In the grand scheme of the federal government’s $85 billion in across-the-board "sequestration" cuts that begin kicking in on Friday, $32,717 seems a mere pittance.
But according to John Borowsky, the vice president of enrollment management at Dominican University in San Rafael, sequestration will cut the school’s financial aid funding by that amount in 2013-2014, a move he said would have enough of an impact on the hundreds of low-income Dominican students who receive the aid that school officials have decided not to pass it onto them.
Dominican and thousands of colleges and universities across the country are facing cuts to Federal Pell Grant program funding, specifically money allocated to Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (SEOG) and Federal Work Study programs, according to the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators.
“We would rather absorb this relatively small hit than pass it onto our students,” Borowsky said, noting that students benefiting from those programs come from families making less than $35,000 a year. “These are profoundly needy people.”
The bulk of Federal Pell Grant funding – the portion doled out by the federal government and not the schools themselves – remains intact. Dominican students were set to receive $364,082 during the 2013-2014 allocation period, according to the association. None of College of Marin’s $415,504 Pell-related funding is set to be cut under sequestration.
In Dominican’s case, students receive an average of $1,000 from the two portions of the Pell program that are set to receive an 8 percent cut, for an average $80 loss for those students, Borowsky said.
“That’s quite a bit of money in many cases,” he said. “Enough that we didn’t want to pass it on. Although we certainly wish that financial aid for students from the government wasn’t actually decreasing, of course.”
The sequestration cuts were put into law in 2011 during an earlier fiscal standoff between the Obama Administration and Republicans in Congress. Those leaders now appear unable to agree on how to stop the cuts from happening.