May 23, 2017
As you are aware, the full-version of the President’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget request was released today. The Administration’s “skinny budget” outline of mid-April was already alarming to us because it proposed raising defense discretionary spending and offsetting that increase with $54 billion in cuts to domestic discretionary programs, which constitute only 14 percent of the federal budget. We had hoped that congressional action on the 2017 budget, in which a large bipartisan coalition rejected the Administration’s similar approach for the balance of the current year, would cause it to rethink its unrealistic 2018 proposal. I am sorry to say that the numbers released today actually move in the wrong direction by increasing the non-defense cuts to $57 billion and proposing significant additional losses of mandatory benefits for students.
I should point out that we appreciate the Administration’s effort to address the nation’s budget woes. We would support a reasonable reallocation of subsidies within federal higher education programs as part of a cohesive national effort to reduce and eliminate budget deficits. The problem with the proposed budget is that it fails to grapple with the primary drivers of government spending—Social Security and Medicare—and simultaneously seeks to reduce the deficit while increasing defense spending. This is a budget equation that does not balance without draconian cuts to the rest of the numerous and significant services provided by the federal government, as amply demonstrated by the budget request unveiled today.
In keeping with the outline proposed in April, the budget would maintain Pell funding and support continuation of year-round Pell that Congress authorized in its 2017 budget bill. But it would rescind $4 billion from Pell reserve and cut Work-Study, TRIO, and GEAR UP. It would also eliminate not only the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant programs and Perkins, but also Subsidized Stafford loans (shifting $38.8 billion in costs to borrowers over ten years), the Public Service Loan Forgiveness programs (adding $27.4 billion in costs to affected borrowers). In addition, the proposal collapses the multiple income-based repayment options into one, cutting $76.4 billion over ten years. Beyond these student aid losses, the proposal also significantly decreases federal research investments by cutting NIH and NSF, and reducing or eliminating multiple federal research programs at major federal agencies.
Later this week I will be meeting separately with the Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, and the Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, Senator Lamar Alexander, to discuss federal higher education policy. I will raise our concerns about the proposed budget. We believe the President’s proposal is intended as a strong signal for fiscal responsibility that Congress will translate into more workable budget numbers as it did with the 2017 omnibus.
This would be a good time for all AASCU institutions to document their exposure to various federal revenue streams. I encourage you to review the impact of this proposal on your institution and communicate your views with members of your congressional delegation and the constituencies affected by the proposed changes. As always, I urge you to think of AASCU as your Washington office, and would appreciate hearing from you with any advice, counsel, or information you may wish to share with us.
With warm regards,
Muriel A. Howard, Ph.D.
The American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) is a Washington, D.C.-based higher education association of more than 400 public colleges, universities, and systems whose members share a learning- and teaching-centered culture, a historic commitment to underserved student populations, and a dedication to research and creativity that advances their regions’ economic progress and cultural development. These are institutions Delivering America’s Promise of Opportunities for All.