Parsing the Trump administration's budget proposal is a lesson in endurance, considering cut after cut would decimate programs that AFT members and our communities care about deeply. On the chopping block: Medicaid, teacher training, class size reduction, state grants for career and technical education, federal work-study funds. All essential.
But one item stands out particularly for AFT members: public service loan forgiveness. This is the program that forgives all student loan debt for borrowers who work in public service and have made consistent loan payments for 10 years. It's a program that's allowed many people to enter public service jobs—which typically pay less than private sector work—without worrying about student loan debt following them into retirement. PSLF, along with income-driven repayment plans, are among the helpful tools explained in the AFT's Student Debt Clinics, held in cooperation with locals across the country.
AFT members are almost exclusively public servants, working as faculty and staff at public colleges and universities; as teachers, paraprofessionals and support staff at public schools; as drug and mental health counselors at public health facilities; as nurses and health technicians; and as park employees, government employees and more. While President Donald Trump's proposal would allow those who already have federal student loans to receive this benefit, people who take out student loans after July 2018 would no longer have the option.
"The #pslf was the only way for me to not have crippling student debt for the rest of my life," tweeted one PSLF advocate. "Please fight for #PSLF. Those of us hoping for careers providing primary care to the underserved depend on it," wrote another.
Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos have also proposed a simplification of income-driven repayment plans, which adjust borrowers' monthly loan payments according to how much income they are currently earning. While simplification of the currently complicated system is not a bad idea, the changes proposed by Trump would significantly increase debt for people who have borrowed even a penny for graduate education—whether for a teaching certificate or a Ph.D.
The Trump-DeVos budget also axes federal work-study funds and Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (income-based grants for students with exceptional need). It would allow the Perkins loan and grant program to expire (this supports career and technical education students); cut TRIO and GEAR UP, college prep programs for underprepared students; cut funding for the National Institutes of Health, which helps fund academic research; phase out the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities; and slash programs like the Fulbright Scholar Program, which supports foreign language study and international education exchange.
The executive branch cannot pass such a budget on its own; it must be approved by Congress. And many of the cuts have raised eyebrows on both sides of the aisle.
This rundown of Trump's proposed education-related cuts in Inside Higher Education shows expected cuts, from GEAR UP to grad school and everything in between.