President of the United States Donal Trump speaking at CPAC in February

President Donald Trump’s proposed budget for 2018 spells out bad news for low-income students who intend to rely on federal financial aid in order to pay for their college education.

According to the Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again, various programs will be cut from the federal budget if it can be approved and passed through Congress. The Pell Grant program, administered by the Department of Education to aid low-income students, is affected by these budget cuts along with many other programs and initiatives.

While the Pell Grant program isn’t disappearing, the overall funding will decrease. Though pending approval, the new budget calls for “a cancellation of $3.9 billion from unobligated carryover funding, leaving the Pell program on sound footing for the next decade.”

From year-to-year in the past, Pell funding would carry over after it was left on the table. Each year, the program would receive new funding from the federal government mandate as well as utilize unused funding from the previous year. With this new budget, the additional funds would go back to the government. Currently, the program offers a maximum of nearly $6,000 annually to eligible low-income college students; the budget proposal makes no mention of reducing Pell aid per recipient.

From a fiscally conservative perspective, this makes perfect sense. After all, taking back the extra funding saves billions for the government, and it removes the discretion of the Department of Education over this lump sum of cash. On top of this, it improves overall certainty for the entire program as well as for the program’s administrators.

On the other hand, some would argue that such a proposal considerably limits accessibility to higher education for low-income students. With less funding next year, the Pell Grant program would be forced to either cover fewer students with more aid or offer less aid to a greater number of students. Administrators would be forced to choose between accessibility at the expense of affordability or affordability at the expense of accessibility.

While carryover Pell funding is one of the most significant cuts to the Department of Education’s funding, a number of other cuts were made to the Department’s budget.

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The Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) program, which gives up to $4,000 a year to students with financial need, is eliminated by the budget cut. According to the official proposal, the cut will “reduce complexity in financial aid and save $732 million.” While Pell Grants are administered to students, FSEOG grants are administered directly to schools; now, these grants will cease to exist.

The Federal Work-Study program is also taking a hit in funding, but it is also being reorganized. According to the official document, the budget “reduces Federal Work-Study significantly and reforms the poorly-targeted allocation to ensure funds go to undergraduate students who would benefit most.”

If the budget is passed, many students will have look into applying for scholarships, and schools may need to consider offering more aid to their prospective students.

According to the Student Loan Report, there are plenty of private colleges willing to help out its student body in light of the imminent lack of Pell Grant funding. At the top of the list, Conception Seminary College awarded an average of $20,238.91 in scholarship aid per undergrad recipient. In second, the New School College of Performing Arts awarded $8,460.29 per undergrad recipient. Despite such hopeful numbers, the same cannot be said of the schools at the bottom of the 250-strong list: Millikin University, Babson College, and Westmont offered only $282 in scholarships per recipient. Despite this, they are at least included in the list. There are many private schools in the United States that did not break the top 250.

Some schools pick up the slack where the Federal Work-Study program is involved. According to another study by the Student Loan Report, Rutgers University at New Brunswick provided over 7,000 part-time jobs to its student body while second place Arizona State at Tempe campus offers nearly 6,000 part-time jobs. The two schools at the bottom of the list, Jacksonville University and Berry College, offered less than 200 per-time jobs each.

Image Copyright © Michael Vadon