With the federal government going into sequestration, both SUNY and private universities in New York are preparing for future cuts, especially in funds for financial aid and research grants.
The federal sequester is a group of cuts in spending by the government as a result of President Barack Obama and Congress not being able to reach a deal to cut the federal deficit by the March 1 deadline. The sequester was originally passed as part of the Budget Control Act of 2011. The sequester was initially intended as an incentive for the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to reach a deal to cut $1.5 trillion off the deficit in 10 years. The committee did not pass the deal, but the sequester, originally intended to take effect in the beginning of this year, was pushed back to March 1. Now that the deadline has passed, the federal government will begin to enact around $1 trillion in automatic spending cuts.
In a letter to Congress, SUNY chancellor Nancy Zimpher, CUNY chancellor Matthew Goldstein and Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities’ president Laura Anglin said that the sequester will mean $110 million in cuts to New York higher education over the next fiscal year.
“The effects that sequestration would have on core research, innovation, workforce development, and student aid programs is devastating,” Zimpher said in a statement. “Continued federal support for higher education in these areas is imperative as New York’s colleges and universities strive to keep pace not only with those across the country, but around the globe.”
New York would be able to provide aid for 4,520 fewer students and around 4,150 fewer students will be able to get federal work-study positions, a White House official said.
Oswego State currently has 326 students in the Federal Work-Study program, according to the Student Employment Office. The Federal Work-Study program allows students jobs on campus to help fund their education.
Mark Humbert, Oswego State’s director of financial aid, said that the department has not received information from the Department of Education and is unsure of the effect on the school at this time.
Humbert said that any Federal Work-Study cuts would take place in the 2013-2014 school year.
Organizations that provide funding to universities for research will be experiencing cuts as a result of the sequester as well. A White House report said that the National Science Foundation would issue about 1,000 fewer research grants and awards and the National Institute of Health will be forced to delay or halt several scientific projects and grant fewer research awards.
Oswego State professors and students are currently being or have been aided by these types of grants, according to Jack Gelfand, director of research administration at Oswego State. Gelfand said that a majority of the funds the research department receives comes through national grants.
Gelfand said that federal research grants are used in a variety of ways on campus.
“They extend from student retention, things to promote research at the university and a lot of money for various kinds of activities with the school of education,” Gelfand said.
A major study on the long term impact of children whose mother’s were exposed to pollutants during pregnancy received approximately $1 million a year over 20 years from the NIH to study.
Gelfand said that the study was able to find certain types of pollutants that affected children and had a very large impact on their health.
Oswego State has also received a five year, $1.5 million grant from the EPA to study trace pollutants in lakes and streams in upstate N.Y.
These types of nationally funded grants are all subject to national budget cuts, Gelfand said, but he is not concerned for long-term projects, since he said he views the sequester as a short-term budgetary shift. Gelfand said that the Obama administration has also traditionally prioritized research and education funding.
“[The sequester] appears to be of temporary nature,” Gelfand said. “Since these are multi-year contracts, it is our expectation that, since this administration views these activities favorably, over the next couple of years they will seek to adjust the budgets to put everything back.”
Gelfand said that the office is monitoring the situation and reviews the budgets daily to understand where to adjust should there be any new developments. Gelfand added that his biggest concern is that an unsteady budgetary environment could lead to the government adopting a more conservative attitude toward giving funds and grants.
“Because of uncertainty in budgetary environment, agencies might back off a little bit about what they fund,” Gelfand said. “And some things which we’ve sent in, which we would really like to get funded, don’t get funded and we have no way to tell whether or not you do it.”
The House of Representatives passed a bill on Wednesday to avoid the March 27 government shutdown date. Both the House and Senate are preparing to put forth budget plans that will lay out spending and taxing priorities for the next several years.