Budget deficit could lead to education cuts

The U.S. House and Senate education committees will vote in the coming weeks on whether to approve proposed spending cuts on educational programs in an effort to reduce the federal budget deficit.

The U.S. House Education and the Workforce Committee, which Congress has asked to cut $12.6 billion from its total budget, will vote today on whether or not to approve the proposed reductions through the passage of the Higher Education Budget Reconciliation Act. The committee’s counterpart in the Senate was asked to reduce spending by $13.65 billion over the next five years. It will vote on the issue in the next two to three weeks, said Luke Swarthout, a higher education associate for State Public Interest Research groups, which is a series of state-based nonprofits that lobbies for college students.

The proposed changes in federal grant assistance will not affect Yale’s ability to provide aid for its students because any changes in federal aid will be made up for by increases in institutional aid, Yale Director of Financial Aid Cesar Storlazzi said.

“If necessary, Yale will make additional funds available,” Storlazzi said. “We don’t want to see these decreases, because they mean additional costs all around, but we’re committed to our student aid program as it is,” Storlazzi said.

Though Yale might have to increase aid funding to make up for the shortfall, the changes will not impact Yale’s financial aid policies, Deputy Provost for Undergraduate and Graduate Programs Lloyd Suttle said.

“The University budget might take a hit, but not in a way that would cause us to change our policy,” Suttle said. “We will face a budget challenge, but we will solve that without changing policies.”

The bills also do not present a significant threat to private institutions because the majority of financial aid these schools provide is in the form of institutional rather than federal aid, Harvard Director of Federal Relations Suzanne Day said.

The proposed cuts amount to a historic decrease in funding for federal spending on grants for higher education, Swarthout said.

“Budget reconciliation includes the largest cut to student aid programs in history,” Swarthout said. “The Senate bill is less bad than the House bill, but both bills … ask students in a deep financial hole to dig deeper.”

But a portion of the cuts — up to $8 billion — will be earmarked grant assistance, said Ryan Taylor, a spokesperson for Republicans on the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

“The budget reconciliation is not a true dollar for dollar offset,” Taylor wrote in an e-mail. “We have made reforms to student loan programs to create savings and created a new grant program to make higher education more affordable.”

Yale Director of Federal Relations Richard Jacob said he thinks the distribution of funds from the savings is not optimal and could be better allocated by increasing funds for student aid.

“The balance isn’t right,” Jacob said. “The savings ought to be used to increase the amount of aid available to students. Congress really ought to rethink the direction on reconciliation.”

The proposed cuts are a response to a budget resolution approved by Congress in April that asked eight Congressional committees to reduce total spending by $35 billion by this month.

Comments