Sequestration could cost UNC $28 million in federal funding

Mar. 01, 2013 @ 02:22 PM

Well, the federal budget sequestration has arrived.

And while the impact was not immediately felt on the UNC campus Friday, university researchers estimate that the $85 billion in federal budget cuts mandated under the Budget Control Act of 2011 could eventually cost UNC $28 million in funding.

“I’m very concerned,” said Barbara Entwisle, vice chancellor of research at UNC.

Entwisle said the cuts could cost the state more than 400 jobs this year and slow the search for new technologies, life-saving medical treatments and cures.

She said research programs employ faculty, post-doctoral students, graduate students and support staff.

In 2012, UNC received $545 million of its $767 million in research funding from the federal government.

As a result of the sequestration, Entwisle said, the National Institutes of Health will likely reduce funding levels of noncompeting continuation grants, make fewer competing awards and may not be able to fully fund 2013 commitments.

Meanwhile, the U.S. National Science Foundation has indicated that it will cut back on new awards.

The university also stands to lose more than $175,000 in federal student aid that is used to support low-income students and others in need of financial aid.

Pell Grants are protected from the sequestration in fiscal year 2013. But funding for other financial aid programs including Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants (FSEOG) for low-income students, Federal Work Study, TRIO and GEAR UP will be cut.

Still, exactly how the $85 billion in cuts will shake down won’t be known for sure until after March 27, when Congress must decide whether to pass another continuing resolution or stop-gap funding measure to avoid a government shutdown.

The Association of American Universities, an organization of 62 leading public and private research universities dedicated to maintaining strong academic research universities, has launched a video education program touting the benefits of its members.

Joseph DeSimone, a chemistry professor at UNC and N.C. State universities and director of the Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise, is one of the featured speakers in the AAU’s campaign.

“There’s no doubt our nation faces critical fiscal challenges, but the budget sequestration being discussed in Washington would have a crippling affect on the America we know today and a catastrophic affect on the America of the future,” DeSimone said.

He cited Liquidia Technologies, a company he co-founded, which specializes in nanotechnology-based healthcare products, as an example of the kind of companies universities spawn as a result of federal funding.

DeSimone said the company has generated $60 million in venture capital and now employs 60 people.

“Pure and simple, our nation’s economy is driven by technologies emerging from our research universities,” DeSimone said. “We as a nation cannot afford to curtail this precious engine of innovation.”