The George Washington president discusses the sequester’s potential effect on research and financial aid in letter to the university community.
On March 1, $85 billion in automatic, across-the-board federal spending cuts—commonly known as sequestration—went into effect, reducing funds for domestic programs, defense and Medicare for the remainder of the fiscal year. If left in force, these cuts will continue each year over the next decade, reaching a total of $1.2 trillion. Although the precise impact even for the current year will not be known for several months, we do know that sequestration will directly affect federal funding for research and student financial aid. We are also concerned about its potential effect on the regional economy.
Fortunately, two major sources of aid to GW students—Pell Grants and GI Bill benefits—are exempt from cuts in the near term, although Pell Grant could be in jeopardy in future years. Reductions in Federal Work Study and Supplemental Opportunity Education Grants will begin with the upcoming fall semester, but there will be no changes in GW’s financial awards for the current academic year. Going forward, we will continue to make every effort to limit the effects of these cuts on our students.
Sequestration, once again, will also affect federal research funding. The university will continue to hire new faculty and invest in important research initiatives, many of which are already bearing fruit. We hope that existing grants for scientific research will see limited disruption, although fewer new grants will be funded this year. If sequestration continues over the long run, future grant-making for important research fields could be reduced significantly. But there is reason to expect that the longstanding bipartisan consensus of support for funding scientific research will lead our legislators to protect it.
We continue to urge political leaders to find an alternative solution to the nation’s fiscal problems, and we will monitor the situation closely as sequestration unfolds.