President Trump recently released his budget blueprint for 2017, showing where exactly his administrations' priorities will be for the year. Among changes in the budget are increases in military and border security spending, with Veterans Affairs, Homeland Security, and Defense getting significant increases in spending. With this increase, many other departments and federal endowments are being cut. The Environmental Protection Agency is seeing a 31% decrease in budget, increasing the possibility of layoffs and decreasing their ability to uphold decade-long environmental protection causes. The State Department, Department of Agriculture, Department of Labor, and the Army Corps of Engineers are getting the biggest budget cuts. All of these areas are going to suffer from budget cuts in the magnitude they are being proposed, but one particular program cut is going to hurt low-income undergraduate students.
"Federal financial support for low-income undergraduate students" in the form of the Pell Grant is proposed to be cut by $3.9 billion. The Trump administration claims that slashing this funding will allow the grant to survive for the next decade. In the 2015-2016 academic year, the Department of Education spent $28.2 billion on Pell Grants. In addition, the administration proposed getting rid of the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) program completely, which sends money to schools for students on a need-base. Cutting both of these programs are part of a $9 billion budget cut for the entire Department of Education.
Grants, unlike loans, do not have to be paid back; these two programs in particular are the reason many low-income students are able to attend college. Using the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, students are found eligible for these grants, and receive as much as $5,920 per year from the Pell Grant to go towards tuition, room and board. the FSEOG gives students $100-$4,000 per year, to be given out to the school to distribute to the students in need of it. The program is need-based and mostly helps students whose families make between $20,000-$40,000 per year. For some students, a $5,000 grant is the difference between being able to afford college and being forced to work a minimum wage job for years to try to save up for college.
While the budget cut would only cut into the program's cushion money, the future of the grant is at stake. Losing both of these grant programs would endanger public education, make college less affordable, and reduce the availability of workforce training. While we do not know exactly the number of students that will suffer from the loss of the Pell Grant or FSEOG next year, it will only hurt low-income students. Republican Lamar Alexander claims that "Runaway entitlement spending -- more than 60 percent of spending -- is the real cause of the $20 trillion federal debt." What Alexander neglects to see is that entitlement spending like the Federal Pell Grant helps low-income students achieve their dreams of attending college, and allows for a greater number of college-educated people in this country.
If we do not invest in the dreams of tomorrow then the dreams of the past will die with their holders. Education needs to be at the forefront of our society. Cutting grants for low-income students to be able to go to college, while college gets ever-more expensive is not going to sustain the future of the United States. All of our students need to matter--not just the ones who have parents who can pay for their college education. All of our students matter--we cannot hurt their chances at being able to afford higher education.