BIPP: Proposed Budget Cuts Student Loan Funding & Encourages School Choice

Nicole Reddig, BIPP Intern

Among other controversial items, U.S. President Donald Trump’s newest budget proposal – which still requests money for a border wall – remains a demonstration of the administration’s ideas. Going further than past propositions, this budget proposal requests a 10 percent decrease in funding for the federal Department of Education, run by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.


Coming at a point in time when the administration is pushing school choice and federalism, this proposal seeks to limit the reach of the federal government in local education and encourage competition among schooling options; however, these policies may have negative effects on both current learners and those in the workforce. With the budget cuts, the department is proposing the end of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, which alleviated the student debt of anyone in a public service field after 10 years of paying their loans. This program was started under former President George W. Bush in 2007 with bipartisan support and has been defended across the aisle for years. Encouraging people to enter much-needed careers in government service, education, healthcare and the like, the loan forgiveness program has been integral in creating economic opportunities for public servants. Neither party currently supports cutting the program because of its public and economic benefits.


In addition to proposing the cut of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, the budget proposal also eliminates federally subsidized loans. These loans are given to lower-income college students but do not accrue interest while the student is in school. Moreover, the budget for the federal work-study program would also be cut down, and $2 billion would be removed from the federal Pell Grant reserves. None of these policy changes are beneficial to those currently working to afford a college degree, or recent graduates working in underpaid, yet crucial public service positions.


The budget proposal does, however, extend funds to student choice and school voucher programs in addition to private schooling. It proposes tax credits to corporate donors that provide scholarships for students to pay for private school tuition, apprenticeships, dual-enrollment programs, and other non-traditional schooling options. This policy takes money away from public schools and encourages the funding of private and charter schools, which are not held accountable to many education standards and privilege only the few that are selected for the scholarship. Thus, this proposed system of tax credits and school vouchers would take away funding and resources from the vast majority of students and teachers in public school systems, benefiting mainly corporate donors.


Even though this proposed budget is unlikely to pass the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives, the Trump administration has made it clear that public education is not a priority by requesting a $7.1 billion decrease in the education budget. By cutting student loan programs and encouraging the privatization of schooling through corporate tax cuts, the Department of Education is taking resources away from the vast majority of those who are in the public education system, and those who are accumulating debt in their pursuit of higher education. This sets a dangerous precedent that a system of collegiate access for the wealthy and privatization of schooling is valued over public education, college affordability, and public service.


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