What Trump's proposed billions in education cuts would mean for higher ed

Funding for research, student support programs under threat

A credit agency statement warns that certain areas of higher education would face significant financial pressure under President Donald Trump's budget outline for the 2018 fiscal year, which starts on October 1.

The budget outline, released earlier this month, cuts $9B from the Department of Education and millions from other agencies that fund higher education. The outline is a preview of the full budget proposal expected from the White House within the next few months.

Funding cuts in the outline include:

  • $5.8 billion from the National Institutes of Health (NIH);
  • $3.9 billion in carryover funding for Pell Grants;
  • $200 million from programs that support underserved certain student populations, such as TRIO and GEARUP;
  • All funding for the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant program; and
  • Funding cut "significantly" for federal work-study programs.

The proposal would also close the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and eliminate federal funding to 19 other agencies, such as the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

The future of certain other key sources of higher education funding is unclear, analysts note. Experts say the budget has scant details about funding for the National Science Foundation, which accounts for roughly 25% of federally funded research, or how an increase to the Department of Defense budget would affect institutions that partner with that agency.

Moody's Investors Service says proposed cuts to the NIH are the biggest concern for higher ed—the agency supports 300,000 researchers nationwide. Moody's also pointed out that eliminating the NEA and NEH could force colleges to cut back on the programs supported by funding from those agencies—programs that tend to be popular with students and donors (Soffen/Lu, Washington Post, 3/16; Kamenetz, NPR, 3/16; Kelderman et al., Chronicle of Higher Education, 3/16; Kreighbaum, Inside Higher Ed, 3/20; Douglas-Gabriel, Washington Post, 3/28).

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