Trump Budget Slashes Higher Education Along With Other Domestic Programs
May 24, 2017

With President Trump on the European leg of his first trip abroad, the White House yesterday released a $4.1 trillion budget proposal for FY 2018 that makes deep cuts to higher education and other domestic programs, including ending subsidies for some undergraduate student loans, eliminating the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness program and cutting the Federal Work-Study Program by $490 million. The proposal fleshes out the “skinny budget” the administration released in March and details additional cuts to programs.

In a statement, ACE President Molly Corbett Broad said the cuts outlined in the full budget plan would have a crushing impact on low-income and working-class Americans.

“President Trump's proposed FY 2018 budget envisions drastic cuts to federal student aid and research funding of a magnitude not seen in nearly four decades,” she said. “If enacted, these reductions would have a devastating impact on the United States’ long-term economic growth and seriously undermine economic opportunity for many low- and middle-income Americans.”

“It's cutting across the board, cutting indiscriminately in every program," Jon Fansmith, ACE director of government relations told Inside Higher Ed last week when details of the president’s budget were leaked to The Washington Post. “This is not about a policy disagreement. It's not about a change in course.”

Other provisions targeting higher education include eliminating Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, allowing the Perkins Loan program to expire, and phasing out both the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities. Spending that supports international education programs and exchanges, such as the Fulbright Scholar program, would be cut by 55 percent.

One bright spot in the president’s plan: It includes support for year-round Pell Grants, which was reinstated in the bill that funded the remainder of FY 2017 in April and which ACE has long supported (273 KB PDF).

On the research front, the proposed cuts are equally drastic. The president would cut the budget of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) by 18 percent, from $31.8 billion to $26 billion, and cut the National Science Foundation by 10.7 percent. Research funding at other agencies (such as the Department of Energy and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) are also significantly reduced, with early analysis showing a 17 percent cut in overall research funding.

It is important to remember that the president's budget has no binding authority on Congress, and almost all of these proposals require legislative action to be enacted. Congress already has shown it has different funding priorities than the president with the FY 2017 funding bill, most notably by increasing spending for NIH by $2 billion.

The next step in the budget process will be for the House and Senate Budget Committees to write and then pass budget resolutions of their own. These resolutions also are non-binding but serve as a roadmap for the appropriations process and set overall spending limits for federal agencies.