Trump’s Budget: Huge Cuts to Employment, Education, Training for Low-Income Youth and Adults

President’ Trump’s budget for Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18) proposes drastic and harmful cuts to vital employment, education, and training services that enable low-income youth and adults to improve their skills and succeed in the workforce.

The U.S. Department of Education’s budget would shrink by $9.2 billion (13 percent over the prior year). Critical student aid programs for low-income students will see the biggest cuts.

  • The president’s budget cuts student aid by at least $4.6 billion. It also makes “significant” cuts to the Federal Work-Study program (though the amount is not specified). Student aid programs are already insufficient to meet the financial need of today’s students. Low-income students attending postsecondary education face greater challenges than ever; more and more employers are demanding education and training beyond high school. This places students in the difficult position of needing postsecondary training that is increasingly unaffordable. Even without these cuts, students have significant unmet need, particularly students of color. In 2011-12, 57 percent of Black community college students received Pell grants; however, 82 percent still had a remaining unmet financial need averaging $5,000. Three-quarters of students from Asian, Hispanic, and Native backgrounds also have remaining unmet need. 
  • The budget removes $3.9 billion from the Pell grant program, which already covers less than 30 percent of the average cost of college attendance. More than 7.7 million students depend on Pell grants to help cover tuition. Among them, 55 percent have family incomes of $20,000 or less (the poverty threshold for a family of three). Cancelling funding from Pell threatens legal commitments to provide Pell grants to every eligible student who applies. Congress has unique accounting rules for Pell’s need-based guarantee; consequently, reductions in the Pell balance will lead to required, automatic future cuts in either grant amounts or student eligibility policies. Such restrictions would further harm low-income students, compounding the harmful changes made to the Pell grant program in 2011, the last time there was a shortfall
  • Other changes to the core student aid programs include eliminating Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (SEOG), a federal grant program that provides $733 million to help students with greatest need cover college costs. The budget also seeks to “significantly” reduce Federal Work-Study funding that enables low-income students to work their way through college as well as meet SNAP eligibility requirements for food assistance.
  • The budget proposes a 10 percent cut to Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) as well as a one-third reduction in funding for TRIO. GEAR UP, prepares vulnerable youth and low-income, first-generation, and nontraditional students for postsecondary education. TRIO provides services throughout the education pipeline to help students succeed beginning in middle school. This would be particularly harmful for Student Support Services, which should be increased—not cut—in order to connect students to more comprehensive financial supports.

The Department of Labor’s budget would cut $2.5 billion—a debilitating 21 percent reduction from the 2017 annualized CR level.

  • The budget substantially cuts grants to states and local areas to provide workforce training to low-income youth and adults through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), which passed Congress in 2014 with overwhelming bipartisan support. WIOA provides essential career and training services to low-income adults. It’s a primary source of funding that helps states and local communities  support out-of-school youth in accessing job training, reengaging in school, and earning their diploma as well as partner with employers to provide pathways into the workforce.  While the budget proposes that states, localities, and employers take more responsibility for these programs, significant funding reductions will mean less help for low-income workers who are striving to build skills and advance along career pathways to better-paying jobs. 
  • The budget reduces funding for several critical job training programs targeted to specific populations. This includes the proposed elimination of the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) for low-income seniors, which was reauthorized by a bipartisan, nearly unanimous vote last year. SCSEP supports subsidized employment that provides crucial job opportunities for low-income unemployed Americans who are just a few years away from retirement age, giving them a chance to earn wages and serve in their communities.

In addition to Education and Labor cuts, the budget slashes other anti-poverty programs that are crucial for low-income workers and students. For instance, eliminating the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) would cut off assistance to low-income families who can’t cover heating and cooling costs.  Further, ending Health Profession Opportunity Grants (HPOG), which build career pathways for low-skill adults into critical health care careers, would prevent many low-income adults from upgrading their skills and disrupt the pipeline of skilled workers needed by the long-term care and hospital industries. Lastly, eliminating funding for the Corporation for National and Community Service would destroy the AmeriCorps program, which currently enables 80,000 young Americans to support natural disaster relief, provide education and social services to low-income youth and elderly people, and help local communities solve pressing issues such as hunger and poverty. This would abolish crucial opportunities for low-income youth to secure pathways out of poverty through increased access to education, work experience, and civic engagement.

CLASP urges the House and Senate to reject Trump’s budget. Instead, Congress should continue strong federal investments to help low-income Americans succeed in today’s economy by supporting adequate FY18 appropriations for our nation’s fundamental education and workforce programs.