President Donald Trump’s budget for 2018, coined the “America First” budget, proposes cuts of over $5 billion from federal financial aid programs, such as the Pell Grant, which help low income students and African American students.
Trump proposed cutting $3.9 billion from the program next year, as well as $1.3 billion from this year. The program awards up to $5,920 to students from low-income families to help pay for college, and the grant does not have to be paid back, unlike a loan.
Georgia State student Lillian Teffere, a recipient of the Pell Grant, said the grant helps pay for 75 percent of her college tuition, but she still needs loans to pay the rest.
“[The Pell Grant] is the only way I can afford to go [to college], since I pay for school all on my own,” Teffere said. “If I didn’t have Pell Grant, I wouldn’t be able to go to school anymore.”
For Teffere and others who receive the Pell Grant, it is often their only means of getting a higher education.
“I wish funding cuts wouldn’t happen because, other than myself, a lot of people I know need that funding to go to school or have any kind of access to education,” Teffere said.
Another Georgia State student Lauren Jones, also a Pell Grant recipient, said she used to receive more from the grant her freshman year of college, but now she gets “next to nothing” from it.
“If I didn’t have Pell, I would probably just be in more debt, because I would have to pay tuition with credit cards,” Jones said.
She said she believes the cuts are a way to keep low-income people from going to college and to push students who are in need further into debt.
“I feel as though it’s a move to further keep poor people, who are primarily minorities, away from higher education or to just keep them in debt and make the most money off of the poor,” Jones said.
According to Mark Huelsman, Senior Policy Analyst at Demos, a public policy organization that works for equal opportunity, research shows that a majority of those who receive Pell already take out the most loans. The second largest group to take out loans are African-American students. For that reason, Huelsman believes Pell Grant should be expanded, not cut.
“If low-income students who receive Pell Grant receive five sometimes close to six thousand dollars in some cases and they still have to borrow, that means we need to expand Pell Grant,” Huelsman said. “The goal of the Pell Grant was to provide students who couldn’t afford college right away a level playing field to students from wealthier families.”
According to Huelsman, the cuts continue a pattern of making college unaffordable for low-income and minority students.
“I think that cutting student aid continues us down a path where college because less and less affordable for the people who traditionally have been underserved by higher education generally,” Huelsman said.
Huelsman said it’s important to remember that the budget cuts are just proposals that still need to be approved by Congress, and is not likely, even impossible, for the proposal to pass members of both parties completely unchanged.
Marcella Bombardieri, senior policy analyst on the Postsecondary Education team at the Center for American Progress, said the cuts will be taken out of the grant surplus. While this means the impacts will most likely not be immediate, according to Bombardieri, it could put students at risk in the coming years.
“There is a very serious risk that raiding the surplus now will mean that students will lose financial aid in future years. The next time that there is an economic downturn, it’s likely that more people will go back to college, and the government would need to dip into the surplus to serve all those students,” Bombardieri said. “Also, it’s important to note that the surplus did not appear out of thin air, students really paid for it already through a number of cuts to federal financial aid benefits that were made a few years ago.”
And while Bombardieri admits that Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (SEOG), a program Trump has proposed cutting entirely, as well as work study, which will receive a number of cuts, are both flawed programs, she does not believe it is a good reason to remove them or reduce funding.
“Those programs both have some design flaws and could be improved upon. But they still provide vital support to students with great financial need,” Bombardieri said. “The fact that they aren’t perfect is no excuse for cutting them.”
Bombardieri warns of the impact these cuts could have on students in need.
“The Trump budget blueprint would have devastating consequences for low-income and minority college students and those who aspires to get a college degree,” Bombardieri said. “While the President has said he wants to make college more affordable, this is a deliberate attempt to make it harder for poor and minority students to get the education they need to build middle-class lives.”
What does President Donald Trump’s budget propose?
- $30 billion boost to defense spending and some funds for border security
- $439 million cut from AmeriCorps
- $66 million cut from Senior Corps
- $434 million cut from the Senior Community Service Employment Program
- Reducing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention budget by $314 million
- $3 billion would be cut from education programs
- $1.6 billion would be cut from grants and other programs run by the Housing and Urban Development department
- $1 billion cut from the US Agency for International Development
According to CNN