Yale programs that rely on research and medical funding have been forced to prepare for possible reductions in federal financial support.
Though he does not expect “severe cutbacks” in federal funding, University President Richard Levin said Thursday that the nation’s current political and economic climate have put the support Yale receives from the federal government at risk. Since both the Yale School of Medicine and the University’s science and engineering programs rely heavily on federal funding, administrators have been increasingly attuned to national political volatility ever since the recession hit in 2008 — even in their regular budget planning activities.
“A serious cutback would be catastrophic for the nation and seriously affect Yale,” Levin said. “It would mean a huge cutting back of research.”
The Medical School runs long-term budget planning scenarios annually to gauge how research and clinical services could be affected by changes in federal policies, Provost Peter Salovey said. The Provost’s Office encourages all “self-supporting” University units to produce 10-year budget projections, he added.
Deputy Dean of Finance Cynthia Walker said in a Tuesday email that physicians at the Medical School are currently modeling how potential changes in federal funding could impact program finances. After the recession struck, the Medical School initially benefited from stimulus money awarded by the federal government and helped offset job losses on other parts of campus that had been forced to slash their budgets. But the stimulus money is almost depleted, and the government is preparing to shrink its deficit by more than $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years.
Throughout the downturn, Levin said Medical School administrators have prepared for a possible reduction in stimulus support by hiring staff for limited periods of time and raising additional funds over the past year.
“Because the Med School is so dependent on federal funding for its research, it would have to scale back proportionally to any cut,” Levin said.
The Medical School contributes $1.2 billion to the roughly $3 billion of revenue the University brings in each year, Salovey said. Grants and contracts make up 44 percent of that $1.2 billion, followed by 40 percent from medical services, 10 percent from gifts and endowments, and 2 percent from tuition. Since research and clinical revenue amount to 84 percent of the Medical School’s revenue, changes to either significantly affect the school’s budget, Salovey said.
Administrators said cuts to national funding would be more likely to impact the Medical School’s clinical services than its research budget.
School of Medicine Dean Robert Alpern said Wednesday that clinical revenue is partly at risk because of potential reductions to Medicare, the federal health care program intended primarily for senior citizens. Salovey said cuts to Medicare would affect the funds available to reimburse doctors for their medical services. Research funding is largely supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health — funding that Alpern said is less likely to be reduced at a national level.
“Clinical income and grants have gone up every year; we project for them to go up again,” Alpern said. “But we worry about what’s going to happen in Washington and what time will do.”
In addition to the Medical School, Yale’s science and engineering programs also rely heavily on federal funding.
Steve Girvin, deputy provost for science and technology, said in a Wednesday email that cuts in federal funding can lead to lost jobs because research staff are supported by federal grants. The Faculty of Arts and Sciences and some of the professional schools receive about 20 percent of Yale’s federal science research funds, Girvin said, which is expected to amount to $119 million this fiscal year. The other 80 percent of federal science research funding is allocated to the Medical School.
“It is very important to recognize that academic research supported by federal funding is an enterprise that is built up over many years and once funding is cut, research productivity in the forms of contributions to society and economic growth cannot ramp up quickly by restoring funding later,” Girvin said. “We are facing ever greater international competition and need to think very carefully about future impacts of present cuts.”
As part of his administration’s efforts to reduce the national deficit, President Barack Obama has suggested cutting medicare by $248 million over 10 years.