Trump Budget Proposals May Impact Higher Education

Students entering today’s college environment are facing new challenges. In years previous, students have had to worry about finding the right internships, finding and maintaining roommate relationships, balancing extracurriculars, and standing out from other graduates. With a new administration taking over, however, many students will now have to wonder if college will continue to be a possibility for them at all.

Earlier this week, the president released a budget proposal for fiscal year 2018 which details his plans to cut an astounding $9.2 billion from education spending–an act which has drawn harsh criticism from leftists.

“The Trump-DeVos budget would push opportunities out of the reach of millions of students across this country,” Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren said in a video posted to her Facebook page. “It would ruin lives.”

The proposal, which must be approved and finalized by Congress, spreads across K-12 and financial aid to higher education. Among the suggestions are a number of policy changes that could drastically impact students for generations to come.

First and foremost, Trumps proposals have the potential to greatly affect federal student aid.  

According to NPR, the proposals indicate that the federal government would stop subsidizing the interest on student loans, in order to save the federal government $1 billion over the course of the fiscal year. As a result, college costs would increase by thousands of dollars for individual students, especially those who rely on government subsidies in order to afford college in the first place.

While that plan has proven to be unpopular with those on the left, some proposals, such as simplifying the student loan repayment process has received bipartisan support. As it stands today, borrowers have a number of repayment options that can potentially cause confusion. Rather than choosing among a standard repayment plan, an income-based repayment plan, or a pay-as-you-earn plans, under the Trump plan, the Trump/DeVos propositions would create one singular repayment plan that caps monthly payments at 12.5 percent of the borrower’s discretionary income which would be completely be forgiven after fifteen years if not paid off in full.

The downfall with this plan, critics note, is that by eliminating numerous repayment options, the Trump-DeVos propositions also phase out public student loan forgiveness, which erases student loans after 10 years of government services or a qualifying nonprofit organization. Students who have chosen to pursue careers in teaching, medicine, and law would be most affected by the elimination of these programs.

Also receiving bipartisan support are measures that would make Pell Grants available all year round, rather than in fall and spring semesters only.

While the proposals are not entirely negative, college affordability advocate Lauren Asher writes that overall the plans will ultimately exacerbate student debt, increase the need for students to borrow, and make it harder to make affordable payments for most students.

This could drastically impact the future of higher education. Not only is student debt a major factor in whether or not many students choose to pursue higher education, but there is a significant skills gap present in U.S. graduates, and literacy rates are below the ideal standard.

While all students will be affected by the new administration’s proposed policies should they be enacted, it could have more drastic impacts for women and minorities, who thrive in the workplace when provided opportunities and education.  In an age where diversity, inclusion, and fresh perspectives are more important than ever, it’s frightening that students may no longer be given the same opportunities that generations past have had access to.

America needs more literate college graduates. While the Trump-DeVos plan has certain levels of bipartisan support, there are a number of policies that must be watched and protested as budget proposals move forward.

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