By Stephanie Shenouda, Daily Staff Reporter
Published February 28, 2013
The inaction of Washington D.C. to prevent massive automatic spending cuts that are triggered on Friday should perk the interest of the 3,363 University students utilizing work study as part of their financial aid packages.
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The threat of federal sequestration — over a billion dollars in across-the-board cuts that roll out over 10 years — was intended to force lawmakers into a compromise to address government spending. The White House released a state-by-state breakdown of what the the cuts would affect that indicated about 2,490 fewer low-income students in Michigan would receive financial aid and about 1,300 fewer students will get work-study jobs.
Kurt Weiss, public information officer for the state’s budget office, said the becoming a reality is a concern of the state legislature.
“Obviously we’re concerned with any kinds of cuts,” Weiss said. “We understand that these are real cuts happening to real people and that it will most certainly have an impact on them and their families.”
Weiss added that Gov. Rick Snyder and the legislature would have preferred a more comprehensive, itemized approach, as opposed to the “whack” that the budget will get as a result of the sequester.
University spokeswoman Kelly Cunningham said if sequestration was to take effect, it's not yet clear exactly how funds for work-study would be affected. She said University officials will know more in the coming months.
Cindy Bank, assistant director of the University’s Washington office — which is responsible for lobbying for the University at the federal level — said while decreased funds would be an issue, whatever funds were allotted for the work-study program would also be used at the Dearborn and Flint campuses.
Other issues that could potentially affect the University include decreases in the Department of Education budget, increased origination fees and decreasing funds for the supplemental opportunity grant — money delegated to the “poorest of the poor.”
State Rep. Jeff Irwin of Ann Arbor said sequestration could make college unaffordable for some students.
“One of the problems with colleges — specifically U of M because it’s so expensive — is that we see a declining level of socioeconomic diversity,” Irwin said. “People either can’t afford to go, or are graduating college with crippling amounts of debt.”
Irwin added that it is important to make college attainable for those who qualify for admission to a college or university.
“We need to find a way for capable, motivated young people to be able to get through college and still be able to put food on the table,” Irwin said. “It will undoubtedly be a huge strain on these individuals as they attempt to pay their way.”
Though multiple sources said they’re “unsure” as to the specific effect that sequestration will have on the University’s funding towards work study, predictions are not optimistic.
Correction apprehended: A previous version of this article misquoted University spokeswoman Kelly Cunningham and Cindy Bank, assistant director of the University’s Washington office.