Government budget cuts could impact UNH

University research programs, financial aid expected to take hits due to sequester

By Max Sullivan
On March 5, 2013

  • President Barack Obama speaks to reporters in the White House briefing room in Washington D.C., on Friday, March 1 following a meeting with congressional leaders regarding the automatic spending cuts. AP Photo/Charles Dharapak

The federal budget cuts referred to as the sequester went into effect Friday, March 1, and included in these cuts was government funding of public universities. While tuition is not expected to go up due to the cuts, financial aid and research programs could suffer.

The good news for students attending UNH and expecting to graduate in the near future is that financial aid is not expected to change drastically in the next two years. Pell grants have been protected from the sequester in 2013 and are expected to remain intact next year, as well. In addition, work study will not be affected in 2013, and those work study commitments already made for 2014 are expected to be honored.

However, no one at UNH is certain about what will come after this two-year period.

"For most of the financial aid programs, the impacts will be somewhat less tangible in the current year and next year for students at UNH, but we share the same concern and uncertainty about what will follow," UNH Vice President Mark Rubinstein said. "Our current understanding is that the pool from which UNH draws those resources is likely to be unchanged in this year and next. However, beyond that, there was less certainty."

The most immediate impacts of the sequester in regard to financial aid will be on loan origination fees, or activation fees, and reduction of certain specific grant programs. Loan origination fees on subsidized and unsubsidized Stafford loans will rise by 0.05 percent, and by .2 percent on Parent PLUS and Grad PLUS loans. According to Inside Higher Education, the TEACH Grant and Iraq-Afghanistan Service Grant "are also subject to cuts."

Compared to financial aid, UNH's research programs are taking more immediate and substantial hits. It is still unclear how much the sequester will affect the programs in coming years, but leaders in UNH's research departments are positive that there will be layoffs and much less money for programs to fund graduate students.

"Some people are going to have to lay off people on their projects. Potentially, less grad student aid is going to be a big deal, because we fund a lot of our graduate students off our research projects," Senior Vice President of Research Jan Nisbet said. "So, people can lose their jobs, research graduate students can be negatively impacted, and science is gonna be slowed down at a time where we really need to speed it up."

The problem that Nisbet said she has with the federal budget cuts is the across-the-board nature of the cuts. Rather than allowing each university to determine what should be cut, she sees Congress's decision to let these cuts go through as lazy micromanagement.

"I think they're silly. I think its irresponsible," Nisbet said. "Applying across-the-board cuts is irresponsible. I mean, we should be thoughtful and we should be targeted."

In a time where our economy is still moving at a crawl, Nisbet said she feels that pulling funds from the scientific community can only stunt its growth.

"We need to be more competitive in science and engineering, not less competitive," Nisbet said. "We need to produce more scientists and engineers, not less. So, we're doing something right now that's going to interfere with our ability to be competitive and to produce the work force. We should be investing in those areas, not cutting those areas."

Rubinstein said he anticipates that President Huddleston will respond by reaching out for private support.

"Since arriving at UNH, President Huddleston has championed the university's efforts to increase private support," he said. "And this could be another instance where philanthropy is a key part of our institutional response."

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