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Penn administrators are fighting to maintain current levels of funding after President George W. Bush and Governor Ed Rendell presented their respective budget proposals last week.

Universities nationwide will see little or negative growth in areas such as research funding and financial aid if the budgets are approved as proposed.

"It was not a surprise, but it nevertheless is of significant concern," said Penn's Vice President for Government, Community and Public Affairs Carol Scheman of the federal budget. "The President's budget does not provide the kinds of increases in [National Institutes of Health] and [National Science Foundation] research which will sustain current levels of effort -- and in other agencies, such as the Department of Defense and Department of Energy, there are significant cuts."

"We're also deeply concerned about student aid cuts," Scheman added.

From programs like Upward Bound to the Perkins Loan Program -- which help make Penn more accessible -- the President sought to cut several programs from his budget.

"The proposed elimination of the Upward Bound program, the proposed elimination of Congressman Chaka Fattah's GEAR UP [for high school students] program -- those are things that concern us," said University President Amy Gutmann. "The actual elimination of some education programs that provide opportunities for disadvantaged students adversely affects our commitment to increasing opportunity."

The governor's budget presented similar cuts.

"The greatest concern ... are proposals to cut medical systems," Scheman said. "Philadelphia does not have a public hospital -- we provide a significant amount of under-reimbursed or completely un-reimbursed care, and medical assistance funding goes to make that more possible. The early numbers we're looking at is that the governor's budget has a potential $20 million impact on us."

The $20 million represents a combination of medical assistance funding as well as tobacco-settlement money, which is slated to fund research projects at Penn.

"We, like all academic medical centers, are very worried about the impact of proposed federal and state budget cuts," said Arthur Rubenstein, executive vice president of the Health System and dean of the School of Medicine. "We are incorporating this in our budget projections and feel we will be able to be still optimistic about the future as we implement our strategic plan."

The Health System saw a major financial turnaround over the past few years and is still working to build upon its improved financial status, but could be threatened by the proposed cuts.

"We've got to protect ... the medical system," Trustee Alan Hassenfeld said. "We've come a long way, and I don't want to see us go backwards at all."

The University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology will also be affected by the cuts. The museum, like others in the state, will see reduced support as part of a statewide drop in museum funding.

"This was not expected or anticipated," said Gerald Margolis, deputy director of the University Museum. "We haven't really had an opportunity to analyze [the cut] or the implications."

The state cut will affect funding for programs which allowed the museum to educate students at local libraries, community centers and schools.

Though Bush and Rendell each announced their budget proposals last week, the fiscal year for the commonwealth begins July 1 while the federal fiscal year begins Oct. 1. The proposals have touched off what will amount to months of deliberation among all involved parties.

"I have been to Harrisburg, and I met with all of our representatives there," Gutmann said. "I talked to them about Penn priorities, and I am going to return on March 2 for the House Appropriations Committee hearings."

Scheman's office will be in regular contact with government officials.

"Across the board, it is a difficult budget," Scheman said. "We're just beginning the process, and we'll continue to work."

"I think our work is cut out for us," she said.

Still, Scheman said that should Bush's proposals pass as presented, Penn will see fewer effects in research funding than most other schools in the country because federal funding is competitively awarded based on merit.

"Penn, because we're a top-flight research university, is not affected as deeply as other universities are, as long as the merit-based allocation system holds," she said.

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