Going to cover all the politics in one post today. President Trump’s budget proposal, released yesterday, proposes some significant changes to higher education funding. In addition, TICAS (The Institute for College Access & Success), in partnership with the Carsey School of Public Policy at the University of New Hampshire, has released a briefing comparing the presidential candidates’ positions on education funding. There are some notable differences.

The budget proposal cuts $5.6 billion, or 7.8%, of the Department of Education budget, including several funding areas for higher ed:

  • Eliminating subsidized student loans
  • Eliminating the Pell Grant surplus. Although this is currently a surplus, when the economy changes and incomes go down, Pell Grant need and eligibility both increase so a surplus becomes a deficit.
  • Eliminating Public Service Loan Forgiveness
  • Eliminating the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG). This is a grant that goes primarily to independent students or those from families with incomes below $30,000 annually.
  • Changing the current multiple-option income-driven repayment system to a single income-driven option
  • Capping borrowing under the PLUS loan program
  • Freezing the maximum Pell Grant
  • Halving the Federal Work Study budget

The budget proposal does increase funding for career and technical education.

It’s important to remember that the budget proposal is just that: a proposal. Congress, which is in charge of the budget, has proposed increasing Pell Grants and federal support for tuition elimination or reduction at community colleges, while increasing regulation of private for-profit institutions.

The presidential candidates, on the other hand, offer a wide range of approaches to address college affordability, including:

  • Free college proposals, ranging from increased federal support to eliminate community college tuition to eliminating public university tuition for all, to various options in-between.
  • Increasing spending on Pell Grants, whether by expanding eligibility, increasing the size of the grant, or increasing use of the grant.
  • Student loan cancellation. Again, there are many variations on this theme, from improving Public Service Loan Forgiveness, to allowing loan discharges in bankruptcy, to cancelling some or all of outstanding student debt.
  • Some candidates are proposing caps on student loan interest rates, adjustments to the income-driven repayment system, and stricter accountability standards for colleges receiving federal student aid.

Given the range of ideas being proposed, I strongly encourage you to read both the President’s and Congress’ proposals and the briefing on the candidates’ proposals as part of your decision-making process.