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Coburn Releases College and University Responses to Earmark Inquiry

Location: Washington, DC

Coburn Releases College and University Responses to Earmark Inquiry

September 12, 2006

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) - U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK), chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, today released the responses his subcommittee has received so far to a July 27, 2006 letter regarding the effectiveness of higher education earmarks. Of the 113 colleges and universities that received a letter, 60 have responded with complete or partial answers, 10 have indicated that they are making a good faith effort to comply and 38 have provided no response whatsoever. Dr. Coburn extended the September 1, 2006 deadline for responses in order to accommodate late responders.

"In a time of war and mounting fiscal challenges, taxpayers have a right to know how their money is spent. In these difficult times, Congress, in particular, has a responsibility to conduct aggressive oversight of all areas of the federal budget, which is why my subcommittee has held 45 oversight hearings since 2005. The letter I sent to colleges and universities is an important aspect of a broader effort to bring greater transparency and accountability to all areas of the federal budget," Dr. Coburn said.

"I appreciate the time and attention 60 colleges and universities devoted to responding to this inquiry and I look forward to receiving additional responses from colleges and universities who are working diligently on an answer.

"However, I am dismayed that 38 institutions of higher learning in our country have not made a good faith effort to reply to this simple request for information. Failing to provide any response whatsoever to this letter is not merely an affront to Congress, and our constitutional duty to oversee federal spending, but to every American taxpayer who finances earmarks.

"Ignoring this letter is also deeply insulting to students and their families who are being asked to finance skyrocketing tuition costs and burdensome loan repayment schedules. American families are struggling more and more to be able to afford ever-increasing higher education costs. It is indefensible for institutions of higher learning to demand more and more money from the public through tuition and tax dollars while keeping the public in the dark about how they spend public funds. The least a college or university can do that has benefited from thousands or millions of dollars in earmarked funds is to provide the public a clear accounting of how those funds were used," Dr. Coburn said.

College tuition more than doubled between 1986-1987 and 2002-2003, rising from $5,206 to $12,111, according to the Heritage Foundation. At the same time, cost concerns were a significant reason why 250,000 qualified high school graduates did not pursue higher education in 2003, according to the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education. Approximately 70 percent of Americans believe that higher education is being priced beyond the income of the average family (Source: The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, May 2002).

"I look forward to holding hearings on college and university earmarks either this fall or next year in the Federal Financial Management subcommittee, particularly since Congress has not conducted substantive oversight in this area for nearly 15 years. If colleges and universities who have not responded do not respond to this request promptly they may have an opportunity to explain their lack of a response to my subcommittee in a public hearing. If universities do not have this data, or cannot provide it to Congress in a timely fashion, that may reflect a serious management problem within universities which also should be addressed.

"American taxpayers have been generous supporters of higher education and they have a right to know whether federal research dollars should be allocated on the basis of merit or political considerations. The fact is, while members of Congress may have good intentions, they are not equipped to conduct an objective peer review process among competing scientific requests. In the long term, higher education earmarking may seriously erode our nation's research edge and ability to compete in a global economy by putting politics ahead of sound science," Dr. Coburn said.

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