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How Will the Sequester Impact Education?

Mar 21, 2013

Sequestration will cause sweeping budget cuts in education, affecting federal funding for students who need financial aid. According to multiple reports, the sequestration is already impacting the nation's colleges and universities.

Stuart Miles at Stuart Miles at

With across-the-board cuts set to hit tuition assistance, America's lowest-income students will need to find alternative forms of financial aid. While Federal Work-Study (FWS) and Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) programs for award year 2012-2013 were already fully funded in 2012, the sequester cuts will make a large impact during award year 2013-2014, when both programs will lose nearly $86 million, according to Information for Financial Aid Professionals (IFAP).

According to scholarship search provider Fastweb, these cuts would most likely be reflected in the number of grants awarded, rather than the amount of each award.

In addition, direct subsidized and direct unsubsidized loans, in which the first disbursement of the loan occurs after sequestration is in effect, will only increase by approximately 1.05 percent. Under the same guidelines, Direct PLUS Loans will just increase to almost 4.2 percent. Federal research grants will also be cut, and the Afghanistan Service Grant Program and the TEACH Grant Program will issue reduced award amounts.

Lower-income students, already tackling soaring tuition rates and graduating with substantial loans, will feel the financial sting the most. Colleges across the country are already making changes due to sequestration. Last week, the Air Force ceased tuition assistance, an action that, according to Dayton Business Journal, will impact students in colleges in Ohio.

The Journal reports that about 170 students at Wright State University, in Dayton, and approximately 1,374 service members at Air Base Wing at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base use tuition assistance.

This poses as a financial risk for students as college debt soars. The Project on Student Debt reported that the average amount of student loan debt for the Class of 2011 jumped 5 percent from the previous year, from $25,350 to $26,600.

Beyond colleges, the sequestration could have a deeper impact that will hurt the economy and jobs. U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said the sequester will mean job eliminations for educators.

PolicyMic also noted ripple effects of the sequester in all levels of education: "The cuts to education will result in increased class sizes, the elimination of after-school programs, less financial aid for college students, and the loss of tens of thousands of jobs in education at all levels: early childhood, elementary, secondary, and post-secondary. Consequently, schools will be producing less competent graduates and the gap between the rich and poor will continue to grow."

Will sequestration impact you? The National Education Association offers state-by-state details of sequestration effects on federal education programs, found here.