A Message from USF President Judy Genshaft on the Federal Sequester

By now, you all have undoubtedly heard much discussion on the federal budget cuts brought on by the sequester and its impact on federal funds for public research universities,  including the University of South Florida. The various USF offices that interact with the federal agencies on a variety of fronts – research, grants, student support and other programs – are still awaiting a complete picture of the impact of the sequester, but I wanted to make sure the campus community has an initial sense of what these cuts might mean for USF.

The immediate impact of the sequester is, thankfully, not dire. More worrisome is the cumulative impact of repeated cuts in funding from both state and federal sources that are putting public higher education in very difficult circumstances and creating further financial burdens for our students.  

Tens of thousands of USF students rely on federal financial aid. While the Pell Grant was not affected by sequester, other federal financial aid programs were. USF’s Office of Financial Aid advises that USF will see more than $73,000 cut from Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, which will affect about 74 students. Additionally, approximately 24 on-campus jobs for students in work-study programs will be cut.  The university paid out more than $95 million in grants and scholarships in the last academic year, making these particular reductions small in the big picture of our financial support for students.

USF is working to protect students impacted by these reductions through other grants and/or scholarships and will be working with private employers to provide our hard-working students with jobs. While potentially upsetting to individual students, we believe these reductions are still manageable given the magnitude of our financial support.  Students will also face an estimated increased fee of 1.05 percent on Federal Direct, which would cost a student an additional $2.75 on a $5,500 loan.  

When it comes to federally-funded research, another area of great concern for our university, USF Research and USF Health believe the real impact will be felt in the next fiscal year. 

For example, at the National Science Foundation the major impact of sequestration will be seen in reductions to the number of new research grants and cooperative agreements awarded in FY 2013. We anticipate that the total number of new research grants will be reduced by approximately 1,000 nationwide. At this time we have no accurate way of determining what the actual effect of sequestration will have on our future funding, but we know our research proposals will have to be more competitive.  Last year, federal funding accounted for $165.5 million of USF’s total $411.1 million in research funding. 

The National Institutes of Health are imposing a 9 percent cut on research, which for USF Health’s Morsani College of Medicine could translate into a $6.3 million reduction, given its historic NIH funding levels. Some pending awards already are facing a more competitive environment, as the NIH anticipated the sequester and has begun imposing reductions on pending grant applications.

As a Top 50 research university, USF has been a leading advocate for greater investment in higher education and research. We remain gravely concerned about the downward trajectory of financial support for public research universities and the consequences for our future competitiveness as a nation. That said, I also believe that USF has been a model of resilience in the face of extreme financial pressure. I know our university can compete with the best of them, and that we will find creative and entrepreneurial solutions to support our students, faculty and staff.

Thank you for your continued dedication to USF, its students and its mission.

Judy Genshaft