Trump’s proposed education cuts could leave impact on public education in Berkeley

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President Donald Trump’s preliminary 2018 budget, which proposes a $9 billion reduction in funding for education, could mean significant changes for public education in Berkeley and across California.

The budget blueprint proposes reduced financial aid funding for low-income students, as well as significant cuts in funding for research — changes that could leave a notable impact on the UC system and UC Berkeley, according to campus public policy and higher education experts.  

John Ellwood, a campus professor emeritus in the Goldman School of Public Policy, said the proposed cuts to research could be harmful for UC Berkeley as a research university. The budget proposes the elimination of programs and funding in research on climate change, energy technologies and Earth science, among other fields.

“Large scale cuts in the (National Institute of Health), (National Science Foundation), (Department of Energy) and other federal agencies will have a disproportionate impact on campuses’ like Berkeley which are among the most successful competitors for federal research funding — one major source for economic innovation in California,” said John Douglass, a senior research fellow at the UC Berkeley Center for Studies in Higher Education, in an email.

Douglass added that the proposed cuts to the National Institute of Health — a $5.8 billion reduction in spending — along with the termination of aspects of the Affordable Care Act could have a substantial impact on “the economic viability of UC’s research hospitals and the economic model that helps sustain our UC campuses.”

At the K-12 level, many after school programs could also be hit hard by the changes, as the budget proposes the elimination of the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, which provides federal grants to before school, after school and summer programs. The budget states that the cut is based on the programs lacking “strong evidence of meeting its objectives, such as improving student achievement.”

The Berkeley Unified School District currently has two after school programs — Berkeley BEARS and Berkeley LEARNS — which service nearly half of the students in the district, according to Aaron Jorgensen, the district’s extended learning program supervisor.

The district’s after school programs aim to provide students with enrichment and individual attention, allowing students access to a variety of opportunities in areas such as art, music, science, math and sports, said Madan Kumar, Washington Elementary School’s PTA president.

“To cut to those programs (is) really hard to take,” Kumar said. “Every time you cut back … we are doing a disservice to the kids.”

LEARNS received funding from the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program until 2014 and applied for another grant from the program in December, Jorgensen said. Jorgensen added that he is hoping to hear back in the spring about whether or not they will receive a grant.

If approved, the 2018 budget could mean the loss of financial aid for many low-income undergraduate students. Under the budget blueprint, the Pell Grant would lose $3.9 billion in unobligated carryover funding, the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant program, or SEOG, would be eliminated and work-study would be reduced “significantly.”

The drop in Pell Grant funding, Douglass stated in his email, would drastically impact UC and California State University students because both systems enroll a significant number of low-income students.  

According to the UC Berkeley Financial Aid website, 33 percent of campus undergraduates receive a Pell Grant and the campus awards up to $400 per recipient per year in SEOG funds.

“Much can change as (the budget proposal) travels through Congress,” Douglass said in his email. “But with a highly conservative House and Senate, big changes in budget priorities that reflect this opening budget proposal are highly likely that, in turn, will likely fundamentally change the financial health of America’s public and private universities, and not for the good.”

Sydney Fix is the lead schools and communities reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @sydney_fix.