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Federal cuts not as severe as expected at U of I

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

URBANA – Federal cuts in research money haven’t been as severe as expected, administrators at the University of Illinois said.

Leaders at the three-campus school were expecting to lose more than $65 million when automatic budget cuts went into effect in March. While they’re still tabulating the impact, leaders told The (Champaign) News-Gazette that it’s lower than predicted.

The school’s three campuses get about $800 million in federal funding each year.

“The thought was that everyone would be cut 8 percent. That has not happened,” said Randall Kangas, U of I associate vice president for planning and budgeting. “It’s more that there will be fewer grants in the future, or there will be lower grants in the future.”

The automatic spending cuts went into effect this spring after Congress wasn’t able to reach a budget deal. But each federal agency is handling the cuts differently, meaning the impact in Illinois depends which agency is handing out the money.

While the cuts weren’t as deep, administrators are now worried about the future.

The University of Illinois at Chicago got about $300 million in federal research money during fiscal 2012 – most of it coming from the National Institutes for Health. The Urbana campus had grants and contracts worth about $360 million.

The NIH is cutting existing grants and funding fewer new grants this year.

Peter Schiffer, vice chancellor for research at the school’s Urbana-Champaign campus, said top researchers have been told their grants are being reduced. Other researchers say they’re planning to postpone or cancel their work and some say they’ve received delays in being notified about their funding, which puts projects in limbo.

Biochemistry professor Susan Martinis, who’s now interim associate dean in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences in Urbana, said the climate is uncertain, especially as it relates to being able to pay for graduate and post-doctorate students.

“There are people who are trying to renew grants that are very nervous,” she said.

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