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Trump's Proposed Budget Is A Gut Punch To Educational Opportunity

Trump's proposed budget will take nearly $100 million away from thousands of Massachusetts students who cannot afford to go to college without that help, writes Richard Doherty. Pictured here: English High School students walk past a mural at the school in Jamaica Plain. (Elise Amendola/AP)MoreCloseclosemore
Trump's proposed budget will take nearly $100 million away from thousands of Massachusetts students who cannot afford to go to college without that help, writes Richard Doherty. Pictured here: English High School students walk past a mural at the school in Jamaica Plain. (Elise Amendola/AP)

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The federal budget proposed by President Trump devastates higher education in a particularly cruel way: If you are a bright, working-class student who studies hard, earns good grades and is waiting right now to hear where you will go to college, under this plan, it’s going to be more difficult to attend.

Simply put, this budget, if passed, guts opportunity.

Eliminating Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOGs) and slashing funding to federal work-study and other historically successful programs will take nearly $100 million away from thousands of Massachusetts students who cannot afford to go to college without that help.

The numbers of people in Massachusetts who would be affected by the Trump budget speak for themselves. Last year, 130,000 Massachusetts students received Pell grants. Another 26,000 students would be directly affected by the proposed cut to federal work-study programs, which would take $44 million from Massachusetts families. And 46,000 of our students benefit from FSEOGs, which, under Trump's budget, would be eliminated, taking $28 million from Massachusetts families.

These aren’t just numbers. They are neighbors, friends and family.

Eliminating FSEOGs and slashing funding to federal work-study and other historically successful programs will take nearly $100 million away from thousands of Massachusetts students who cannot afford to go to college without that help.

And the cuts don’t stop there. The Trump budget goes after TRIO, a program that helps low-income individuals, first-generation college students and students with disabilities get into and go through college. It slashes the GEAR UP program, which helps promising students at the country’s very poorest middle and high schools prepare for college. These are just a portion of the proposed $9 billion Education Department cuts.

Common sense and basic decency say we can’t deny hard-working students a chance to succeed simply because they come from less affluent families. America works at its best when those who have talent and a strong work ethic move up to the next level with a little boost from the rest of us.

All of us benefit from that upward movement. America boomed in the last century in large part because hundreds of thousands of men and women — who otherwise would never have gone to college — got degrees through transformational aid programs like the GI Bill and Pell program. Those programs produced the world’s best and most educated workforce; a workforce that wasn’t born wealthy, just smart and determined.

This budget program flies in the face of that history. And it doesn't just slash programs that get our students into college; it's terrible for the economy they will enter after graduation.

Common sense and basic decency say we can’t deny hard-working students a chance to succeed simply because they come from less affluent families.

Massachusetts is not only the nation's best when it comes to higher education; it also produces our best medical research. At our medical schools and affiliated teaching hospitals, researchers and doctors are attacking Alzheimer’s, cancer, heart disease and myriad other global diseases in the world’s best labs, with the best people across the state. Those efforts create spinoffs of new companies, jobs and taxes worth billions of dollars a year to Massachusetts.

The Trump budget devastates this medical research, taking $6 billion from the National Institutes of Health, the agency that funds so much of our research at so many of our institutions. A cut that size — one-fifth of NIH’s budget — means layoffs in Massachusetts. It means that the nation’s best scientists and researchers will not be funded. Potential cures will be left untested. For those of us caring for loved ones with a serious disease, it is a very personal attack on hope.

We can’t allow this budget to go forward. It will cost so many of our students, doctors and researchers America’s greatest gift: opportunity.

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Richard Doherty Twitter Cognoscenti contributor
Richard Doherty has served since 2005 as the President of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in Massachusetts (AICUM), representing the interests of 58 independent colleges and universities throughout Massachusetts.

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