On Feb. 12, President Trump unveiled his budget for the 2019 fiscal year. The proposed budget includes a host of changes to federal student loan programming, including the elimination of subsidized government loans, a reduction in income-based repayment plans, cuts to Pell Grant subsidies for universities, and an extended period before graduate students can be eligible for loan forgiveness. 

“We are very concerned that the president’s proposals would make college less affordable for students throughout this country,” said University acting spokesperson Michael Hotchkiss. “For example, just one of the president’s proposed cuts, elimination of the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, would eliminate 1.5 million grants now going to help low-income students.”

These changes, which are likely to evolve as the budget moves through both houses of Congress, would not take effect until June of 2019. 

Trump’s plan aligns with the priorities set forth by Republicans in the House of Representatives, who have previously supported cost-cutting measures like ending the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program.

“They are trying to eliminate waste from other parts of the budget,” said Will Crawford ’20, president of the College Republicans. “They are increasing money that goes toward school choice and making sure state and local governments have control over the money they’re getting from the Department of Education.”

Crawford’s statements were not made on behalf of the College Republicans.

“I don't expect this budget to find much congressional support, and I don't expect it to pass,” said Anna Macknick ’21, a first-generation and low-income student, in an email. “Given that many first-generation, low-income college students today face substantial financial burdens, this budget would only exasperate [sic] those problems, likely turning away those students from higher education altogether,” she said.

Princeton’s generous financial aid programming means that students at the University are normally not subject to the same student loan burdens as many students nationwide. 

Yet 17 percent of the Class of 2014 borrowed for their education, with an average debt burden of $6,600. Further, many University students take advantage of Pell Grants, subsidies provided by the U.S. government. 21 percent of the Class of 2021 was Pell-eligible, and many students also rely on governmental programs like federal work study. 

“Princeton is deeply committed to making higher education affordable and accessible. It is critically important to the country that the federal government assist all institutions of higher education to achieve these goals,” Hotchkiss said. “Robust and sustained funding of the Pell Grant program, federal work study and campus-based financial aid programs, as well as access for students to affordable loans, are essential in making higher education affordable and accessible.”

The Trump administration’s budget also contains measures that would expand current student loan offerings. The breadth of the Pell Grant program would be expanded to apply to vocational programs, including certificate programs. 

In addition, the debt forgiveness timeline for undergraduate students would be condensed from 20 years to 15 years. The graduate debt forgiveness waiting period would be expanded from 20 years to 30 years, a move that could prove problematic for University students looking to enroll in post-graduate schools.

“Ultimately, the footprint of the federal government in education should be reduced on the whole,” said Crawford. “When, and if, they are going to be involved in education, they should be giving money without strings attached [to the states].”

“We are and will be actively working with Congress during the upcoming appropriations process to ensure robust funding for education and the cutting-edge research conducted at institutions like Princeton,” Hotchkiss said.

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