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Here's how education reforms from the White House might impact you

Betsy Devos
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos speaks during an Interagency meeting to discuss youth programs throughout each of the member agencies in the State Dining room of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, March 18, 2019.(Olivier Douliery/ Abaca Press/TNS)

The White House released a proposal in March that aims to reform the Higher Education Act. Included with this proposal is a proposed budget that could potentially affect certain student aid.

Within student aid policy, the proposal aims to do five main things: reform education to better support nontraditional students, expand the groups of people that Federal Pell Grants are available for, investigate the institutions in which these grants are being used, simplify the process of acquiring student aid and loans and reallocate money from the U.S. Department of Education.

The proposal would like to simplify the process of acquiring student aid and loans by extending loan forgiveness for all undergraduate students and by making the process of choosing a payment plan easy for students to understand.

In a press release earlier this month, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said the administration's focus is helping students adapt.

“Right now, there are 7.3 million unfilled jobs in the United States, yet too many Americans remain out of the workforce because they lack the skills necessary to seize these opportunities,” she said.

The proposal aims to allow people who did not receive higher education to become a part of the working class, stating that any skill set deserves a paying career.

All of these initiatives are an attempt to reform the Higher Education Act, which is overdue for an update.

“At the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP), we agree that it is past time to reauthorize the Higher Education Act and ensure that it reflects the experiences of today’s students and supports them through graduation and beyond,” Julie Ajinkya, vice president of Applied Research at the Institute for Higher Education Policy, said in a statement.

Receiving student aid can be an overwhelming process, especially for students who are taking out loans to pay their way through school. For some, the multiple options and plans can be confusing and even misleading.

Mireille Leone, a UNC student who has experience with taking out student loans, said she believes the changes in this proposal could benefit students.

“When you’re taking money to help pay for college, it’s really important that you know what kind of loan that you’re taking, and when you’re going to have to pay it back, and the interest rates, and the whole process," she said. "So I think if they were able to provide more information for students on it, it would definitely be helpful.” 

Many college students who come from households with parents who have a combined income of $60,000 or lower receive Federal Pell Grants to help cover the cost of their tuition.These grants are opportunities for students to receive financial support they do not have to pay back to the university they attend, except under certain conditions.

Along with his new proposal, President Trump has recommended certain budget cuts and increases. One major cut includes the to the Department of Education, whose budget is projected to drop 12 percent. The administration would like to reallocate funding to support Pell Grants for short-term programs.

Certain advocacy groups have said taking this money from the reserves could cause problems for the abilities of the grant program in future years.

Lindsay Corbett, a UNC student who has received some of this federal funding, said she thinks these cuts will affect students.

“I think Federal Pell Grants open up opportunities to students to be able to come to school and not stress as much about having to pay for college and where that money is going to come from. Especially putting pressure on parents,” Corbett said. “In my case, you have two going to college at the same time, and I think cutting it out would definitely be an issue, but I don’t think it’s going to stop students from going to college, and I think if they really want an education, then they will find that money somewhere else.”

The policy changes in this proposal are mainly just desires on behalf of the administration, but DeVos has expressed optimism.

"I look forward to working with Congress on improving educational opportunities for all of America's students," she said.


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