The Congressional Budgets Are Not A Good Deal For Young People
This week, Republicans in the House of Representatives and Senate unveiled their respective budget plansthat call for “A Balanced Budget for a Stronger America.” Although these budgets do not have the force of law, they do represent the broadest statement of governing philosophy for our current Congress and will guide the overall spending levels for the year. Over the next week, both chambers of Congress will hammer out the specific details of their budgets as they try to come together on a plan to reduce the deficit without raising tax revenues.
However, these plans have clearly shown that their budgeting philosophy is not in line with the interests of young people. Cuts to education, job training programs, and anti-poverty programs are combined with the 50th attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The Republican House budget slashes spending by $5.5 trillion over 10 years—with the exception of an increase in defense spending. If Republicans are serious about growing our economy, tackling inequality, and engaging young people, they cannot start by cutting the programs that millions of young people rely on.
The following is a roundup of key aspects of the budget plans that would have enormous negative consequences for young people.
Cuts higher education benefits
Kicking off what will likely be months of contentious budget battles, the House budget calls for extensive cuts in spending for higher education benefits. The budget claims that the expansion of the Pell grant under President Obama has been unsustainable and maintains that too many people with high incomes are eligible for the grant.
The proposal eliminates all mandatory Pell funding and moves Pell to discretionary funding—putting it at greater risk for future cuts. It also freezes the maximum grant award to the 2015-2016 level of $5,755 for the next ten years. As it currently stands, the Pell grant is running a surplus, but there is an expected budget shortfall, starting in 2017.
Additionally, during the budget mark-up, it was clarified that House Republicans will seek to eliminate the in-school subsidies for undergraduate Stafford loans, the public service loan forgiveness program, and the expansion of income based repayment programs. In total, this would amount to more than $160 billion in cuts to higher education benefits for millions of young people.
Indeed, for the 2013-2014 school year, the Pell grant alone helped nine million students pay for higher education, with nearly two-thirds of black undergraduates and 51 percent of Latino undergrads receiving funding. As college costs continue to increase, freezing the Pell grant would mean that students would find it increasingly difficult to finance their education.
The Senate budget itself included few details about the cuts but it does assume billions of dollars in savings from scaling back education programs and freezing the Pell grant.