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Sequestration could cost Michigan universities millions of dollars in federal research funding

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Tens of billions of dollars in federal spending cuts will take effect March first, unless Congress does something to stop the sequestration.

And Michigan’s major research universities may be among those feeling the sting.

“Nearly all federal funding flowing to institutions would be impacted, including funding from the Departments of Defense, Energy, Health and Human Services, NIH, and Agriculture, to name a few,” says Michael A. Boulus, Executive Director Presidents Council, State Universities of Michigan.

The University of Michigan and Michigan State University both receive millions of dollars in federal research funding.

If sequestration occurs, there will be an automatic, across-the-board, 5.1% cut in federal funding for university research.   U of M officials estimate that will mean the loss of $41 million dollars to their school.

“This research funding provides critical support for graduate students as well as the infrastructure for research here at U-M, including laboratories and equipment,” says U of M spokesman David Lampe. “Each school or college at U-M would have to make difficult decisions on what to cut, which would depend on the percentage of their research budgets that are federally supported. Of course, this erosion of our ability to educate graduate students and the possibility of having to scale back or shut down laboratories seriously undercuts our mission as a research university.”

MSU officials say they are monitoring the sequestration situation.    MSU spokesman Tom Oswald says university officials are not estimating their potential loss of federal funding.  He says university officials prefer to encourage federal lawmakers to reach a ‘fair’ solution.

“We strongly encourage lawmakers to come to a fair and equitable solution as soon as possible,” says Oswald. “The quality of undergraduate and graduate education and the research endeavors at MSU and across academia cannot be compromised if America is to remain a global leader."

And it’s not just federal research funding that could take a hit. 

Michael Boulus with the President’s Council says college financial aid is also at risk.

“Federal work study and Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants would be  affected for academic year 2013-2014,” says Boulus. “The Pell Grant is exempt from the sequester.”

The Association of American Universities, the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, and The Science Coalition, which represent the interests of Michigan’s research universities, are among those in Washington lobbying Congress to keep the federal funds coming.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.