Last week, President Trump released his budget which proposes $54 billion in cuts in discretionary spending across the federal government. More specifically, the budget proposal calls for a reduction to the Department of Education's budget by $9.2 billion, or 13.5 percent of its current budget. Such a large reduction in funding to such a critical agency should be of concern to everyone, however, it is the specific programs targeted for these cuts that is even more alarming:
- A reduction to the Pell Grant program of $3.9 billion
- A reduction to TRIO and Gear-UP programs of $193 million
- Abolishing the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant Program – $732 million
- "Significantly" reducing the Federal Work-Study Program
AACRAO is concerned about the possible impact to these programs as they will disproportionately impact low-income and first generation college students who rely on these programs to pay for and attend college. With an anticipated workforce shortage of five million workers by 2025, this not the time to reduce funding in programs that are critical if we are to meet future workforce needs.
Other alarming proposed budget cuts include reductions in funding for research grants that many Federal agencies provide colleges and universities. For example, the NIH would see a reduction of $5.8 billion, which would translate into billions less to higher education institutions as 80 percent of NIH funding goes to universities and medical centers through grant awards. Other agencies that provide large amounts of funding to colleges and universities also face severe cuts – the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) - 50 percent, the Department of Energy - 17 percent and the EPA Research and Development office - 48 percent. Such drastic reductions in federal investments run the risk of allowing the U.S. to lose its status as a global innovation leader.
As the 2018 budget process continues, AACRAO will closely monitor budget negotiations and seek ways to work with Members of Congress, from both sides of the aisle, to ensure that important programs that support student success, as well as funding that ensures that the U.S. is at the forefront of research and development, continue to be supported. While Congress will ultimately determine the level of funding for higher education programs and not the executive branch, this glimpse of the President's priorities for higher education provided by his budget proposal suggests we will have our work cut out for us in the coming months.
Michael V. Reilly