Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

With Super Committee's Failure, Advocates Plan Next Steps

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

With Super Committee's Failure, Advocates Plan Next Steps

Article excerpt

With sizable budget cuts looming after the collapse of the congressional super committee, about the only bright spot for education is that the reductions cannot take effect before 2013--giving Congress and President Obama more time to develop an alternative to across-the-board cuts for many K-12 and college programs. "We need some sort of compromise that not allow our economy to go down the drain," said Antonio Flores, president of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities. While the super committee, which comprises 12 House and Senate members, had a pre-Thanksgiving deadline to do its work, federal budget law would not require the cuts until January 2013 or after the next presidential election.

The super committee's charge was to reduce the federal budget deficit by $1.2 trillion over 10 years. If Congress takes no action after the committee's failure, across-the-board cuts will hit most education programs.

"Uncertainty is the name of the game now," Flores told Diverse. "It's like playing Russian roulette with the economy."

While experts note that there is still time to avoid the cuts, many caution that the political stakes are even higher in 2012 with the presidency and Congress up for grabs--making a compromise even more challenging.

"It's going to be difficult for members of Congress to stop this," said Jason Delisle, director of the Federal Education Budget Project at the New America Foundation.

While most liberals oppose education cuts, one incentive to bring conservatives and moderates to the negotiating table is that the defense budget would absorb half of the $1.2 trillion in cuts, Delisle said. While defense is a sizable chunk of the budget, "it's definitely not half of all federal spending," he said.

Under the most likely scenario for across-the-board cuts, minority-serving colleges and universities could face reductions of up to 10 percent, said Edith Bartley, government affairs director for the United Negro College Fund. This level of cuts could occur not just for one year but annually for the rest of the decade.

"The pie will definitely be shrinking," Bartley told Diverse. "The only way it can be stopped is if Congress reconvenes another group with a new deadline."

The reductions would be particularly devastating given the struggling economy and calls by the White House to increase rates of college success. …

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