Breaking Down White House Budget Proposal’s HBCU Impact

The Trump Administration has revealed its 2019 fiscal year budget proposal, which asks for blends a 10 percent total department budget cut and shifted appropriations to comprise a $59.9 billion funding request for the US Department of Education, and more than $640 million going to institutional and aid programs which support historically black colleges and universities and their students.

Here is a breakdown of the proposal which some experts suspect will be heavily amended by Congress, but which also reflects the administration’s priorities in higher education.

Workforce Development – The budget proposes $1.6 billion to be invested in programs which lead to students earning a license, credential or which promote continuing education for working adults outside of a four-year institution. This is harmful for HBCUs, many of which offer traditional degrees and training for professional licensure in fields like nursing, social work, computer science and other popular fields, but are not the short-term programs the Trump Administration is looking to bolster with federal funding going to community colleges, for-profit schools or corporations looking to create training hubs for workers. (Outlook – BAD for HBCUs)

Financial Aid – The Trump Administration proposes a $1.8 billion cut in unused Pell Grant funding from FY2018, requests that short-term credentialing programs be made available to Pell Grant-eligible students, eliminates the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, scales back Work Study funding to positions which generate professional training, reduces federal student loan programs and sets new standards for debt repayment (undergraduate debt can be forgiven after 15 years of repayment, and graduate study debt after 30 years).

The proposal also changes the rules on the TEACH grant, shifts additional funds to Parent PLUS and Grad PLUS loans. Given the HBCU enrollment trends, the numbers suggest that student access to financial aid outside of Pell eligibility will be harder to get because there are fewer funding opportunities under this proposal. But more than 80 percent of HBCU students are Pell Grant eligible, and while unsubsidized student loans receive an increase while free money is decreased, the price point for HBCU tuition still seems reachable for many low-income and middle-class students at black colleges. (Outlook: NEUTRAL for HBCUs)

Direct Institutional Investment – The proposal eliminates the McNair Scholarship, Educational Opportunity Centers and Student Support Services funding, but offers slight increases for Upward Bound programming. Howard University maintains its federal funding level, and reductions to Strengthening Predominantly Black Institutions funding are countered with increases to HBCU mandatory funding for graduate program development, Capital Financing resources and other direct support. (Outlook: POSITIVE FOR HBCUs)

Leaders from HBCU advocacy organizations weighed on on the budget proposal.

“By preserving level funding, our HBCU’s have fared much better than other higher education stakeholders and federal agencies, relative to the proposed 10.5% cut to the Department of Education’s overall budget,” said Thurgood Marshall College Fund CEO and President Harry Williams. “Despite these positive developments, TMCF is concerned about those proposed cuts which could have a detrimental impact on our students’ ability to persist and graduate from HBCUs. The Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant program remains a critical component of financial support for HBCU students, over 90% of whom receive some form, if not multiple forms, of federal financial assistance to attend college. Similarly, we are concerned about the significant reductions in the Federal Work-Study program as this program remains another area of critical financial support for HBCU students.”

“The administration is to be commended for including the Title III Strengthening HBCUs program in the budget this year, but this is not a time for level funding,” said UNCF Vice President of Public Policy and Government Affairs Lodriguez Murray. “This is a time for investments. HBCUs graduate more than 50,000 students annually and require more resources to provide the graduates our nation needs by 2020 and beyond. These institutions are already demonstrating that at the current level of investments, collectively, the institutions yield nearly $15 billion in annual economic impact for our nation. Additional federal investments in the HBCU Title III program would help this network of institutions continue to create new on- and off-campus job opportunities and further investments in their surrounding communities. Pathway programs to college, like TRIO and GEAR-UP, should be restored so that students continue to have the doorway of college education open to them. The administration should encourage lawmakers to make student debt manageable, instead of this budget being used to push the ‘one loan, one grant’ concept. That is a debate the Congress must have when reauthorizing the Higher Education Act.”

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