Trump’s Budget Cuts Will Crush the Dreams of Low-Income Students Who Want to Go to College

This article was written by An Garagiola-Bernier and published in the Washington Post.

She had a difficult life, growing up in a low-income home, dropping out of high school to help pay expenses, then suffering a debilitating disease that made it impossible to work and required multiple surgeries. She relied on charity to get by, but eventually enrolled in a community college. She made it to Hamline University, where she has a scholarship awarded by the John Kent Cooke Foundation. But she could not have made it to where she is today without the help of multiple federal assistance programs for low-income students like her. Those programs are now jeopardized by the proposed budget cuts.

She writes:

President Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos never had to worry about the cost of a college education for themselves or their children. They never had to skip meals because they couldn’t afford to buy food. They never feared becoming homeless because they couldn’t afford a place to live.

Unfortunately, I — like millions of other low-income people — have had these worries. Not because we are lazy, ignored our school work or are not very bright. We simply didn’t have the good fortune of Trump and DeVos to be born into wealthy families. Many of us have had other bad breaks as well.

In my own case, I dropped out of high school to work at a low-wage job to help my mother pay mounting bills. Later, I was stricken with a disease called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome that made it impossible for me to work for seven years and required me to undergo 12 surgeries, leaving me and my husband struggling to get by with our three children. I turned to a charity to pay my enormous medical bills. Disabled, with little education, my employment opportunities were dismal.

Fortunately, I found my way to community college and then transferred to Hamline University in St. Paul, Minn., where I am now a student. My life was transformed when I received a Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship that provides me with up to $40,000 a year for my education at Hamline. But most low-income students aren’t as lucky.

I resumed my education after many years out of school because, like the vast majority of low-income students, I want to make something of myself, get a good job and leave poverty behind. I am told the best way to do this is to get an education beyond high school.

But instead of helping us to further our educations, President Trump recently proposed his “America First” budget that calls for a 13 percent cut in the Education Department budget, amounting to $9 billion.

In higher education, Trump has proposed taking $3.9 billion in surplus funds from Pell Grants for low-income students to use for other parts of government; $200 million in cuts to other programs that help low-income students pay for and succeed in college; cuts to the Federal Work-Study program that pays students to hold part-time jobs; and elimination of the Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants for low-income students.

Two particularly effective programs that prepare low-income students for college and help them graduate would be hit hard — one called GEAR-UP (the acronym stands for Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) would be eliminated, and a group of programs called TRIO would be cut. TRIO got its name from three initiatives that date to the 1960s.

How can Trump “make America great again” by denying access to higher education to those students who are low-income?

How is he “putting America first” if he closes the doors of opportunity to those who were not born rich like him?

from sarah


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