This story has been updated to include reactions from NASFAA and members of Congress [1:15 pm EST].
Early Thursday morning the Trump administration released its fiscal year (FY) 2018 budget request, which included significant cuts to certain federal student aid programs, and decreased the Pell Grant Program surplus.
The administration’s first budget request is light on details and known as a “skinny budget,” providing a high-level fiscal blueprint for the administration’s priorities. Overall, President Donald Trump proposed a 13 percent decrease to education spending. The budget also proposed eliminating the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (SEOG) program, removing $4 billion from the Pell Grant surplus – which would not immediately result in a Pell Grant decrease – and significantly decreasing funding for the Federal Work-Study program. The proposal also suggested reforming the FWS program to redirect funds to “undergraduate students who would benefit most.”
All of these reductions would be done in an effort to “focus on streamlining and simplifying funding for college,” according to the budget document. This budget proposal would affect student aid funding for the 2018-19 year.
"Today's budget proposal does not reflect the best approach to solving the nation's fiscal challenges. In fact, this proposal would close the door for countless students around the country who rely on federal student aid programs to pay for college," said NASFAA President Justin Draeger. “NASFAA remains committed to fighting for valuable financial aid dollars that help students who might not otherwise have the opportunity to get to and through college. We call on the Trump administration and Congress to help craft a budget that includes adequate levels of financial support for the nation’s college students, especially those from the lowest income brackets.”
Cutting Federal Work Study will force more students to work more off campus jobs and affect them significantly in their academics! https://t.co/cNYdidyvC5— Jesse McMillan (@mrjessecap) March 16, 2017
This budget blueprint only outlines budget priorities for discretionary funding programs, which include SEOG, FWS, and most of Pell Grant funding. Any modifications to student loan programs and the mandatory component of Pell Grant funding will come in a full budget proposal later, perhaps in May or June.
Aside from federal student aid programs, the budget proposal also called for cuts to the federal TRIO and GEAR UP programs, which help low-income and disadvantaged students get to and through college.
Democrats and higher education advocates on Twitter (see embedded tweets) were quick to condemn the budget proposal, calling it ill-conceived and irresponsible.
Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY), ranking member of the House Budget Committee, said in a statement that the impact the budget would have on American families “is abundantly clear.”
“This budget will leave us without the economic and educational investments needed to help families succeed, the resources to protect public health and our environment, and the diplomatic support to keep our country safe,” he said.
Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO), who sits on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, in a statement said the budget “is not a serious proposal to help our country compete in the 21st century economy.”
“Even members of the President's own party have called this dead on arrival,” Bennet said. “The President should abandon this plan and start working with Congress on responsible solutions to reduce our deficit while maintaining important investments in our country.”
But Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), chairwoman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, said the budget proposal shows that Trump “intends to keep his promise” to get “our nation’s fiscal house in order.”
“No one will agree with every proposal outlined in this budget, and it is up to Congress to carefully review the details. That is precisely what we will do in the coming weeks,” Foxx said. “We look forward to working with the president to implement fiscally responsible policies that promote economic prosperity, keep workers safe, and help ensure all Americans have access to an excellent education.”
Likewise, Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY), chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, said the country’s budget and spending challenges require “the attention of this new Administration.”
“I look forward to working with [OMB] Director Mulvaney and the President during the budget process to help Washington become more accountable to hardworking Americans,” he said in a statement. “It is crucial to allocate taxpayer resources efficiently in order to improve and eliminate government programs that are duplicative or not delivering results. This will allow policy makers to support important priorities, while also helping to address the nation's mammoth national debt.”
For more information on the federal budget and appropriations process, check out NASFAA's Federal Budget and Appropriations page, which features a flowchart that explains the process and also includes recent news.
NASFAA will be examining the the budget more closely and providing details as they become available.
Publication Date: 3/16/2017