Three members of the Yale administration, including President Richard Levin, traveled to Washington, D.C., on Thursday to discuss student aid, research funding, and issues related to international students with members of Congress.
Joining Levin on the trip were Yale Director of Federal Relations Richard Jacob and General Counsel Dorothy Robinson. The visit included a luncheon with several Yale alumni who serve in the House, as well as a series of discussions with a number of senators from committees relevant to the issues at hand. The trip comes approximately 10 days after the submission of the fiscal 2007 federal budget by President George W. Bush ’68.
The discussion of student aid centered on the potential termination of the Perkins Loan program, which Levin said would not significantly impact Yale undergraduates, as the University would make up for undergraduate funding cuts with its own resources.
UOC member Nick Seaver ’07 said he thinks the potential impact of ending Perkins loans would be negative and would put increased pressure on Yale to compensate for decreased funding.
“I think that it’s a terrible thing that the government is cutting these subsidized loans for students,” Seaver said. “They are, of course, useful for students with low income to attend universities like Yale. As these cuts persist and get worse, it’s unfortunately going to have to fall on Yale to make up the difference.”
Levin said the visit, one of several trips to Washington taken by Yale officials each year, was productive and that discussions held at the meetings familiarized the Congressional representatives with several key proposed initiatives.
“The people I talked to were very responsive and welcomed the conversation and the opportunity to get better acquainted with some of the issues,” Levin said.
Also mentioned in the meetings was a proposal for a scholarship program that would provide five years of funding for students who enter the teaching profession after graduating from college. This proposal was recommended in a report released this summer by the National Academy of Sciences titled “Rising Above the Gathering Storm,” which Levin helped write.
The Yale officials supported the increased spending for physical sciences recommended by the President, Jacob said, while stressing the need to simultaneously maintain support for medical research.
“We were encouraging Congress to take the important steps the President has recommended to provide substantial increases for physical sciences research, but also not lose the ground we have gained on medical research,” Jacob said.
Between 1998 and 2003, the budget doubled for the National Institutes of Health but provided little increased support for the physical sciences and engineering, Jacob said. The Bush administration’s proposals have been positive, Levin said.
“[The National Academy of Sciences panel] recommended a doubling of the physical sciences and engineering budget in the next several years,” Levin said. “The President seems to have emphasized that. We were reinforcing a very positive step, but also pointing out that it shouldn’t make the same mistake twice. They should both be growing with at least inflation.”
Issues raised pertaining to international students centered on the importance of retaining international students in the United States after graduation, Jacob said. Under current law, international students earning doctorates in a math or science field are required to return home after they earn their degree, he said. A proposed change to immigration law supported by the Yale officials would automatically allow international students a year to find a job in the United States and to be fast-tracked for permanent residency if they secure a position. The proposed changes, which Levin said would serve to benefit American workers, have so far been well-received.
“I think this is getting increasing support,” Levin said. “I think that some of the interest groups that have traditionally opposed immigration need to understand that this is not going to threaten American workers. Students with doctorates are not going to be replacing factory workers. If anything, they are likely to be creating jobs for the factory workers.
David Deng GRD ’05, a chemistry postdoctoral student from China, said he is in favor of the proposed changes to current immigration laws.
“I think it will be helpful because they are trying to make a law that is making it harder for foreign students to stay in this country though they can be very valuable to this country,” Deng said.