House Republicans issued a 2018 budget bill Tuesday afternoon that rejects several higher education cuts proposed by President Trump but upholds plans to pull billions of dollars in reserves out of the Pell Grant program for needy college students.
Ahead of a markup slated for Wednesday, the House Appropriations Committee released the full funding report for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and related agencies that provides money for programs placed on the chopping block in the White House budget.
Instead of eliminating the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, the committee wants to set aside the same $733 million keeping the program afloat this year. It also maintained the existing funding for the federal work-study program that helps students work their way through college, rather than cut the program’s funding in half, as Trump proposed.
Trump had sought nearly $200 million in cuts to the TRIO and Gear Up programs, which help disadvantaged students in middle and high schools prepare for college, but appropriators are pouring $60 million and $10 million more into each respective program. Policy analysts anticipated that the White House proposal would run into bipartisan resistance on Capitol Hill. Lawmakers have historically supported the college-readiness programs, albeit with modest appropriations.
Not all programs earmarked for cuts by the White House are safe. House appropriators still want to eliminate all funding for Child Care Access Means Parents in School, a program that subsidizes campus-based day care for low-income parents earning a degree. Committee members blamed budget constraints for the cut, while the White House and Education Department has said “subsidizing expenses associated with child care is not consistent with the department’s core mission.”
Resources for the campus child-care program have been stretched thin as the number of parents in college has grown from 3.2 million to 4.8 million in the past 20 years, according to the Institute of Women’s Policy Research. The percentage of public institutions with centers on campus is dwindling, and without support from the federal government, many worry that student parents will struggle to remain in school. Still, student parents could get a bit of a reprieve: The committee is recommending $4 million more in funding for existing child-care programs within the Department of Health and Human Services.
The House GOP is standing with Trump on drawing down the reserves for the Pell Grant program, calling for a $3.3 billion recision on top of the $1.3 billion cut outlined in the fiscal 2017 spending agreement. The committee maintained level funding for the program, but advocacy groups say raiding the reserves could jeopardize the program in the future.
Forty organizations representing students, consumers and colleges sent a letter Tuesday urging House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) and ranking member Rep. Nita M. Lowey (D-N.Y.) to oppose the cut.
“Cutting an additional $3.3 billion in FY18 would put much‐needed investments to strengthen the Pell Grant further out of reach, and place the program at risk of future cuts to grant amounts or eligibility that would exacerbate student debt and limit access to higher education,” the organizations wrote. “To support students, the American workforce and a growing economy, Pell dollars must remain in the Pell Grant program.”
The American Federation of Teachers, one of the 40 groups involved in the letter, is planning a rally Wednesday on Capitol Hill to speak out against education budget cuts.