Universities nationwide may see an 8.2 percent cut in student aid programs by January 2013.
According to a report from the White House’s Office of Management and Budget released last month, at least $1.4 trillion in total mandatory cuts will affect higher education across the board if committees do not agree on which sectors the cuts will come from.
Associate Vice President for Enrollment Management Terry Babbitt said that said the proposed 8.2 percent budget cut affects domestic discretionary programs, which include scholarship programs such as the federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant and work study. He said the programs make up the largest part of the national higher education budget but that even if the proposal passes, Pell Grant funding won’t be cut in 2013, although cuts are likely in the following years.
But Babbit said that although funding cuts will impact UNM students if passed, he’s not sure how big an impact the proposed cuts could have. He said that one response to cuts would be to offer scholarship money to students based on need.
“It is too early to say exactly how these cuts would impact UNM students,” he said. “It is likely, but not certain, that the cuts would come in the form of student eligibility versus a per student average,” he said.
GPSA President Marisa Silva said that because New Mexico is one of the poorest states in the country, New Mexicans tend to prioritize their basic needs before higher education.
“Without need-based aid, that’s essentially denying higher education to students who have an economic disadvantage,” she said.
Babbitt said the University administration will continue to closely monitor the decision in order to prepare for the cuts, if they happen.
“We are closely watching the discussions on Capitol Hill and strongly advocating for a solution before sequestration,” Babbitt said. “That is the most important thing we can do now on behalf of the students.”
UNM President Robert Frank said that UNM’s Office of Government and Community Relations Affairs meets regularly with delegates from Washington to discuss the cuts. He said the University administration is strongly urging Washington not to neglect higher education.
“It is essential that the federal government continue to invest in higher education,” he said. “Research universities such as UNM make a high value impact on our national economy, creating knowledge-based jobs and fostering global competitiveness. Heading off these cuts must be a top priority.”
ASUNM President Caroline Muraida said students depend on financial aid to attend the University and that funding cuts would make access to education more difficult. She said that if the budget cuts are approved, the University would have to construct a funding package to replace lost federal funding.
“This would be an extremely difficult predicament,” she said. “The University should work with its governmental relations team to advocate for an effective solution.”
Muraida said that cuts would impact federal work-study funding, which funds on-campus jobs for students, and that departments and programs on campus, including ASUNM, depend on work-study funding.
But she said the University doesn’t anticipate that funding cuts will happen and that the University community, including students, staff and faculty, should advocate for students’ financial security.
“The academic integrity of our University should never be in question, nor should any qualified student be denied access to receiving a higher education,” she said. “Whether it takes the form of a phone call or simply by casting a vote, students must make it clear to lawmakers that these policies have tangible manifestations in our daily lives and our ability to pursue higher education.”