March 11, 2019
On March 11, 2019, the White House released the President’s Fiscal Year 2020 budget request to Congress. This budget request reflects the Administration’s spending priorities for the 2020-2021 program year. This proposal includes a historic level of proposed funding cuts — $2.7 trillion — largely aimed at “non-defense discretionary” programs; that is, non-defense programs that support domestic priorities, such as housing, public health, low-income assistance, etc. With respect to the U.S. Department of Education, the Administration proposes to reduce funding by $8.5 billion (or 12%). It also revives last year’s proposal to consolidate TRIO and GEAR UP into a single, state-issued block-grant program at an overall funding level that is approximately one-third below the combined funding levels of both programs. More specifically, the budget proposal states:
The Budget proposes to restructure and streamline the TRIO and GEAR UP programs by consolidating them into a $950 million State formula grant. These grants would support evidence-based postsecondary preparation programs designed to help low-income students progress through the pipeline from middle school to postsecondary opportunities. given the statutory prohibition limiting the Department’s ability to evaluate overall TRIO program effectiveness using the most rigorous methodologies, as well as budget constraints, the Budget supports a restructuring of the programs that leverages evidence-based activities and allows States more flexibility in meeting the unique needs of their students.
In addition to this proposal regarding TRIO and GEAR UP, the budget request also included a plan to consolidate six programs supporting infrastructure and academic support at Minority-Serving Institutions, to allow the Pell Grant to be used for “high-quality, short-term” academic programs, and to eliminate funding for 29 other Departmental programs, including Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (SEOG), Public Service Loan Forgiveness, and 21st Century Learning Centers.
As we have seen illustrated time and time again, the U.S. Constitution places the “power of the purse” in the hands of Congress. It is first the Members of the Appropriations Committees in the House and Senate, and then the Congress as a whole, that will determine the fates of each of these programs. Therefore, it is critical that the TRIO community continue to advocate so that we may preserve the integrity of the TRIO and GEAR UP programs as well as boost their funding in the coming year.
If you have not already done so, we strongly urge you to consider making plans to attend the Council for Opportunity in Education’s 39th Annual Policy Seminar, which will be March 24-27, 2019, in Washington, D.C. During this keystone event, college access and success professionals, alumni, and other supporters will learn key tactics to engage with their legislators in support of TRIO and have the opportunity to engage them directly on Capitol Hill.
Through consistent and concerted advocacy, we will defeat this threat.