Virginia Tech students, especially those on financial aid or work study, could be impacted for the 2013-2014 school year if Congress fails to reach a compromise on the federal budget by today.
Failure to reach a compromise could result in "sequestration" cuts, which are several automatic budget cuts totalling $85 billion over the next seven months.
The sequestration cuts are intended to motivate Congress to compromise on a budget, but could affect everything from defense spending to, as is relevant for students, higher education funding in the states.
According to a press release from the White House, in Virginia alone, around 2,120 fewer low-income students would receive aid to help afford the costs of college, and around 840 fewer students will have access to work-study jobs in order to assist them in paying for school.
Work-study is a federally subsidized, hourly-wage program provided for students as a part of their financial aid package if they qualify. Work-study students on Tech's campus could work in places such as the library or Dining Services. To qualify at Tech, students must demonstrate financial need through the FAFSA form.
“The major impact for (the 2013-2014 year) would be a loss of somewhere between 5-10 percent of our work-study allocation,” said Barry Simmons, director of University Scholarship and Financial Aid .
This means Tech would not be able to provide work-study jobs to as many students in its financial aid packages. Currently, 564 students on campus were part of the federal work-study program for the 2012-2013 school year.
Simmons said it is unclear how many people the change could affect or how the University Financial Aid would determine what to do with the more limited funds.
The cuts in spending could also affect a loan program Tech offers to students, Simmons said.
Simmons explained that the most likely affect to the loan program would be an increase in the origination fee, a small percentange Tech takes off the top of a federal loan package as a processing fee.
“The (origination fee) would increase maybe a percent or so for the ’13-’14 year,” Simmons said, while emphasizing that the change in the loan program would be minimal, having "no major effect."
If the budget cuts continue over time, the reprecussions could be signficant.
“We don’t know what will happen in the years out,” stated Simmons. “However, 2013-14 doesn’t look too bad.”
Any cut to financial aid at a university impacts students, specifically those who made their decision to attend Tech based on the availability of assistance.
“I wish that Congress could figure out a way to compromise,” said freshman electrical engineering major Jason Eller. “I know how hard some students have to work just to have the chance to study here. (Students) are always told that college is the key to a successful career, but when cuts like this take effect, it just isn’t possible for many young people.”
The Financial Aid office is not taking for granted the funds they receive despite the budget cuts.
“We appreciate everything we can get,” Simmons said. “But in terms of the demands that we have on our funds, we could certainly use a lot more. Though what we do have, financially, will certainly help.”