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One of the many problems Congress is trying to fix right now is the enormous amount of debt the country has accumulated. While each side of the aisle has its opinions about where funds should come from, both sides tend to agree spending needs to be cut. As of March 1, a barrage of automatic spending cuts went into effect in an effort to begin to control the deficit. This sequestration will take place in several stages: Some of the cuts are effective immediately, while others will come into play in the future.
Educational institutions are among the many places that receive funding from the federal government. Everything from grants and students aid to programs like Head Start are funded, at least in part, by federal money.
Norm Tarbox, the vice president for administrative services at Weber State University, said students worried about the price of tuition going up as a result of these sequestrations have nothing to worry about. However, several areas of the university that receive federal money might be affected by the sequestrations.
According to Tarbox, federal money WSU receives in the form of student financial aid is “a mixed bag.” Some programs, like the Pell grant program, will be protected from the sequestration cuts, but other federally funded programs, like Head Start and other federal financial aid, are not protected from the coming sequestrations.
Tarbox said the university is worried about the possible indirect consequences of the sequestrations more than the cuts in federal money.
“Economists across the country are saying that sequestration means that the economy will slow down,” he said. “When the economy slows down, that means there’s less tax money to allocate.”
Money allocated to the university by the state legislature is a larger part of the university’s budget, so the possibility of less money from the state is what the university is most worried about.
If the state economy was to slow down and tax revenue was diminished, Tarbox said, the state legislature wouldn’t take money away from the university, but no new money would be allocated.
“If the sequestration was not on cue and the economy continued to grow as it has, the legislature may say, ‘We believe that we can support more money to Weber State University,’” Tarbox said. “But because of sequestration and the threat of a slowing economy, the legislature says, ‘We shouldn’t be so aggressive in allocating this new money. Let’s hold it back and save it for a rainy day.’”
Some WSU students said they wouldn’t mind an increase in tuition and fees if it means the current services the university provides are maintained. Michael Morris, a senior studying history, said he wouldn’t mind paying a little bit more if it means federal programs are protected.
“I think maybe tuition should be increased some so that (federally funded programs) can be left untouched,” Morris said.
However, another opinion WSU students hold is that tuition is already expensive enough. According to Tyree Haramoto, a freshman in general studies, the services federal money provides are good, but increasing tuition prices to counterbalance the decrease in federal funds wouldn’t be a great idea.
Haramoto also said that, while she isn’t well versed in the budget situation in Washington, she thinks there are better places to make up for the deficit than in education. Morris disagreed with Haramoto on the tuition price option, but the two did agree that cutting money from education is not a good idea.
According to Tarbox, it’s hard to tell where the budget cutting and sequestration will go over time.
“If the federal budget cuts stay in place, they will have an effect on Weber State University and the services we are able to provide, there’s no doubt about that,” he said. “Like most things, it will play out over time.”