President Trump and his administration have proposed budget cuts for education and remained unclear on other related issues, such as the federal government’s involvement with universities’ handling of sexual misconduct.
In March, Trump revealed his budget, which proposed cutting $9 billion from the Education Department and decreasing the amount of money for the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation and other agencies that help fund academic research. In addition, Trump proposed to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, which have granted the University of Maryland about $2.5 million for research, performances and projects since 2010.
At a March University Senate meeting, university President Wallace Loh addressed possible state budget cuts, saying “Long-term, it doesn’t look good.”
“The Trump administration has made it clear that they want to repeal Obamacare, and if that occurs, the state of Maryland will take a direct budget hit of $1 billion … they also proposed reducing [the] size of [the] federal work force, which will have an incredible impact in Maryland, D.C. and Virginia,” he said.
Loh raised concerns about Trump’s longtime campaign promise to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, which aimed to provide affordable and accessible health care coverage. Maryland receives funding through the Affordable Care Act from the federal government, including $1.2 billion to cover Medicaid, as well as $200 million for additional services. If the law is repealed, the state will have a lower budget and people will have to be laid off, Loh said.
House Republicans initially introduced the American Health Care Act on March 7 in an attempt to replace Obamacare. While the bill failed to gain enough initial support, Republican lawmakers are pushing to bring the bill to a vote again this week, The Washington Post reported.
Vice President Pence said Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press he thought health care reform would happen soon.
“Health care reform, repealing and replacing Obamacare, is just around the corner,” Pence said. “I think we’re close.”
Shaliah George, a junior communication major, said she is worried the budget cut will lead to increased tuition.
“This could mean less students will have access to higher education,” George said, adding that students from lower-income homes may feel less motivated to continue their education if college tuition becomes too expensive. “We’ll be seeing a lot of trickle-down effects from that.”
Under the Obama administration, the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights told schools in its 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter that “sexual assault should be considered a form of sexual harassment prohibited under the anti-discrimination law known as Title IX.” At her confirmation hearing Jan. 17, current Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said it was “premature” for her to say whether she would maintain Obama’s Title IX guidance for universities on handling sexual assault.
Naomi Baumgold, a freshman psychology major, said educating students about and fighting rape culture should be a main focus on college campuses, rather than universities simply working with the federal Office of Civil Rights.
“It’s such a cultural thing,” she said. “Having an office for sexual misconduct helps, but schools really need to address it on their campuses and educate people about it.”
DeVos has since hired Candice Jackson as the office’s deputy assistant secretary. Jackson’s duties will include prosecuting schools for violations of Title IX. Jackson has also claimed she once experienced discrimination because she is white, according to a report by ProPublica.
George said she thinks having the office offers increased enforcement of sexual misconduct policies and punishments, as well as accountability across all universities.
“If a scandal erupts someplace because they have lax regulations, it could mean a bigger issue could arise,” George said. “It could all be resolved if the federal hand evened everything out.”
This university’s Office of Civil Rights and Sexual Misconduct was founded in March 2014 and is responsible for “overseeing and implementing the University’s compliance with Title IX as well as other federal and state civil rights laws and regulations,” according to the office’s website.
The U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights has opened two cases since January investigating possible violations of how this university handles sexual violence cases. In total, the office is investigating more than 315 cases at 228 colleges and universities for Title IX violations. If schools do not take sufficient steps to prevent and address sexual misconduct on campuses, they could be found in violation of Title IX policies and risk losing federal funding.