The Department of Education recently cut $10 million from the Ronald E. McNair Scholars program, which is designed to assist minority students get into science, technology, engineering and math graduate programs. Department officials said that the cuts to the McNair program were necessary to free up funds for Upward Bound, which helps minority students pursue an undergraduate degree in science, technology, engineering and math.
The reallocation of funds is estimated to reduce the amount of campuses hosting McNair Scholars programs from 203 to 127, it is also estimated that the 2,000 students who would have entered the program will not receive funding. The Department of Education stated that moving the funds to Upward Bound will prepare an additional 900 students for college.
The McNair Scholars program pairs upper class students with faculty mentors who guide them through the graduate school application process; they are also provided stipends to attend academic conferences and conduct research. Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle urged Education Secretary Arne Duncan to reinstate the funds, however, the department appears to have no plans of reversing its decision.
Because McNair Scholars grants are competitive and awarded only once every five years, the disruption caused by the reallocation is expected to continue for quite some time. To forestall the closure of 76 campus programs, the Council for Opportunity in Education, an organization that advocates for increased funding for both McNair Scholars and Upward Bound, is attempting to lobby the Department of Education to postpone the next McNair Scholars grant cycle until 2013.
The Council hopes that congress will increase overall funding for federal TRIO programs, of which both Upward Bound and McNair Scholars are part. Since the cuts to the McNair Scholars program are part of a trend of cuts to federally financed post-graduate scholarships and grants, it seems unlikely that the Council will get their wish.
In June, the U.S. State Department cut all funding for the George J. Mitchell Scholarship, which financed one year of post-graduate study in Ireland or Northern Ireland. Additionally, the Department of Education removed all funding from the Jacob K. Javits Fellowship Program, which provided support for postgraduate study in the arts, humanities, and social sciences.
The Fulbright-Hays program was unable to make any awards in fiscal year 2011 because of substantially reduced funds. As a push to reign in spending and balance the budget, Congress recommended cutting $50 million from Title VI grants, which provide funding for universities to operate language and international studies centers for teaching modern foreign languages.
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