The Trump administration on Monday released its fiscal year (FY) 2019 budget request, which proposed steep cuts to federal education funding, including $3.8 billion to the Department of Education (ED), and proposed to eliminate the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) and Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) programs, as well as cut funding for the Federal Work-Study (FWS) program. The budget request also proposed expanding Pell Grant funding to students in short-term programs.
The FY 2019 budget, which would affect award year 2019-20, originally proposed to cut $7.1 billion from ED, a 10.5 percent decrease in funding, but restored $3.3 billion to the department in an addendum, which included changes to the budget based on a deal Congress made last week to increase spending over the next two years by $300 billion. Last year’s budget proposal, which was roundly rejected by Congress, included $9.2 billion in cuts to ED.
“The president’s budget request expands education freedom for America’s families while protecting our nation’s most vulnerable students,” Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said in a statement. “The budget also reflects our commitment to spending taxpayer dollars wisely and efficiently by consolidating and eliminating duplicative and ineffective federal programs that are better handled at the state or local level. I look forward to working with Congress to pass a budget that puts students first and returns power in education to where it belongs: with states, districts and families.”
With regard to student loans, the administration proposed streamlining income-driven repayment (IDR) plans — which Trump also included in last year’s budget — cutting the PSLF program and eliminating student loan subsidies.
“Decades of investments and billions of dollars in spending have shown that an increase in funding does not guarantee high-quality education. While the Budget reduces the overall Federal role in education, the Budget makes strategic investments to support and empower families and improve access to postsecondary education, ensuring a future of prosperity for all Americans,” the proposal said.
The administration also proposed revamping the FWS program by limiting eligibility to undergraduates and ensuring that funds are allocated “to support workforce and career-oriented training opportunities for low-income undergraduate students, not just subsidized employment as a means of financial aid, in order to create pathways to high-paying jobs,” while cutting nearly $500 million in funding from the program.
In addition to those cuts, Trump proposed expanding Pell Grant funding to include students in high-quality short-term programs, which he also outlined in his $1.5 billion infrastructure package as well as in a list of principals regarding the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act in December.
“There is no ‘one-size fits all’ approach to postsecondary education,” Trump wrote in the infrastructure plan. “Rather, there are multiple pathways to success for students, and federal law should enable students to explore and access these pathways.”
And while Trump originally included a $1.6 billion cut to the Pell reserve in his budget request, it was removed in the addendum.
“The only relief that comes from reviewing the president’s proposed cuts to higher education comes from the fact that it is so easily dismissed,” NASFAA President Justin Draeger said. “Attempting to balance the budget on the backs of college students is profoundly short-sighted, if not downright destructive. We call on Congress to continue to adequately fund the student aid programs and move forward with thoughtful, deliberative, and reasonable proposals for student aid reform and investment.”
Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), senior member of the Senate Budget Committee, said the budget proposal is “crystal clear about what President Trump prioritizes: massive tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations over critical investments in education, health care, the environment, and other middle class priorities,” and that it will be rejected by members on both sides of the aisle “who are focused on actually delivering results for the families we represent.”
Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), ranking member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, said that the proposal "does not prioritize America's students and workers."
“When confronted with the budget, choices must be made," Scott wrote. "The administration has obviously prioritized a 1.5 trillion dollar tax cut for primarily millionaires and corporations. Instead, I believe we should be choosing a budget that supports public education, creates good-paying jobs, and protects our health care."
James Kvaal, president of the Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS) said that this budget proposal makes college less affordable because it will raise student loan payments by more than $200 billion dollars over the next decade.
“Student debt is at an all-time high and more than a million students default on their loans every year,” Kvaal said in a statement. “...We need a real plan to make college loans pay off for students by investing in scholarships, making loans simpler and more affordable, and closing low-quality programs that leave students with debts and no jobs.”
Michael Rose, director of government relations for the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), also called on Congress to reject this proposal, which he said made “all the wrong choices” and leaves students unprotected from colleges that put profits before students.
On the other hand, Neal McCluskey, director of the Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom, said that the budget proposal was a step in the right direction for education in its intention to “shrink the federal footprint.”
“The good news is that funding coming through the U.S. Department of Education would be cut...The bad news is that overall cuts would not be greater,” he wrote, adding “frankly the evidence is compelling that the overall K-12 and higher education federal endeavor has been an expensive mistake.”
Last year Congress, as well as higher education advocates, largely rejected Trump’s budget proposal, which included intentions to cut about $150 billion from federal student aid programs over 10 years by taking $3.4 billion out of the Pell Grant reserves, slashing funding for the FWS program in half, and eliminating the FSEOG and PSLF programs. Following that budget release, Draeger said the proposed cuts “would close the door for countless students around the country who rely on federal student aid programs to pay for college.”
Trump also pledged his support for the Office of Federal Student Aid’s (FSA) transition to the “Next Generation Financial Services Environment” in his 2019 budget request, which will include the rollout of a mobile FAFSA introduced by former Chief Operating Officer A. Wayne Johnson in November. At an ED briefing on the budget proposal Johnson announced that ED will send out the solicitation for companies to manage the mobile app as early as this Friday.
Funding for FY 2018 has yet to be finalized. The House draft of the education appropriations bill would cut $3.3 billion from the Pell Grant reserve fund, but rejected other proposed cuts from the Trump administration. The Senate Appropriations Committee bill, released in September, included a $2.6 billion cut from the Pell Grant reserve funds, but with a $100 increase to the maximum Pell Grant award, as well as a provision restoring Pell eligibility for students who are defrauded and students whose schools have closed.
NASFAA launched its “Fight for Financial Aid” campaign in November to oppose potentially devastating cuts to financial aid, which is pertinent now more than ever as Congress combs through Trump’s proposals to slash federal funding for essential programs. Follow along on Twitter (#Fight4FinAid) and Facebook to stay informed about the latest threats to student aid, and help us take action to oppose these cuts.
Publication Date: 2/12/2018