Universities Across the Country Brace for Sequester
With the set of across-the-board budget cuts imposed by Congress known as the sequester set to take effect on Friday, barring an immediate compromise by the Republican-held House of Representatives and the Obama Administration, universities and colleges nationwide are preparing themselves for how the cuts will be affecting their own assets, particularly with cuts to federal student aid and research grants.
While tuition rates will not rise for students, several other sources of revenue for colleges will face cuts, including the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Science Foundation, and the National Institute of Health will face a 7.6% cut to mandatory spending and a 8.2$ to discretionary spending.
The White House announced earlier this month that these cuts would greatly impair research funding for colleges and universities, which would damage the nation’s ability to “lead the world in technology and research” by necessitating the cancellation of several projects and, as a result, “several thousand researchers could lose their jobs.”
Additionally, the sequester would also put several financial aid programs designed to help low income students pay for college in jeopardy. While Pell grants will remain unaffected, other financial aid options like the work-study program and the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant would face an 8.2% cut.
“Sequestration is a reckless and blunt tool,” said Peter McPherson, president of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities. ”It would have severe, long-term impacts that would put our nation at an extreme disadvantage for years to come.”
According to officials from numerous colleges, including Mary Lidstrom of the University of Washington, the first effects of the cuts to research funding would be felt by undergraduate researchers, who would be forced to leave active projects in order for research to continue. Even Harvard, which posseses the largest research endowment in the country, has started to decrease the scale of its research projects due to 60% of its research funding coming from federal grants.
“The bottom line for us is that there is a tremendous amount of uncertainty about what will happen if sequestration goes into effect,” said Harvard provost Alan M. Garber. “We expect, regardless of whether Congress averts the fiscal cliff or not, that there will be serious long-term cuts in research spending, in real terms and in nominal terms.”