Sequestration would have severe impacts on Native communities

February 1, 2013 at 9:00 am 1 comment

Part of the “fiscal cliff” deal that Congress passed early this month was to defer “sequestration”– or $109 billion in federal spending cuts– for two months. One month is now over, and we have the short month of February before these cuts will, again, go into effect unless Congress acts. While this will have significant impacts to programs across the board, Daily Yonder features a piece that sheds some light on the severe impacts it will have specifically on higher education in Native communities. As the author, Mark Trahant, says, “The sequester is going to rip apart higher education in Indian Country. It’s going to be ugly, folks, and worse, self-defeating.”

Native universities will be facing deep cuts. The American Indian Higher Education Consortium estimates 6 percent budget cuts in operating funds. Some institutions will face cuts upwards of 30 percent, such as at Haskell Indian Nations University in Kansas. TRIO, the program to help students with disadvantaged backgrounds, will be cut by $66 million, and work-study programs will be cut by $50 million. The Bureau of Indian Education has proposed a $1,700 fee increase, which would be prohibitively expensive for many students.

Trahant points out that in Native communities  there many more young people– who are in need of education and training in order access economic opportunities– than older people. This is true in North Carolina– 37.5 percent of the American Indian population is under the age of 25, compared to 33.7 percent in the state overall, while 20.9 percent of American Indians are over the age of 55, compared to 25.5 percent overall. Trahant rightfully states that the most important investment that we can make is in the educational and training programs for these young people, so that they can in turn help build a stronger economy for their communities and the nation as a whole.

In North Carolina, the poverty rate for American Indians is almost 30 percent, compared to an overall poverty rate of 17.2 percent for the state. A staggering 39 percent of American Indian children live in poverty. The unemployment rate for American Indians is at 7.9 percent, compared to 7.4 percent for the state overall.

Budget cuts to educational programs and assistance for students would indeed be devastating. As we blogged about yesterday, North Carolina’s standing when it comes to asset building and economic opportunity is already low.  There’s no doubt that sequestration will make life harder for many people– especially for Native communities for whom these educational institutions and programs are so vital.

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Entry filed under: Economic Development, Economy, Jobs & Employment. Tags: , , , , , .

Latest Assets & Opportunity Scorecard ranks NC 45th among states Concentrated poverty increasing in rural America

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