack the foresight to realize the country cannot hope to remain a world commerce and technology leader if it discourages its students from getting a strong education.

Merit-based scholarships give many students the necessary financial incentive to commit to paying for an expensive education at premier institutions. This year, with rising tuition and a faster rising self-help expectation, MIT students especially rely on those federal programs to pay for their education.

Gingrich and the committee members are misguided. We wholeheartedly support their effort to cut budgetary excess. However, we cannot support cutting that excess by terminating valuable student aid programs that help many thousands of students get a better education. We hope that the full House will recognize the folly of cutting the scholarship programs and come up with more acceptable alternatives. Should the cuts pass the House and the Senate, President Clinton must make good on his commitment to education and veto any reduction or termination in federal scholarship programs.

These issues are too important to too many students for them to be swallowed up in partisan bickering and political posturing. Frenetic budget cutters must stop and recognize the importance, both now and in the future, of the aid programs they speak of terminating.