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UNC’s Federal Research Funding At Risk During Shutdown

By Ran Northam Posted October 4, 2013 at 7:33 am

CHAPEL HILL – UNC’s Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost, Jim Dean, was given the gift of a government shutdown no less than officially three months on the job, which he says has him concerned.

“The biggest area of concern is that we do a tremendous amount of research that’s funded by the federal government,” Dean says. “Our overall research funding in any given year is on the order of $800 million, and roughly 80 percent of that comes from the federal government.”

Tuesday, Dean sent out a letter to students, faculty, and staff saying that the University was well-prepared for a partial government shutdown and that a short-term shutdown would have a minimal impact on the U.S. higher education community.

He says a shutdown lasting a few days, while it would put unnecessary stress on the University in a time of state budget cuts and a slowly recovering economy, it wouldn’t be as harmful as one lasting weeks.

“If you start to talk about a month or longer, you get to sort of a different picture,” Dean says. “But, I do believe that if it goes on for a month or longer, you’ll be running stories on all sorts of problems, it won’t just be us.”

He says apart from the research grant money, the University has not really been affected in other areas. However, he said there have been a handful of employees that UNC was forced to furlough.

“There are a handful of cases where there’s some sort of direct federal funding and the federal government has instructed us to basically—it’s called a stop-work order—to stop working on something,” Dean says. “In those cases, we did have to have a few people laid off.”

Dean says due to personnel issues, he couldn’t divulge in what departments those employees worked.

He says another concern could be for the students receiving federal grant money.

“Of course, a very considerable amount of money—I couldn’t even tell you the total amount—of student aid comes from the federal government,” Dean says. “But, the best information we have right now is that there’s no danger having to do with that. So, that would be the other big one and so far so good.”

In 1995, the federal government performed a similar shutdown that took place in two separate time frames from November 14-19 and from December 16 to January 6, 1996.

Dean says a 28-day shutdown would mean many more problems with local and national implications than federal research funds and financial aid.

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