Wednesday, December 26, 2012

KU: Potential student-loan costs from ‘fiscal cliff’ much smaller than originally reported

By MATT ERICKSON, The Lawrence Journal-World

Whoops: Partly because of a misplaced decimal point, Kansas University earlier this month overstated the potential effect of the federal government's "fiscal cliff" on KU students' federal loan costs — by millions of dollars.

Earlier, KU reported a potential cost for students of about $27 million. But according to the university's latest figures, KU now calculates the potential additional loan costs for students over the course of 2013 at about $206,000.

Tim Caboni, KU's vice chancellor for public affairs, said the change was due partly to an error that university officials discovered in a formula provided to KU by a national organization.

University officials have also learned more details about how the possible federal budget sequestration will affect student loans since the first calculations were done in the fall, he said.

"We feel strongly about ensuring that the data we present is as accurate as possible and apologize for the error," Caboni said in an email message to the Journal-World on Friday.

On Monday, Caboni declined to name the organization that passed on the faulty formula. He said KU was focused on spreading the correct information.

"It was unfortunate, but we're glad we caught it," Caboni said.

It was good news to learn that student loans won't be affected to the tune of tens of millions of dollars, Caboni said, but any affect on loans will be too much.

And the university still estimates that "fiscal cliff" sequestration would have a total annual cost of about $18 million in federal research funding. That's based on the roughly $215 million in federal funds the university received in the 2011 fiscal year.

Only one week remains for Washington to reach a budget deal before sequestration — a set of automatic budget cuts and tax increases — goes into effect Jan. 1.

"I think the real story, unfortunately, is that there is no deal yet," Caboni said.

And signals from Washington indicate that any solution in store will likely not be a long-term one, he said. So it may not be long before KU officials, including Caboni, are again pushing against calamitous cuts to higher education.

"Unfortunately, we may be back here again sooner rather than later," Caboni said.