March 1 is not just an important date to remember because it is the start of Spring Break and the deadline for housing agreements. It is also the deadline for the sequester, an implication of about $85 billion in cuts to military and domestic programs. While many of the cuts will not have a direct effect on John Carroll University, there are certain cuts that could impact JCU as a whole, including the allocation of funds to the work study program and professors’ ability to get money for research.
The sequester is a result of the failure of Republicans and Democrats to reach an agreement in 2011. Congressional Republicans wanted spending cuts in exchange for raising the debt ceiling. Democrats did not agree with the cuts, and a compromise of sorts was reached in the form of the Budget Control Act, which intends to cut domestic spending over the next 10 years by about $1 trillion.
Because the Democrats refused to agree to cuts without additional tax revenue, and Republicans refused tax increases, a committee was set up to find additional deficit reduction tactics. In order to provide the committee with an extra push to reach an agreement, a fallback was designed. This fallback was supposed to be so frightening that it would never happen: $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts to both military and domestic programs.
These cuts were supposed to go into effect Jan. 1, but it was pushed back to reduce the potential impact of falling off the “fiscal cliff.” The deadline is fast approaching, and if it passes without an agreement, the results could be crippling. As of Tuesday evening, a deal has not been reached.
Some of the cuts would be cuts to defense and domestic discretionary program. Some of the most notable programs being cut are border security, special education, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National Science Foundation, NASA, Head Start and FEMA.
While cuts to these programs will impact the country as a whole, JCU would be affected in a few ways. Dora Pruce, director of government and community relations, explained that JCU would be impacted if the government could not reach a deal. Fortunately, Pell Grants, money provided by the federal government to students who need it for college, would be unaffected.
“The somewhat good news is that Pell is held harmless. Pell grants are tremendously important to JCU students and families; one third of our students receive Pell,” said Pruce. “However, according to reports released over the weekend, Work Study is at risk, as well as Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant funding, which some JCU students receive. So, yes, there will be some impact.”
Some reports have said that funding for some science and research programs could be cut, limiting universities’ ability to do research. Pruce indicated, while she was not sure, any time cuts made to the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Health, it diminishes the faculty’s ability to get funding from grants for research.
Pruce noted, “Reports over the weekend indicate NSF would issue 1,000 fewer grants, and NIH would make hundreds of fewer research awards.”
Colin Swearingen, an assistant political science professor, offered his opinions about the sequester as well. When asked if he thought the sequester will actually happen, Swearingen said, “I think the cuts will be made, although, if there are any changes between now and sequestration, they will regard the military aspect of it.”
He said that the actual amount of cuts may seem staggering when looked at all at once, but they are actually fairly spread out. “Consider that the cuts are roughly $85 billion out of about $4 trillion the government is spending this year,” Swearingen said. “The Bowles-Simpson plan, just revealed, calls for $2.4 trillion in cuts over the next 10 years for an average of $240 billion per year. So, in reality, the sequestration cuts aren’t really that much.”
There have been varying reports on exactly how impactful the cuts will be. Swearingen said that while he did not think the cuts would be crippling, as many analysts have suggested, it could still impact the economy.
He said, “Economists seem to think it will shave about one-half to one percent off of the GDP this year. Considering that our growth has been about two percent per year since the Great Recession, if the impact is at the high end, one percent, that’s going to slow our recovery.”
A certain degree of uncertainty always accompanies government policies and when and if deals are reached or made in Washington. Pruce offered her opinion as to what may happen.
“In my opinion, I’m not sure a deal will be reached this time. It doesn’t seem, at least today, Monday, that it looks like a deal will be reached,” she said. “But five days in D.C. is a long time. We shall see.”