Trump budget could impact low-income students with reductions to Pell Grant

The president's proposed budget would reduce $3.9 billion from the program

President Donald Trump’s budget proposal could affect college students in low-income households, with a $3.9 billion reduction to funding for the Pell Grant program.

The Pell Grant program provides low-income students with a maximum of $5,815 per semester (for the 2016-17 school year). The program is prioritized for students of families with an annual income less than $20,000, but awards grants for households with up to $40,000 in annual income. 

In 2016, the program provided grants for over eight million students according to the Department of Education.

The budget, released in March, omits specific details for much of the proposal. The proposal only mentions the Pell Grant three times, once in reference to the elimination of the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant. 

Trump’s budget proposes eliminating $3.9 billion in “unobligated carryover funding,” which the budget claims would sustain the program for the next decade.

Many have criticized the president’s proposal, including Randy Perez, an ASU political science and public policy junior and activist.

“It’s really disappointing that people who are in elected positions don’t see the value in investing in young people anymore,” Perez said. “Reducing access, particularly for people of color and those of low-income, to get higher education contributes to all the inequities in our society.”

Perez criticized Republican lawmakers for the proposed cuts, especially within the framework of the budget. Perez said it seemed the only item in a Republican toolbox was “scissors or a hatchet.”

The budget will have to gain congressional approval. Perez and others, such as Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona), believe that it is unlikely to happen.

“I don’t think this budget, as it stands today, has a chance in hell of passing Congress,” Perez said. “You’ll see ... a lot of moderate Republicans not be happy with the budget.”

Josh Burton, a 2016 journalism graduate who benefitted from the Pell Grant during his time at the University, said the grant is helpful for those who can't graduate in four years, as it provides funding for 12 semesters, equivalent to six years.

"A lot of people who are attending these four-year universities aren't graduating in four," Burton said. "Which is a financial nightmare." 

Burton said that scholarships covered much of his tuition, but the grant helped him graduate debt-free.

"(The grant) allowed me to cover living expenses at home and basically be able to tailor my college education," Burton said. "If it did that much for me, I can't imagine what that several thousand dollars a semester would do for someone who is trying to balance one or two jobs."

David Wells, a politics professor at the Downtown Phoenix campus, said in an email that a year-round Pell Grant program would be preferable to the cuts and reductions proposed by the president. 

He also said those concerned about the possible cuts can contact their representatives in Congress. 

“We're pretty far from having any of this enacted,” Wells said. “It's a good time to contact your Senators and members of Congress to express concerns about the impact of cuts.”

Reach the reporter at or follow @mitchellatencio on Twitter.

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