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Higher Ed Cuts in GOP Budget

April 2, 2014

WASHINGTON -- House Republicans on Tuesday unveiled their 2015 fiscal year budget, which proposes steep cuts to many domestic social programs, including reductions to Pell Grants, student loans, and research funding.

The proposal, by Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the House Budget Committee chairman, seeks to bring the federal budget into balance by 2024 and would cut spending by $5 trillion over the next decade. But like the Obama administration budget released in February, Ryan’s election-year budget is more aspirational than it is grounded in political reality.

The plan stands little chance of passing the Democrat-controlled Senate, where leaders have said they don’t plan to draft a budget this year since spending levels were already set by the bipartisan deal reached in December. Still, Ryan’s proposal is likely to serve as a blueprint for how many Republicans will approach negotiations with Democrats over how to allocate spending for individual government programs.

Under the proposal, the maximum Pell Grant award would be frozen at the current $5,730 amount for the next 10 years. The budget would also leave all of the Pell Grant program’s funding up to the discretion of Congress each year, eliminating the mandatory funding stream that currently funds part of the program.

In addition, the budget would impose an unspecified income cap on students who receive a Pell Grant and eliminate the grant for students attending college less than half time.

The changes are needed to keep the Pell program sustainable, Ryan said, criticizing the Obama administration for making short-term increases that lead to funding “cliffs” over the long run.  

Expansions to the Pell Grant program and the rising number of recipients over the past several years have “all made Pell Grants more generous than the federal budget could afford,” the budget says.

The Ryan budget also calls for changes to federal student loans. It would eliminate the in-school interest rate subsidy for undergraduate federal loans and would also trim the benefits of the Obama administration’s income-based repayment program, Pay As You Earn.

Federally supported humanities research would take a hit under the plan, too. The proposal seeks to end all federal funding for the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

“The activities and content funded by these agencies go beyond the core mission of the federal government,” the budget said. “These agencies can raise funds from private-sector patrons, which will also free them from any risk of political interference.”

Advocates for education and research funding forcefully pushed back on the proposal on Tuesday.

Joel Packer, executive director of the Committee for Education Funding, said in a letter that the budget would “devastate funding for education and make college less affordable.”

The National Humanities Alliance, which advocates for humanities funding, urged its members Tuesday to sign on to a letter calling on lawmakers to reject the Ryan proposal.

The House Budget Committee will meet Wednesday to formally draft the budget, and it is expected to go to a vote on the House floor later in the week. The 2015 fiscal years begins October 1. 

 

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