Sequestration impacts UT work-study program

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The University’s work-study program may face cuts after the federal government failed to agree to a plan that would forestall $85 billion in automatic budget cuts, commonly referred to as sequestration.

In 2011, President Barack Obama signed the Budget Control Act into law, which enacted the cuts with the aim of reducing the deficit. Congress later delayed the cuts, but they took effect March 1 after legislators and the executive branch failed to strike a deal to balance the budget.

As a result, about 1,450 fewer students statewide will be able to receive work-study jobs, according to a fact sheet on the White House’s website detailing the cuts’ impact on Texas.

Linda Morgan, student employment supervisor for UT’s work-study program, said the University’s program is already facing a $100,000 decrease for the 2013-14 academic year.

“If that holds true, then the bottom line for us is that we will probably be able to fund most of the students that we funded this year,” Morgan said. “But with that kind of reduction, there will be some we won’t be able to fund.”

Morgan said the program may see a larger cut that would fund fewer students as a result of automatic budget cuts. She said she expects to know the extent of the cuts in April.

Morgan said UT’s program received $1.9 million from the federal government this academic year, down from about $2 million during the previous year. She said the office also received about $190,000 from the state government to fund recipients of the state’s work-study program for this academic year.

Morgan said the University would fund about 30 to 35 fewer students in 2013-14 compared to this year. She said about 900 students currently participate in the federal program and receive an average award of $1,500 per semester.

“Per year, it doesn’t seem that bad, but if [the federal government continues] the way they have, in just a couple more years, that’s more like 100 students,” Morgan said.

Morgan said the program awards some incoming students, but tries to accommodate students who continue the program from previous years.

Sociology senior Sabrina Khwaja, a work-study student in the sociology department’s advising office, said she plans to continue the program next semester when the cuts take effect. 

Khwaja said she benefits from scholarships that pay her cost of attendance, but she needs the work-study position to pay for rent, groceries and other necessities. She said she was disappointed to hear about the cuts because the program has allowed her to stay “academically sound” while maintaining a job.

“By the government investing in the program, they invest in the future,” Khwaja said. “It sounds cliche but it’s true.”

Deborah Rothschild, senior academic advisor in the sociology department, said she was the sole sociology advisor after a second sociology advisor left in July 2012. As a result, Rothschild said she had a sizeable workload that was alleviated by Khwaja when she began working in the office this semester.

“I wouldn’t have made it without her,” Rothschild said.

Published on March 7, 2013 as "Sequestration to decrease work-study employment".