By Rebecca McClaine
Forget whether or not the proposed wall on our southern border with Mexico is necessary, whether building the wall will actually do what it is being advertised to do or how declaring a national emergency to force funding has propelled us into a constitutional crisis. As students at KU, we should be worried about where the wall’s funding is coming from, specifically a significant cut to the Department of Education.
On March 15, 2019, President Trump vetoed legislation to overturn his declaration of a national emergency to fund the wall. It is becoming apparent that he will not stop until funding for the wall is secured.
Earlier in the same week, President Trump released his budget proposal for 2020. In it, he detailed massive cuts to several departments, including a $8.5 billion cut to the Department of Education. This cut and others, such as to the Department of Health and Human Services, serve to offset increases to the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security, which outline funding for the border wall, $8.6 billion.
Why does this impact KU students?
KU students were awarded almost $12 million in federal scholarships and grants and took out almost $46 million in loans during the 2017-18 school year. In addition, the university reported $355,000 in Federal Work Study awarded.
The burden becomes apparent when looking at how the education budget will be cut.
Betsy DeVos, head of the Department of Education, released her budget for 2020 on March 13 based on the budget recommended in the president’s proposal. In it, she advised shifting some of the funding for Pell Grants from four-year degree programs to short-term programs fewer than 15 weeks, eliminating some grant programs such as the Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant, cutting the budget for federal loan forgiveness programs, cutting the budget for college work-study programs in half and eliminating subsidized loans completely.
Clearly, eliminating or reducing the amount of funds available for federal grants will have a direct impact on some KU students and their ability to pay tuition.
Eliminating the federal loan forgiveness programs impacts students looking for federal jobs. The incentive to have a portion of loans forgiven pushes many students to seek these jobs. This includes teachers, federal agency employees and public service workers.
By cutting Federal Work Study funds awarded to universities in half, this budget hampers the ability of KU to supply meaningful part-time work for current students and possibly hurts students’ chances of earning money while attending college.
For students taking out loans, eliminating federal subsidized loans will have a drastic effect on the amount needed to repay the loan. The difference lies in interest. The federal government pays the interest on subsidized loans while students are in college. They do not pay the interest on unsubsidized loans. This means the total loan amount will generate interest the entire time the student is in college, causing a larger amount due in repayment.
With Americans currently owing more than $1.56 trillion in student loan debt, programs designed to shrink the amount students owe should not be eliminated or reduced; they should be expanded. The effect of the wall being built will directly impact students’ ability to reduce debt if the funding is approved and these cuts are passed