The Satan Sandwich That is the Proposed Education Budget
Earlier this week, the Washington Post reported that the Department of Education’s proposed annual budget would see changes to its student loan forgiveness programs for both undergraduate and graduate borrowers. These programs have allowed graduates saddled with debt the opportunity to make fixed monthly payments over a period of time, with the outstanding balance forgiven once the schedule is completed.
Under the Trump DOE plan, undergrad students would actually come out ahead as a result of amendments to the program, increasing the rate of fixed monthly payments by two and a half percentage points (from 10% of income to 12.5), but shrinking the payment schedule by five years (from 20 years to 15). However, graduate school borrowers don’t come out as lucky. According to the Post:
The proposal is less sweet for borrowers who take out loans to earn advanced degrees. They currently pay monthly bills capped at 10 percent of income for 25 years. Under the new plan, they’d pay more (12.5 percent of income) for longer (30 years).
There were no estimates on how much the government would save by eliminating public-service loan forgiveness, overhauling the income-based repayment plans and ending subsidized loans.
What we have here are large scale changes to payment programs that borrowers have been budgeting into for years, with the understanding that word is bond. It’s unclear why these changes had to be made in the first place because we don’t even have estimates on how any of this would impact the budget.
As someone that earned a masters certificate and enrolled into a loan forgiveness program to pay off the massive debt I had incurred, the loan forgiveness program was a game changer. Unable to make large monthly payments that came with the hefty price tag that was a graduate degree, enrollment allowed me to experience a dramatic reduction in my scheduled remittance, giving me room to breathe financially. It’s a story that I share with millions of people all over the country, many of whom were undoubtedly outraged at the latest Trump attack on everything with a semblance of decency.
These changes are part of a much larger DOE budget that includes cuts to college work-study, mental health initiatives, teacher training, and after-school programs. In all, the cuts would amount to a 9.2 billion dollar reduction to the department, which comes out to a 14 percent cut relative to what was authorized by the GOP led congress last month. You read that correctly. The Republican congress, in all its draconian glory, come off looking Keynesian compared to the austerity sandwich that is the proposed federal education budget
Where might some of these “savings” go, you might ask?
The administration would channel part of the savings into its top priority: school choice. It seeks to spend about $400 million to expand charter schools and vouchers for private and religious schools, and another $1 billion to push public schools to adopt choice-friendly policies.
So there we have it. The Trump administration, the Devos empire, and their white Christian supremacist patrons get exactly what they want: Stealing billions of dollars from programs that help folk buried in debt as well as cash strapped school districts already in need and pouring them into the coffers of already well-to-do suburban public schools and private christian school administrators, who now have a larger audience to force their special brand of patriarchal infused white supremacist-libertarian Jesus Juice on.
The proposed budget will likely face some resistance from Congress, but this is one hell of a starting point early on in the negotiation process. So where does that leave us? To paraphrase Clubber Lang, lots and lots of pain.