Grant funding at EWU fell during FY 2011-12. After enjoying several years of more than $13 million in funding, EWU received just $9 million this year. While the reasons for the significant decrease are many, here is a look at some of the largest contributors to the drop:
The 2008 economic downturn is certainly responsible for some of it. Federal and state cycles move slowly, so it took a while before the wider economic situation affected our grant/contract-funded programs. Some of the more significant things that happened were that congressional earmarks (also known as “pork”) went away and that state agencies, such as the Washington State Department of Transportation and the Department of Social and Health Services, lost federal funding while grappling with reduced state funding. As such, they eliminated much of their outside contracting.
Both Washington and Idaho faced dramatic cuts to social work programs funded by social service agencies in their respective states. The Washington Title IVE program that funds students entering the child-welfare workforce was reduced from $2.8 million to $1.6 million. Funding for the sister program in Idaho fell from $1 million to $869,000. Other social work contracts decreased with a net result of $3 million in lost funding. Many private foundations cancelled or reduced programs when their investments failed to generate the necessary revenues to fund their grants. They either reduced the maximum amount of funding or set more targeted priorities.
An example is the College Spark Foundation. In the past, it supported programs for low-income students at both the college and precollege levels. Now its funding is directed only to precollege and transition-to-college initiatives.
Federal and state funders have managed their budget shortfalls in ways that have impacted EWU. Federal funders have made across the board cuts, funded fewer grants and changed their eligibility criteria.
EWU’s long-standing Student Support Services grant, which provides academic services to low-income, first-generation college students, received $410,000 in FY 2011 but $397,000 in FY 2012. EWU’s other TRiO program, the McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program, which supports underrepresented students desire to attend graduate school, was cut to $244,188 this year following several years of routine funding at $252,000.
Fewer grants in new competitions have also had a serious impact on EWU. This year EWU reapplied for GEAR UP, a program that helps middle and high school students attend college. After a successful six-year grant period, the program, which was cut by $20 million, required a perfect score of 104 in order to receive funding. EWU’s proposal received a 103. Under similar circumstances, EWU lost funding for the College Assistance Migrant Program, which supported first-year migrant students, following two back-to-back awards that spanned 10 years. Previously we shared awards with approximately 30 other programs; this year the U.S. Department of Education funded only nine. The McNair Program has faced cuts of $10 million, which means that a third of previously funded programs that competed this spring will not be refunded. Eastern still does not know the status of its proposal under this competition.
Finally, changes to eligibility requirements have significantly impacted EWU. Almost exclusively now, federal contracting opportunities for special studies and analyses have been designated as “small business set aside” and there is no exemption for public institutions of higher education.
Most recently, the Scholarships for Disadvantaged Students Program, which provides scholarship support for students in the health sciences, changed the eligibility criteria for the total percentage of disadvantaged students in the program from 10 percent to 20 percent and required each department to submit an 80-page application instead of the previous fill-in-the-blank formula application based only on institutional data.\
All of these factors led to asking for less money. This has been both in terms of the number of grants as well as in terms of the amounts that are asked for; some of which has been dictated by reduced funding levels.
During the last two fiscal years, EWU has only asked for $10.8 million per year, and has submitted fewer proposals than in the past. It is difficult to get to $13 million when you only ask for $10.8 million. With cautious optimism, we hoping for a better year in 2012-13; the first month of fiscal year has gotten us off to a good start with $2.8 million.