The Trump administration on Tuesday released its fiscal year 2018 budget request. The finalized version hews closely to the president's skinny budget unveiled in March, proposing deep cuts to federal student aid and research programs.
Almost immediately, there were cries of concern from both sides of the aisle, with Members of Congress either coming out completely against the budget, or taking a more moderate approach, reminding the President and the public that it's Congress, not the President, that has the final say on appropriation bills.
The administration's plan calls for a 13.6 percent, or $9.2 billion, reduction to the U.S. Education Department’s overall budget. AACRAO is alarmed by the scale and scope of defunding such a critical agency. More specifically, though, we are concerned about the effect the proposed cuts will have on students, as the targeted programs disproportionately impact low-income and first generation students who rely on these programs to pay for and attend college. The president's request includes:
- A $3.9 billion reduction to the Pell Grant program
- A $490 million reduction to the Federal Work-Study program
- A 10 percent and 30 percent reduction to the TRIO and GEAR-UP programs, respectively
- The elimination of the $733 million Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant program
- The elimination of the $700 million Perkins Loan program
- The elimination of Loan Forgiveness program for public servants
- The elimination of the subsidized Stafford Loan program
- A reduction in spending for international-education programs and exchanges, such as the Fulbright Scholar program, by 55 percent.
While the full budget does include an endorsement of year-round Pell Grants, it fails to increase the maximum value of the grant. As such, and without any action to index the award to inflation, a maximum annual award of $5,920 would remain in place for the foreseeable future. The share of the higher education costs covered by the maximum Pell award is approximately half of what it covered three decades ago. The proposed maximum grant would cover the smallest share of college costs in the history of the program.
The budget proposes the consolidation of the five student loan repayment plans currently in existence to a single income-driven repayment plan. The move would benefit many undergraduate borrowers. However, borrowers who take out loans to earn advanced degrees would pay more under the new plan.
The administration's plan would also drastically reduce funding for federal agencies that provide campus-based research grants. The budget would cut National Institutes of Health funding by 22 percent, National Science Foundation by 11 percent, and Department of Energy Office of Science by 17 percent. Such dramatic reductions would impede the nation's ability to remain at the forefront of research and development.
The president's budget request would take an ax to education and federal student aid programs without doing much to actually outline any sort of comprehensive higher education policy agenda.
What is heartening is that Congress has shown a willingness to push back on such proposals, like it recently did with the President's 2017 supplemental request and the resulting 2017 omnibus spending agreement.
As the 2018 budget process moves forward, AACRAO will continue to 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 promote student success continue to be supported.
- Mike Reilly