UK will see cuts because of sequester

By Olivia Jones | @KyKernel

UK research programs, financial aid and health care will see changes over the next few years because of sequestration budget cuts.

Congress recently missed its deadline to pass a series of spending cuts and tax increases that would have otherwise avoided the automatic sequester cuts.

The sequester demands federal agencies to decrease spending by $85 billion before the fiscal year ends, according to The Washington Post.

Dr. James W. Tracy, UK’s research vice president, said the cuts will directly affect the university in major ways, and that with all Congress has going on right now, the sequester was “almost inevitable.”

“The biggest impact on UK will be reductions in research support from NIH and NSF, which are federal agencies that fund research projects at universities,” said David Blackwell, dean of the Gatton College of Business and Economics, in an email to the Kernel.

Tracy explained that fewer grants were given out this year in anticipation of the sequester cuts. He said that this affects UK because most of the grants pay salaries, which affects students and hired researchers.

“We are already running about 8 to 9 percent behind last year in the amount of federal grants received,” Tracy said. “We may lose another $5 million between now and the end of June.”

The UK chemistry department has recently begun implementing changes.

“We are already dramatically reducing the size of our incoming graduate class because of the decrease in federal funding support for graduate researchers,” said John Anthony, UK’s Hubbard professor of chemistry. “And I am reducing the size of my research staff in response to the cuts.”

Financial aid also will be affected by the sequester cuts.

“While the student loans themselves have not been cut, the funds to pay for the processing of these loans have been cut … so it will cost much more to apply for student loans,” Anthony said.

Tracy explained that the direct subsidized loan will increase from its current 1 percent to 1.05 percent.

Fortunately, Tracy said, Pell Grants will not be affected this year or the next. “But they may be cut in the future and it may mean some students will not be able to afford to go to school.”

Tracy also commented on what he called the “unpredictable effect,” which will cause a ripple effect of consequences. The sequester has made cuts to both defense and nondefense areas, so “people who work for the military but are civilians will lose up to 20 percent of their salary. Lots of people may not be able to send their kids to college next year.”

The sequester requires Medicare payments to be reduced by 2 percent. Tracy said this affects UK directly because “each year of sequestration, the College of
Medicine will lose around $9 million and UK HealthCare will lose around $13.5 million.”

Tracy predicts that the sequester will have a long-term impact on education.

“If the sequester stays in effect until 2021, research will go down by $95 billion. People will choose not to go to graduate school because there won’t be money to support the research … people won’t choose that as a career,” he said. “There will be a gap in the country’s ability to do research as it’s affecting today’s generation.”

Effects of the sequestration are expected to increase with time.

“Once the impact is seen,” Tracy said, “there will be more political pressure for Congress to solve the issue.”