White House report notes that sequestration will also affect higher education funding

Katie LaPotin, Red Alert Politics, March 1, 2013

The sequestration cuts that went into effect today are not just impacting the defense industry – they’re going to make it that much harder for college students to obtain and pay off their federal loans.

White House report released today found that the sequestration cuts will result in an 8.2 percent across-the-board program cut for many college funding programs, including federal work-study programs and the Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant, which provides need-based grants to lower-income students pursuing postsecondary degrees. Pell Grants for fiscal year 2013 will be protected from the cuts, however.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan warned about the potential cuts during a White House briefing on Wednesday, noting that the cuts will impact lower- and middle-class students the most.

“That ($86 million cut) would mean for the fall as many as 70,000 students would lose access to grants and to work-study opportunities,” Duncan said during the briefing. “And if young people lose access to grants and lose access to work-study, my fear… is many of them would not be able to enroll in college, would not be able to go back. And, again, do we want a less-educated workforce?”

In a statement last yearAssociation of American Universities president Hunter Rawlings warned that the cuts to mandatory spending “would have a terrible short- and long-term impact on the nation’s investments in scientific research and education.”

Federal programs whose grants sustain university research will also be victim to the sequestration cuts. Among the programs affected include the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the National Endowment for the Humanities, which are all expected to face a 7.6 percent across-the-board cut to mandatory spending and an 8.2 percent cut to discretionary spending.

According to the Student Aid Alliance, the federal government has already cut several programs in the past year, including the summer Pell Grant program, the in-school interest exemption for graduate and professional students, and the interest exemption during the ‘grace period’ that allowed students just out of school to get settled before accumulating interest on their loans. Eligibility to the Pell Grant program has already been cut for more than 100,000 students, and limited for hundreds of thousands more.

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