Research Universities Could Feel Effects of Sequestration

IU President Michael McRobbie worries federal budget cuts could put a strain on universities relying on research funding.

iu sample gates

Photo: Courtesy of Indiana University

A student walks through the Sample Gates at Indiana University.

If leaders in Washington do not resolve the nation’s fiscal problems in the coming months, many federal programs could see their budgets cut under sequestration measures, including entities that fund research.

Indiana University President Michael McRobbie worries those cuts could put a strain on universities. McRobbie has been vocal in recent months about the potential damage federal fiscal debates have done in the higher education world. He has written multiple op-eds in newspapers and higher education magazines.

Speaking Friday on WFIU’s Noon Edition, he said he feels passionately about the issue because funding sources for university researchers could be on the chopping block.

“Drastic and dramatic cuts to the NIH, which in real terms have stayed stable for quite some time—to the NSF, to the Department of Energy, and to the other major funding agencies, directly then impact the ability of the country to continue to grow because it starts to stifle the innovation coming out of the universities,” he says. “That’s the simple equation.”

According to university numbers, of the 533 million dollars IU researchers received last year, half came from federal sources.

And McRobbie says it’s not just researchers and research universities like IU that would feel the effects of those cuts. He says decreasing dollars used to create new technologies would hurt an already sluggish economy.

“Many companies are relying more and more, and I think John Lechleiter, the CEO chair of Lilly effectively, eluded to this, are relying more and more on the innovation coming out of universities,” he says.

McRobbie says he hopes federal legislators will find a bipartisan solution, even if it is a last minute one and that IU will not have to account for these kinds of cuts in their budget.

Julie Rawe

Julie is Assistant Producer of Noon Edition. In addition to reporting for WFIU, she also works as an intern for NPR's State of the Re:Union. She is a graduate of Indiana University where she studied French, anthropology, and African studies.

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