RI fiscal cliff: Students of all ages could feel the effects

PROVIDENCE, RI – This week we're looking at what's vulnerable to cuts should lawmakers fail to make an agreement on where to raise revenue and cut spending by the end of the year. It could mean the loss of millions of dollars in federal funding at state colleges and universities.

Higher education leaders are warning that without a deal to avert across the board spending cuts in Washington, state colleges will lose much needed tuition assistance and research funding.

The University of Rhode Island says the funding at risk includes nearly a million dollars for federal work-study grants to students, a program that served 575 Rhode Islanders last year. Research laboratories at the university could lose as much as $12.6 million. URI officials say that would have a direct affect on their ability to support economic development efforts in the Ocean State.

In addition, Rhode Island stands to lose nearly 9 million dollars in funding for public schools. The biggest chunk of the money - some $6.6 million - is aimed at low income and special education students.

Tim Duffy of the Rhode Island Association of School Committees says a loss like that would leave urban districts scrambling to balance their budgets. "A lot of those hard decisions are going to have to be made, and we've seen some of that already occur. Closing schools. Some districts have eliminated middle school athletics, extra curriculars, how they fund those. All of those are things that end up on the cutting room floor."

State officials estimate that more than 4,000 low income Rhode Island students will go without needed services, if Congress can't reach a deal. After-school programs, career and technical schools, and teacher training programs also risk losing hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal funding.

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