Professors Fight Phantom Federal Budget Cuts

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

The professoriate is fighting what it perceives as federal budget cuts to higher education proposed by the Trump Administration. Yet and still, it is difficult to find those cuts in the Trump budget proposals.

“We already knew from the Trump administration’s initial ‘skinny’ budget proposal, released in March, that higher education would be on the chopping block,” Kelly Hand writes on the academe blog maintained by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). “The fleshed-out budget proposal released on May 22 details cuts that would have a devastating impact on student aid, the arts and humanities, scientific research, and international education.”

“Following up on our March statement opposing the initial budget proposal, the AAUP released a follow-up statement last Friday reiterating our opposition to a budget that aims to eliminate important student loan and loan-forgiveness programs, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the National Endowment for the Arts and to slash funding for the Federal Work-Study Program, the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Funding, and the Fulbright Scholar Program.”

Actual cuts to the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Institutes of Health, and National Science Funding are hard to find in the budget. It should be noted that NEH officials claim that their agency is being shut down. Coincidentally, even Republican leaders in Congress do not know how many Obama holdovers are still employed in the executive branch.

Nevertheless, the latest Trump budget does have quite a bit to say about student loans and student aid:

“In recent years, income-driven repayment (IDR) plans, which offer student borrowers the option of making affordable monthly payments based on factors such as income and family size, have grown in popularity. However, the numerous IDR plans currently offered to borrowers overly complicate choosing and enrolling in the right plan. The Budget proposes to streamline student loan repayment by consolidating multiple IDR plans into a single plan. The single IDR plan would cap a borrower’s monthly payment at 12.5 percent of discretionary income. For undergraduate borrowers, any balance remaining after 15 years of repayment would be forgiven. For borrowers with any graduate debt, any balance remaining after 30 years of repayment would be forgiven. To support this streamlined pathway to debt relief for undergraduate borrowers, and to generate savings that help put the Nation on a more sustainable fiscal path, the Budget eliminates the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, establishes reforms to guarantee that all borrowers in IDR pay an equitable share of their income, and eliminates subsidized loans. These reforms will reduce inefficiencies in the student loan program and focus assistance on needy undergraduate student borrowers instead of high-income, high-balance graduate borrowers. All student loan proposals apply to loans originated on or after July 1, 2018, except those provided to borrowers to finish their current course of study. The Budget also supports expanded access to Pell Grants for eligible recipients through YearRound Pell. This policy incentivizes students to complete their degrees faster, helping them reduce their loan debt and enter the workforce sooner. Year-Round Pell gives students the opportunity to earn a third semester of Pell Grant support during an academic year, boosting total Pell Grant aid by $1.5 billion in 2018 for approximately 900,000 students.”