Potential sequester threatens education


The word sequester has been mentioned a lot lately in the news, but not many people know what that means. An economics professor asked his students to raise their hands if they knew they could define sequesters. Unsurprisingly, only a couple of students raised their hands out of a class of 47.

It’s OK because the last time Congress imposed a sequester was in 1986. The next sequester is supposed to take effect March 1.

A sequestration is a fiscal policy procedure adopted by Congress to make several cuts. Under President Barack Obama’s administration, White House officials proposed the plan as part of the agreement that resolved the 2011 debt ceiling incongruity.

It was meant to act as an incentive to persuade a bipartisan super committee to reach an agreement on a package of spending cuts and tax increases that would reduce the national debt over time, but the committee was unsuccessful.

The news has highlighted the blame game that is going on between the president and Republicans. It is unclear who will receive the blame if the sequester actually happens. During the past several weeks, the president has voiced that the Republicans are to blame for the cuts, and the Republicans have equally returned the blame.

A large portion of the House of Representatives, 124 Republicans, voted with 95 Democrats to pass the plan. Who’s to blame is irrelevant. What is relevant is what will be cut and how it will affect Florida A&M.

The presumed goal is to cut those things that have the least adverse effect on productivity. The 2013 cuts apply to “discretionary” spending and are split between reductions to defense – $500 billion – and non-defense – $700 billion. Unfortunately, if the sequester takes place, cuts will be made to domestic programs in which we need to invest: infrastructure, research and education.

 According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, education funding will be subject to cuts ranging from 9.1 percent to 5.5 percent between 2013 and 2021. About 92 percent of FAMU students receive some form of financial assistance, according to FAMU’s Office of Recruitment.

Although the Pell Grant is protected from the cuts during the 2013 fiscal year, as is the College Access Challenge Grant, other federal financial aid programs would be cut by 7.6 percent across the board, including the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant and federal work-study, according to Inside Higher Ed, a source for higher education news.

What does the FAMU community value? As a community, we claim to value education but are silent when those values are threatened. What does it take to mobilize us?

In my opinion, from an economic point of view, the sequester will have a negative impact on education in general and the institution of FAMU in particular. I urge all of us to become more politically aware because we need to protect the future generations to come. It is important to realize how these major cuts will affect you or your family.

The sequester has the potential to disproportionately affect the most vulnerable among us, ranging from childhood vaccinations, head start and screening for breast and cervical cancer.