On Tuesday, Congress was presented with President Donald Trump’s first full budget for the 2018 fiscal year. The budget ironically titled, “A New Foundation For American Greatness,” showcases increased spending on military, which already receives a majority of the budget, and a 13.5 percent cut to our already minimally funded Department of Education.
Looking specifically at the changes affecting our higher education, the budget would result in cuts for funding of Federal Work Study awards, foreign language fostering programs and international education programs, such as the Fulbright Scholar Program. The Federal Work Study and Fulbright Scholar programs are facing a significant loss of roughly half their current funding.
Lowering funding for the Federal Work Study program would undoubtedly negatively affect low-income college students as these programs are awarded based on financial need. Given the current rise in student loan repayment methods that are sure to continue under the proposed budget, limiting opportunities for students to earn money while in college would only expand the necessity for student loans and could even result in more students not being able to afford college at all.
Another program facing a reduction in funding is the Fulbright Scholar Program. According to the program’s website, Fulbright is an international scholarship that aims to increase and support friendly and peaceful relationships between the United States and other countries. This program extends to over 155 countries, is the largest exchange program within the U.S., and is currently funded by the U.S. Department of State.
The budget also incorporates Trump’s plan to restructure five diverse income-driven student loan repayment plans into a single universal option.
Under the proposed student loan repayment plan, undergraduate students would see a 2.5 percent rise in their monthly payment for 15 years, after which their remaining debt would be forgiven. Graduate students would pay back the same 12.5 percent monthly payment, dependent on their income, but wouldn’t qualify for loan forgiveness until 30 years after graduation, which would be when most graduates are in their late 50s.
While the repayment proposal shortens the waiting period of loan forgiveness for undergraduate students, the five-year extension seen for graduate students severely contradicts Trump’s promise to aid college students who are “drowning in debt.”
The federal budget does however continue the funding of Pell Grants while also making them available year-round, which could be seen as one of the only highlights of the budget in terms of education.
It is highly unlikely that the proposed budget will be entirely approved by Congress without considerable changes, but given the Republican majority representation and therefore control within both the House and Senate, it will most likely be substantially easier for Trump to push his adjustments than it was for former president Barack Obama.
Tea Piro is a senior majoring in mass communications.