Joe Biden released his $6.8 trillion budget Thursday paying close attention to three areas: infrastructure, healthcare and education.
The administration is poising the Department of Education to support students’ and alumni’s financial obligations, build more equitable access to college, and address the student mental health crisis. The $90 billion runway is a $10.8 billion increase from its current level.
Lifting learners’ financial burden
Biden and co. proposed a $2.7 billion budget for the Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) with a specific interest on loans, aiming to update student loan servicing and support those paying back loans this year after a three-year break from the pandemic. This is a $620 million increase from last year’s budget.
The boost in funding is partly relative to Joe Biden’s student loan relief initiative held up in the U.S. Supreme Court. If approved, FSA will be responsible for its implementation. Without proper infrastructure to support such an overhaul, students and borrowers will “bear the brunt.”
“At a time when the Office of Federal Student Aid is already stretched thin and is implementing many critical initiatives, it cannot be understated how important it will be to ensure that the agency has the necessary resources to complete these monumental undertakings,” said NASFAA President and CEO Justin Draeger.
Pell Grant recipients are also reaping some benefits, as they are looking at a $820 increase to $8,215 for the 2024-25 award year.
Assisting low-income and marginalized students
Students who display need will be able to opt-in to up to two years of community college, supported by a $500 million discretionary grant program. Community colleges will also benefit from a $429 million increase in institutional capacity, as well as HBCUs, Tribally Controlled Colleges and Universities (TCCUs) and Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs).
Wrangling the student mental health crisis
With mental health taking a hit post-pandemic, especially among college students, the administration is pumping out $578 in federal aid. Colleges and universities will exclusively see $150 million of that to help hire out more mental health providers expand campus-wide strategies.
Despite the thoughtful strategies put forward by Biden’s administration to assist challenges in higher education, pushback to the proposal looms. Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the top Republican on the Budget Committee, called the entire proposal “unserious” and a “road map for fiscal ruin.” House Speaker Kevin McCarthy equally condemned the budget, remarking that it would create the “biggest government in history.”