President Trump sent Congress a “Budget for a Better America” last month, which included a $4.75 trillion budget plan—the largest in the nation’s history— for fiscal year 2020 that cuts spending for most departments.
The proposed budget slashes at the Department of Education’s (DOE) funding, cutting away $7.1 billion from many programs or eliminating others that help disadvantaged students.
The administration describes the budget as one that “takes steps to ensure that Americans can receive the high-quality education and training they need to obtain a job and advance in their careers,” according to the budget plan from the White House.
“Republicans tend to think that education is better handled at the local and state level. The fact that they’re cutting the education budget is not that surprising,” said ESU Political Science Professor Dr. Scott Pandich.
In other words, some Republicans believe the federal government should not fund or control education because federal regulation may not address educational concerns at the local level.
In a statement from the White House, the Trump Administration says the budget includes $2.7 trillion in spending cuts, higher than in any administration in history, and projects that the proposals in the budget will balance federal spending by 2034.
The president’s goal is to reduce nondefense spending below 5 percent of the 2019 budget level, and to reach this goal, the budget cuts funding for some of the following DOE programs:
—The Federal Trio Programs (FTP), which would lose $110 million. FTP is an umbrella of other programs including Upward Bound, which is here at ESU and helps high school students prepare academically for their college careers, according to the university’s website.
—Federal Work Study (FWS), a program some students take advantage of when they submit their Free Application for Federal Student Aid, would lose $630 million. The program enables postsecondary institutions to apply for federal funding so they can hire student employees, according to the Department of Education.
—Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, a program that helps disadvantaged individuals enter college, would see its funding removed for the fiscal year, though the budget does not state the program is abolished.
One student doesn’t think the sharp reduction in funding is what the country needs.
“With the ever-growing importance of higher education, taking money away from [the programs] is contradictory to what our society is going towards,” said Junior Jack Melquist. “It doesn’t seem like the best choice to make.”
Melquist was surprised to hear that the Trump administration cut funding by that amount.
“It makes it seem a lot harder to go to school now,” Melquist said.
Thought the cuts are significant, FWS is going from a budget of $1.1 billion to a proposed 2020 budget of $500 million, there are programs that could be tossed.
Some programs that face elimination are:
—Subsidized Loans, the direct subsidized loans some students receive during their college careers would be gone. With these types of loans, the DOE pays the interest while students are in school; this way the interest doesn’t multiply.
—Public Loan Forgiveness; the program forgives borrowers of direct education loans, who work for the government or non-profit organizations, after 120 on-time payments.
—Income-Driven Repayment Programs (IDR), the four plans that fall under this program will be rolled into one and set at 12.5 percent of discretionary income.
Melquist, a student with loans to repay, says enrolling the IDR plans into one option is a bad idea. It gives borrowers only one choice for repayment where now there now are four.
He said everyone’s financial situation is different and having only one plan might not help everyone like having four plans might.
One part of the budget Melquist agrees with is the elimination of subsidized loans. The government would no longer pay interest and would save taxpayers money.
Though one student agrees with the president’s plan to remove subsidized loans, it’s likely Democrats will contest the budget in the House.
“With the current partisan makeup of Congress, I would be extremely surprised if the budget passes as it’s written,” Pandich said.
Pandich believes there will be negotiations amongst Democrats and Republicans to form a compromise to pass the budget, but it won’t happen quickly.
“If you’re going to see compromises, it’s going to start in the Senate, and then move to the White House and then to the House of Representatives,” Pandich speculated.
As of now, no one can predict what will happen to the 2020 budget as the committees and subcommittees in Congress review the plan, but as it stands, many potential, current and graduate college students face changes in how they receive financial assistance.
“The president is not going to be inclined to give the Democrats what they want, and the Democrats are not going to be inclined to give either the president or the Senate Republicans what they want,” Pandich said.
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