In their first joint television appearance to air Sunday, Brown University President Christina Paxson and University of Rhode Island President David Dooley expressed concern about the impending sequestration.
Congress seems poised to allow the country to go "over the cliff."
The deadline for reaching a deal with the White House is one week away. If there's no deal, there will be massive spending cuts.
"What happens in these types of downturns, research funding gets clawed back. It's not an abrupt halt because existing grants go forward. It's sort of a slow slide in," Paxson said on "10 News Conference."
Massive spending cuts would affect National Institute of Health grants and other federal research grants. That could mean jobs being lost.
"It could affect jobs. You have everything from technicians to post Ph.D. research specialists that are employed off research grants. Because those grants decline in magnitude, obviously you need fewer personnel to conduct that work, and that's an immediate impact," Dooley said.
Brown and URI are collaborating on a number of projects, including brain science and bio-medical programs.
Both presidents said they hope that their collaboration will lead to new, high-tech jobs in Rhode Island.