Protect Higher Ed Funding

May 11, 2017 | Blog, Inside the College Fund

President Trump is calling for significant cuts to the Department of Education for the fiscal year 2018 in his “skinny budget.” A skinny budget is a proposal for a budget in all areas, with the details for a comprehensive budget deferred to be worked out later, while showing how the proposed high-level budget numbers will impact the deficit over the coming decade.

The proposed budget cuts will reduce domestic discretionary programs by $54 billion for FY18, including 13% cuts in the Department of Education.

These proposed budget cuts will impact education and include some of the most vital assistance programs for Native students. Meanwhile, the budget proposes increases to military by $54 billion, including a 10% increase for the Department of Defense.

The proposed Department of Education program cuts will impact Native students in the following program areas:

  • The 13% cut in Department of Ed would eliminate $9 billion in funding for FY18 that directly impact Native communities. These cuts would reduce:
    • $2.4 billion from teacher professional development programs;
    • $1.2 billion from after-school programs; and
    • $4.6 billion from higher-education assistance programs for students.
  • $2.4 billion in funding would be eliminated for the Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants program, which helps increase student academic achievement, can be used for professional development, or to hire more teachers in communities where there is a deficit of educators such as Indian reservation areas;
  • $1.2 billion would be eliminated for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, which supports before- and after-school and summer programs serving about 1.6 million children nationally, the majority of whom are “economically disadvantaged,” including American Indians. Advocates say the program improves graduation rates, post-secondary enrollment, school attendance, and student behavior, and provides a safe place after school for mostly disadvantaged students.
  • The $732 million SEOG (Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant) program would be eliminated. This program delivers need-based student financial aid, serving students with household incomes akin to Pell recipients. Students with financial need at tribal colleges and universities (TCUs) was 72% in 2013-14. In addition, the SEOG is a source of federal grant funds used by TCUs.
  • Pell Grants are “safeguarded by level funding” by taking $3.9 billion from its surplus. Yet this proposed budget could allow for surplus to be used for future Pell Grant funding—especially in years when there are higher demands on the program. This is a concern as income inequality continues to grow. In addition, if there is a recession, the demand for Pell Grants spikes in the face of increases in the cost of college/increased purchasing power. Currently students can receive a maximum yearly Pell Grant of $5,920. The Pell Grant is often a standard measure of student need—and the average percent of TCU students receiving a Pell Grant was 59% in 2013-14, with an average award of $3,291.
  • The proposed cuts would “significantly reduce” the Federal Work-Study program, an important source of funding for student employment at TCUs. Many students, especially those with dependents, rely upon student employment to supplement income during college.
  • Funding cuts are proposed to two other college-access programs created to help low-income students, including Native students, to prepare for and enroll in college. These programs are particularly important to first-generation college students. The proposed cuts include shaving the TRIO program by 10% ($808 million) and the GEAR UP program by a third (to $219 million). GEAR UP’s 2018 proposed funding would also exclude any new grant awards to local partners.

The skinny budget does not mention the Tribally Controlled College or University Assistance Act, which was established to authorize federal funding for and to fully establish and improve the TCUs, or its’ funding under this proposed budget specifically. The skinny budget does state that it “protects support” for historically black colleges and universities and minority-serving institutions (seemingly lumping TCUs in this category) with maintained (flat) funding at $492 million in funding for programs that serve a high percentage of minority students.

The proposed skinny budget also favors funding for public (with an emphasis on charter schools) and private schools with a $1 billion increase to Title 1, but with portability funding to allow children to take specific funding to the public school of their choice. There has also been an increase of $250 million for new private school choice program and $168 million for charter schools.

The American Indian College Fund urges its supporters to contact their elected officials to ask them t:

  • Reject the proposed skinny budget’s program cuts to the Department of Education Budget. These proposed budget cuts would harm all American students, but would harm students of color and low-income students disproportionately by limiting their access to higher education through grants, student work opportunities, and other programs that pave the way to a successful higher education.
  • Support full funding for the TCUs under the Tribally Controlled Colleges and Universities Assistance Act of 1978 to continue providing access to a higher education for Native students. Without TCUs, these underserved Americans might otherwise have no other opportunity to achieve a higher education or have opportunities for a better life for themselves or their families. 

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