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MONDAY BUZZ: Higher Education Under Sequestration

September 17, 2012

White House image


​The White House released a report Friday outlining the impact of what is known as “sequestration,” the deep cuts facing most federal programs on Jan. 1 if Congress cannot devise a plan by the end of the year to reduce the deficit. As expected, the effects on higher education would be significant.

Sequestration is the result of the debt ceiling deal hammered out in summer 2011. In order to secure an agreement to extend the debt limit through 2013, Republicans and Democrats agreed to $1.4 trillion in "triggered" budget cuts, or sequesters, under the Budget Control Act. Half of the money would be taken from domestic discretionary spending and the remaining half from the defense budget, both over 10 years.

The so-called Super Committee was tasked with cutting the budget in more targeted ways—if they had been successful, the sequester would have been pre-empted.

Among the projected cuts:

  • While the Pell Grant is protected from the cuts during fiscal year 2013, most other federal financial aid programs, including the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant and Federal Work-Study, would be cut by 8.2 percent across the board.
  • Federal college access programs, such as TRIO and GEAR UP, would also see an 8.2 percent cut.
  • Funding for the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the National Endowment for the Humanities would sustain a 7.6 percent across-the-board cut to mandatory spending and 8.2 percent to discretionary spending.
  • The 1 percent origination fee for unsubsidized Stafford student loans would be raised by 7.6 percent, to about 1.1 percent of a total loan.

The details on what domestic programs would be cut might shift the national discussion away from the mandatory defense cuts, which have been the focus of most of the debate thus far, ACE’s Terry Hartle, told Inside Higher Ed.

“If you talk about defense, everybody gets that right away,” Hartle said. "If you try to talk about cuts to domestic programs, people get sort of glazed over.”

Also see:

Report on Looming Federal Budget Cuts 'Confirms the Worst' for Higher Education
The Chronicle of Higher Education

W.H. Warns of "Deeply Destructive" Spending Cuts
The Associated Press (CBS News)


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