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Proposed cuts to the Department of Education budget could significantly impact funding for higher education programs if enacted. Here are estimates of potential funding reductions under different scenarios:

• A 10% across-the-board cut would reduce Ed Dept funding by about $15.7 billion. This includes about $6.7 billion from Pell Grants, $3.3 billion from student loans, $1.8 billion from teacher preparation programs, and $1.3 billion from TRIO programs serving low-income students.

• A 20% cut would reduce funding by $31.4 billion, about double the 10% scenario. Pell Grants would lose $13.4 billion, student loans $6.6 billion, teacher programs $3.6 billion, and TRIO $2.6 billion.

• Eliminating funding for programs like Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (SEOG), Federal Work-Study, Public Service Loan Forgiveness, and teacher professional development could total $3.8 billion in cuts.

• Cutting the maximum Pell Grant award amount by 10-25% would reduce grant funding by $1.7-$4.3 billion. At the 25% cut level, the maximum award would fall from $6,345 to $4,761 per student.

• Capping the number of recipients or eligibility could also substantially reduce Pell’s reach. For example, limiting recipients to those with the lowest expected family contribution (EFC) scores could cut the number of recipients by up to 25% or $4.3 billion.

• Shifting $25-$50 billion of funding from discretionary to mandatory spending, in programming terms, would provide ongoing funding but less flexibility to support emerging priorities. Discretionary funds now make up about 70% of the Ed Dept’s budget.

• Placing a moratorium on new regulations or guidance could limit the department’s influence over policy issues but would have minimal direct budgetary impact. New rules still require budget allocations for implementation.

While cut amounts may differ under various proposals, significant funding reductions for higher education seem likely if major cuts to the Department of Education are enacted. The implications of scaled-back federal support could include decreased access to need-based aid, less resources for underfunded areas like minority-serving institutions, fewer career and college services for students, limited program innovations, staff downsizing, and institutional strain. With less funding, the department would also struggle to implement new legislation or adjust to evolving education priorities.

By analyzing potential cut scenarios, the higher education community can calculate risks and develop mitigation strategies to limit damage from actions threatening to reduce federal support for colleges and students. Protecting resources for those with the greatest needs may require raising awareness of impacts, building advocacy coalitions, and finding alternative funding sources. The future of education investment is unclear, making proactive crisis planning essential.


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