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The Trump administration wants to cut financial aid for college students and assistance for teachers and after-school programs, but found extra funding for a potential school choice program after Congress raised spending limits.
The proposed $1 billion program would support both public and private school choice, including expanding programs at the state level, according to the White House budget request for fiscal 2019, released Feb. 12. A similar request made in the fiscal 2018 budget was widely ignored by lawmakers.
Overall, the Trump administration seeks a 5 percent cut, about $3.6 billion, for the Education Department. Initially the suggested reduction was almost double that, but Congress raised spending caps with a budget deal days before the budget was released. As a result, the White House allocated another $3.3 billion to the department.
From the additional funding, an extra $500 million is proposed for “Opportunity Grants,” a new grant program in the budget proposal meant to fund a variety of school choice initiatives, which was already funded at $500 million. Other programs that benefited include:
The additional funding would also put $1.6 billion into the Pell Grant surplus. While a student’s individual grant would not increase under the White House proposal, the grant’s surplus has been used to fund other programs.
The addition to the surplus might be needed. Under the budget, students in programs that offer a certificate or license, rather than a degree, would be able to receive a Pell Grant to help cover tuition.
Thousands of students are expected to be interested in the expanded program, acting Education Undersecretary James Manning said at a meeting with department employees, education advocates, and representatives for various education programs.
The proposal to expand Pell Grants is one of several initiatives in the Education Department’s budget that echoes the House GOP bill (H.R. 4508) to update higher education. Both the bill and the budget seek to streamline federal aid programs and eliminate loan forgiveness for nonprofit and public sector workers.
However, the House legislation would also eliminate loan forgiveness through a repayment program based on a borrower’s income. Meanwhile, the White House plan would allow the balance of loans to be forgiven after 15 years for undergraduates and 30 years for graduates.
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