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 Trump Administration Releases Budget Outline 

3/16/2017
The Trump Administration today released its FY 18 federal budget outline. The budget outline provides an early, concrete indicator of the priorities of the new administration.  The plan contains deep cuts to federal investments in education, job training, and other community college priorities.

This so-called “skinny budget” is a precursor to a full budget proposal expected later this spring. For the most part, it does not provide program-level funding amounts, and leaves many questions unanswered. The outline only deals with discretionary spending, so does not include any proposed changes to tax laws or mandatory programs such as Medicare or Social Security. Discretionary spending accounts for less than one third of the federal budget.

The budget outline is just the first step in the long FY 18 budget and appropriations process, and final spending legislation will almost certainly differ greatly from what has been presented. Democrats and some Republicans will reject many of the proposed cuts, and under current Senate rules any legislation implementing them will need 60 votes. However, with a Republican in the White House, Congressional Democrats are no longer backed up by a veto threat to any deep spending cuts, as was often the case under President Obama.

Overall, the budget would increase discretionary spending (i.e., annual appropriations) for defense and security programs by $54 billion in FY 18, offset by a $54 billion reduction in domestic programs. Additionally, the budget outline calls for a $25 billion increase in defense programs in the current fiscal year, partially offset by a net reduction in domestic spending of $15 billion. After accounting for proposed funding of $3 billion for a border wall and implementation of executive orders, the cut to domestic programs in FY 17 would actually be $18 billion. The administration has not made any specific recommendations for these cuts.

The following are the key details contained in today’s blueprint.

U.S. Department of Education

The budget proposes a $9 billion cut to the Department of Education (ED), a 13% reduction from current funding levels. It contains funding increases for private and public school choice programs, a priority for Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. The budget would maintain appropriations for the Pell Grant program (these fund a major portion, but not all, of the grants), but would cancel $3.9 billion, approximately 40%, of the current surplus.  A cut to the surplus would hasten the program’s return to funding shortfalls and severely impair making program improvements, including the year-round Pell Grant. The budget also eliminates the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (SEOG) program, makes “significant” but unspecific cuts to Federal Work-Study, and also reduces TRIO and GEAR-UP funding. (No new GEAR UP grants would be funded.)  More than 20 other smaller programs would be eliminated, including international education.

U.S. Department of Labor

The Department of Labor (DOL) would be reduced by $2.5 billion, 21% from its current level. There is scant detail as to funding levels for training programs authorized by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, other than to say that federal support for these programs would be reduced and that states, localities, and businesses would need to assume more responsibility for funding these services. The outline does say that it would help states expand apprenticeships.

Other Notable Proposals

The budget would reduce funding for the U.S. Department of State’s Educational and Cultural Exchange programs. These resources would focus on sustaining the flagship Fulbright Program, signaling deep reductions or eliminations of other programs in the full budget.

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration and Manufacturing Extension Partnership programs would be eliminated. Community colleges have participated in both initiatives. The U.S. Department of Energy would sustain a cut of $900 million to its Office of Science, which funds research programs that have benefited community colleges. Health professions and nursing training programs at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services would be eliminated.

Many smaller, independent agencies are slated for elimination, including several that support community colleges. These include the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities, the Corporation for National and Community Service, the Delta Regional Authority, and the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation.

AACC Position

AACC continues to believe that community colleges are fundamental to the nation’s economic prosperity, and that targeted federal investments in these institutions and students are essential.  The association hopes that Congress will carefully review the proposals advanced by the administration and adopt policies that reflect the critical federal role in helping aspiring students achieve a quality community college education.  There is no substitute for this support. 

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