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Monaco advocates against sequester in Washington

Published: Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Updated: Tuesday, March 5, 2013 06:03


University President Anthony Monaco and Senior Vice President for University Relations Mary Jeka met on Thursday in Washington, D.C. with a delegation of congressional representatives from Massachusetts to discuss the consequences of the sequester on the Commonwealth and the university.

At the meeting, Monaco said he advocated for finding a solution to deficit reduction other than the sequester — a series of automatic spending cuts that went into effect as part of the Budget Control Act last Friday night after Congress was unable to agree upon an alternative method. The sequester will result in significant cuts in Tufts’ financial aid and research funding, Monaco said. 

“The sequestration changes the interest rate on government loans and will affect our ability to give financial aid not only to undergraduates, but to graduate students,” Monaco said. “There are also other more specific grant systems that are under threat, and this will be felt in the pockets of families at Tufts because they will have to make up that difference.”

According to a National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators report, Tufts would expect to have around $84,000 reduced from Federal Work Study in the 2013-2014 school year as a result of sequester.

The university has taken steps to combat the effects of the sequester, including a financial aid initiative that University President Anthony Monaco said he launched this summer. It aims to raise $25 million, a large portion of which would go towards undergraduate financial aid, Monaco said.

“We were looking for something that would boost our ability to give financial aid to make up for government cuts,” he said. “We’ve been trying to bring in more philanthropy to support our financial aid, and certainly that could help.”

The sequester will lead to cuts across the board for national organizations, including the National Science Foundation, the United States Agency for International Development, National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Energy — all organizations that fund research in higher education, Monaco said.

“[The cuts in funding] are going to make it more difficult for them to award new grants, and some of the agencies are even going to take current grants and cut them by whatever the sequestration percentage is,” Monaco said. “That means we’ll have to curtail some contracts or decide whether we can provide bridge funding, but we can’t provide bridge funding to everyone.”

Members of the Massachusetts delegation urged Monaco and Jeka to explain more publicly how the sequester is going to adversely impact the Tufts community, Jeka said.

“We will go out and talk about the impact on the higher education community and how damaging it will be to our researchers,” she said. “Students across the country are going to have less access to financial aid because of the cutbacks in a variety of forms.” 

According to Monaco, Tufts can expect to receive lower amounts of research funding during the next two years. The university is taking steps to prevent the severity of those anticipated research cuts, Jeka said.

“We are working hard to get our faculty more involved in federal agencies so they can know of opportunities for federal funding and can know how they can submit proposals and compete for these opportunities,” she said.

Jeka said that the trip to Washington was one of a few that university officials make annually to meet with the Massachusetts delegation. Last week, Monaco and Jeka met with Senator Elizabeth Warren, Congressman Joe Kennedy, Congressman Jim McGovern, Congressman Ed Markey, Congressman John Tierney and Congressman Mike Capuano, Monaco said.

“We always make sure that we keep in touch with the Massachusetts delegation so that we keep up good relationships with them, in case there are issues that we need to get resolved,” Jeka said.

Monaco said that he shares the frustrations of the Massachusetts delegation over the difficulties of negotiating with sequestration supporters. 

“They feel and I feel that [Congress] need[s] to find a better way of reigning in the deficit,” he said. “These types of cuts are not intelligent. This is going to lead to a lost generation of scientists on the side of the research funds and it’s going to reduce the access to higher education to individuals that need it most.”

Monaco believes that the best way to combat the sequestration is for students and faculty to get involved and tell their personal stories, he said.

“It isn’t only my voice that needs to be heard, but it is the faculty and the students,” he said. “They need to write [to] their Congress and make pressure that these sequestration cuts are not good for higher education, but also the region around Boston.”

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