Federal cuts may affect SIU

Political disagreements in Congress could cost SIU in the long run.

As a part of the Budget Control Act passed in Aug. 2011, Congress was required to decide on a plan to reduce the $1.2 trillion national deficit by Nov. 2011. Because the committee assigned with the task was unable to reach an agreement, a “sequester” plan began, which calls for scheduled spending cuts over the course of nine years beginning in 2013.

The White House Office of Management and Budget released its 394-page report Sept. 14 on how $109 billion in proposed cuts may be made for 2013. Some of those cuts are proposed to areas that affect higher education, including cuts to federal grant agencies and a cost increase to federal student loans.

SIU President Glenn Poshard said Congress normally looks at every federal program individually for financial changes. However, he said Congress decided to make cuts from every program across the board since assembly members disagreed on how to make the cuts last year.

“So there’s no consideration on how the good programs are performing and how the bad programs are not performing,” he said. “It’s just everybody takes the same whack.”

Thus, universities nationwide may take a harder financial hit because of the decision to make even cuts to all programs, Poshard said.

The report calls for 7 to 8 percent cuts to programs related to higher education, according to an article published in the Chronicle of Higher Education. For example, the article states the National Institutes of Health would take an 8.2 percent cut under the proposed spending plan, which would reduce its funding by $2.5 billion.

Poshard said SIU receives about $85 million a year from federal research grants, which may be affected after the research  institutions receive federal cuts.

Chancellor Rita Cheng said the proposed cuts would also affect higher education students by cutting financial aid programs as well as raising federal student loan fees. She said it would also affect the university because state agencies could also see cuts, which would cause the state to make additional cuts to higher education.

Cheng said the cuts could be very damaging to universities nationwide.

“Just the sheer size of this, I think, will drive both sides to try to iron out a compromise,” she said. “It clearly is not anything any of us want to have happen because sequestration is just not a responsible way to cut a budget.”

Cheng said she thinks there is a possibility Congress will agree on how to revise the proposed cuts.

Congress has until Jan. 2 to decide to revise the proposed cuts, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Poshard said several state university presidents have sent letters to representatives to request a change in the cuts.

“Anytime you see automatic cuts across the board for the programs, it’s just something we have to work to stop,” he said.

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