MOBILE, Ala. (WPMI) $85 billion in across-the-board spending cuts to domestic agencies and the military are set to kick in Friday.
The Senate is expected to vote Thursday on rival Democratic and Republican plans to replace the spending cuts, but both bills are expected to fail.
President Barack Obama has set a meeting with congressional leaders for Friday to look ahead to how the nation will deal with the cuts.
Several critical revenue streams for universities are at risk because of the sequester, including research funding and federal student aid.
In fact, thousands of students across the country, including hundreds in Alabama, could lose federal aid altogether.
At the University of South Alabama, most students use some kind of federal aid.
The impending sequester could result in about 280,000 students nationwide losing federal support.
USA financial aid employees estimate they'll lose about $26,000 in Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, meaning about 50 under privileged students won't get the money they depend on.
"The neediest ones not getting the $600 can really make the difference in whether they have enough financial aid to cover their total charges," said Donna Robinson, Assistant VP of USA Financial Affairs.
Pell Grants are protected this year, but beginning in 2014, expect the maximum amount awarded to reduce by about 5%. And student loan fees are expected to rise.
"For me personally, if I didn't have financial aid, I don't think I'd even be able to go to college," said USA senior Lindsay Curtis.
"Eventually it would just result in taking less hours to try and accommodate for the prices of classes. And trying to pay out of pocket would just take longer for you to get done with school," said USA junior Ryne Pulliam.
University research funding is also on the chopping block.
"University research is the underpinning of a lot of what goes on with economic development, as well as our country's security, so it's a critical aspect of the funding streams," said John Steadman, Dean of the College of Engineering.
And with every penny taken away from education, Pulliam loses faith in his government.
"If you get higher education and knowledge, the better chance you have to stand on your own feet as a citizen of the United States," said Pulliam.
At USA, financial aid applicants have steadily increased by 20% each year, so the demand for financial assistance is going up. With the government tightening it's belt, experts expect the sequester will have a long term effect on college enrollment.