House GOP Appears Set on Making College Less Affordable for Millions of Students


Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities/Sharon Parrott

Given the size of the student aid cuts in the House Budget Committee’s 2018 budget resolution, one wonders if the House GOP thinks college is too affordable.

The budget resolution, which provides a comprehensive fiscal plan for the next decade and sets the framework for budget and tax legislation this year that would enact parts of the plan into law, includes shockingly deep cuts in aid for low- and moderate-income students going to college.

It calls for slashing Pell Grants — which help nearly 8 million low- and moderate-income students pay tuition, fees, room, and board[1]— by more than $75 billion over the next decade.  This would cut the maximum Pell Grant for the lowest-income students by $1,060, from $5,920 to $4,860, even though Pell Grants already cover the smallest fraction of college costs in more than four decades.  Pell now covers just 29 percent of such costs, down from 79 percent when the program started.

It calls for up to $120 billion in cuts to student loans.[2]  To get savings from the student loan program, the federal government would have to make the loans more expensive for borrowers, making it harder for them to repay their loans and increasing student debt.

Pell Grants

Unlike most federal programs, the Pell Grant program is financed by both discretionary funds (which Congress provides each year through the appropriations process) and mandatory funds (which are provided through permanent law).  Of the current $5,920 maximum Pell Grant, $1,060 is funded with mandatory funds, and the rest by annual appropriations.  The House budget resolution proposes eliminating mandatory Pell funding, which would cut the maximum grant by $1,060 or 18 percent, even as the cost of attending college continues rising.  (See Figure 1.)  The budget also calls for cutting the second source of mandatory funding that helps support the Pell program, which would mean that the program — even after the big benefit cut — would likely face a funding shortfall in the next several years.

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