By Madison Akers
University of Maryland students, the administration and members of the Foundation Board of Trustees lobbied for support of some of the university’s top federal priorities on April 2, including protection of student financial aid programs and funding for important research initiatives as part of the annual Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill.
The participants of the event met with several members of Congress, including Rep. Steny Hoyer, Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, Rep. Anthony Brown, Sen. Ben Cardin, and more. They requested $12 million for the new Department of Defense University Affiliated Research Center (UARC), located in College Park, which supports the research and development needs of the intelligence community.
The event began with a lunch in Hoyer’s conference room at the U.S. Capitol. Hoyer, a University of Maryland alum, spoke about the importance of investing in initiatives led by the university that would improve the nation’s future..
“We have such opportunity and therefore such responsibility to invest in our future,” Congressman Hoyer said.
The University of Maryland designated UARC, one of only fifteen existing UARC’s in the nation, will house the research of artificial intelligence, information engineering and human systems. The mission has been named Applied Research Laboratory for Intelligence and Security (ARLIS) and is the only UARC designed to serve the intelligence agency.
John Bohanan, a member of the Foundation Board of Trustees, said that the ARLIS is dedicated to understanding the human mind and could answer the question “What causes terrorism?”.
“Our security clearance process is outdated and is not geared towards the human mind and the Edward Snowden’s of the world,” Bohanan said.
In addition to the $12 million request from Congress to support ARLIS, the participants also asked for continued funding for the five major research centers focused on quantum computing, which can also contribute to the development and exploration of national security.
The University of Maryland, which is a global leader in quantum computing, hopes that, with the help of funds from Congress, one of the major research centers can be brought to the state of Maryland.
Paul Mandell, Vice Chair of the Foundation Board of Trustees, said “it is hard to imagine a more important investment,” which would accelerate all types of research on urgent matters through higher levels of computing.
Additionally, participants urged Congress to reauthorize the Higher Education Act and protect the federally funded financial aid programs. Congress has introduced several proposals that aim to streamline federal financial aid programs, ultimately limiting financial aid options for students. In 2017, 51 percent of undergraduate University of Maryland students received grants or scholarship aid, totaling over $143 million.
Students asked Congress to reinstate inflationary adjustments for the Pell Grant, which expired at the end of 2017 because as inflation rises, the power of the Pell diminishes and students’ access to higher education is jeopardized. They also requested the preservation of the federal work-study programs for undergraduate students and no further cuts to aid for graduate students, as a graduate degree is increasingly seen by employers as a necessary credential.
Katie Arevalo, a sophomore family science major, said that she would not be able to attend the University of Maryland if it weren’t for the help of federal funds that aim to enable students who come from lower-income families to pursue a college degree.
Arevalo, whose parents immigrated from El Salvador, is a student under the Incentive Awards Program, which provides a full scholarship for Baltimore City and Prince George’s County high school students with financial need who have demonstrated outstanding academic ability.
“We ask that you please continue to support programs like mine so that needier students are able to get the education that they deserve and choose the future that they want,” Arevalo said.
The university hopes that, with the help of voices like Arevalo’s, Congress will support legislation and funding that is favorable to its current initiatives in the 2020 fiscal year.