The U.S. Department of Education plans to cut all funds to an almost two-decade-old center that has helped colleges around the country prevent alcohol and drug abuse and violence, the center announced on Thursday.
Through a contract with the Education Department, the Higher Education Center for Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Violence Prevention has worked with campus officials since 1993 to develop strategies and programs to combat substance abuse and violence. Leaders of the group, which is based in Waltham, Mass., learned recently that federal funds, the center's sole source of revenue, would be discontinued on August 31.
"This news was totally unexpected," John D. Clapp, director of the center, said in a written statement. He noted that the center's work would continue until September, and said he hoped it would extend beyond then as well because the efforts are "too important not to continue." Mr. Clapp added that the parent agency, the Education Development Center, would try to find additional funds to sustain the group.
Representatives of the group declined to speak further. An official with the Education Department said the cut was necessary because the Office of Safe and Healthy Students, which has provided funding for the center, faced a $50 million cut of its own this year.
Joan Masters, coordinator of Missouri Partners in Prevention, expressed concern about the impact in her field. "To say this will have a dramatic effect would be an understatement," she said, noting that the center has provided her group, a coalition of public colleges in the state, with significant support in establishing substance-abuse and violence-prevention programs on campuses.
Because many colleges have only a single staff member devoted to those issues, the center's support is key to developing good prevention strategies, she said.
Ms. Masters saw the announcement as the latest in a series of cuts in support for prevention efforts by the Education Department. A national meeting on prevention issues wasn't held last year, and there's been no information on such a meeting this year, she said. A few years ago, she added, a coalition of 1,400 people in the field of prevention, known as the Network, lost its federal funds.
In March, the Education Department's Office of the Inspector General released a report saying that enforcement of a federal law requiring campuses to try to prevent alcohol and drug abuse had been basically nonexistent. Experts anticipated some shift in the department's approach to those issues.