House Republicans recently released their proposed 2016 budget, and it is cause for concern. As emphasized in recent questioning by Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) -- available to watch on C-SPAN -- there are four terrible budget proposals that will negatively impact students: Freezing Pell Grants for 10 years, eliminating subsidized loans for undergraduates, repealing improvements to income-driven repayment plans and getting rid of Public Service Loan Forgiveness. Let's look at how these proposals will hurt millions of student loan borrowers.
- Freezing the maximum Pell Grant award at 5,775 per school year for 10 years. Federal Pell Grants -- need-based grants provided to low-income students -- are a lifeline when it comes to affording a college education. Every year millions of Americans, especially African-American and Hispanic undergraduates, rely on Pell Grants to make college affordable and to reduce the amount they have to borrow. Unfortunately, Pell Grants have not kept up with the rising cost of college. According to the Education Trust, a maximum Pell award covered more than half the cost of attending a four-year public college in the 1980s; a maximum 2014-15 award will cover less than one third. Freezing the maximum Pell award will increase the rate of this downward trend due to the rate of inflation. Making the funding fully discretionary, as the House budget proposes, will also increase the possibility of further cuts down the road.
These changes are projected to save the government $60 billion over 10 years. While this may sound like a lot, it is a mere two percent of the $3.02 trillion in tax revenue the federal government collected in fiscal year 2014 alone. Additionally, it would severely hurt millions of Americans by increasing their student debt burdens, giving them less financial flexibility and putting them in greater financial peril. These are bad ideas for past, present, and current students. Call or write your Representative and say you oppose these changes to the 2016 budget!
Isaac Bowers is Associate Director for Law School Engagement & Advocacy, overseeing the Student Debt, Student Engagement, and Law School Relations programs. He was previously responsible for the organization's educational debt relief initiatives. In that capacity, he wrote a weekly blog for U.S. News; conducted monthly webinars for a wide range of audiences; advised employers, law schools and professional organizations; and worked with Congress and the Department of Education on Federal legislation and regulations. Prior to joining Equal Justice Works, he was a Fellow at Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger LLP in San Francisco, where he represented citizen groups and local agencies in environmental litigation and land use and planning issues. Isaac received his J.D. from New York University School of Law.