Letter to Members Regarding FIPSE Grant Competition
December 16, 2004
You may already have heard that the Education Department
has cancelled its annual competitive grant competition for
the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE)
because nearly all of the program’s budget has been
earmarked for specific projects sponsored by individual members
of Congress for the benefit of institutions in their districts.
How To Send a Response
If you are interested in registering an opinion on the cancellation
of this program, we encourage you to contact the offices of
Senator Arlen Specter, Representative Ralph Regula and/or
your own representative. To find contact information for members
of Congress, see www.house.gov.
FIPSE grants over the years have been a catalyst for valuable
curriculum and faculty development initiatives across the
nation. Many of your campuses have been involved in these
programs. AAC&U is dismayed that this year’s competition
has been cancelled. This is an enormous loss of important
support for educational innovation around the country.
FIPSE was established in 1972 during the Nixon administration
to serve as a stimulus to learning-centered innovation as
higher education took on a new significance in American society.
Over time, it has become both a beacon for educational creativity
and a source of new ideas that have advanced far-reaching
and positive educational change for our society. Over the
past several years, more and more of the program’s budget
has been earmarked for specific initiatives introduced by
individual members of congress at the behest of lobbyists
and influential institutions. In this year’s appropriation
to FIPSE, 418 awards are earmarked for projects as varied
as the purchase of equipment for a nurse training program
in California to support for the Strom Thurmond Fitness and
Wellness Center in South Carolina.
We recognize that many AAC&U members benefit from these
earmarked appropriations. Nonetheless, it would be a huge
loss to American students if the peer-review tradition that
has produced so many important educational advances now falls
victim to a less competitive and opaque process that rewards
the powerful and the well-connected. The general public and
our students are clearly best served by having proposals for
federal funding vetted and selected through a peer review
process guided by the best thinking and knowledge available.
Decisions about what projects should be funded should be grounded
in principles of quality, integrity, and fairness rather than
political considerations or relative degrees of influence.
As reported in an article this week in The Chronicle
of Higher Education, Representative Ralph Regula, the
chairman of the US House of Representatives subcommittee that
sets FIPSE’s budget, asserted that FIPSE is a Washington
bureaucracy out of tune with the needs of colleges and universities
around the country. Based on our experience, FIPSE’s
professional staff members have established an effective and
far-reaching process of peer review that draws on the insights
of academic leaders and faculty members throughout higher
education. In fact, FIPSE is distinctive in the foundation
world in drawing from and serving the entire educational community.
We believe that eliminating funding for the competitive program
and the resulting cancellation of the FIPSE comprehensive
program is a huge loss to the educational community. The nation’s
students are shortchanged by these developments.
Carol Geary Schneider
Association of American Colleges & Universities
See Earmarks in FIPSE Appropriations,