education

President Donald Trump's budget blueprint calls for cutting $9 billion from the U.S. Department of Education budget while adding $1.4 billion investments in public and private school choice programs.

Proposed cuts to the department include eliminating the $2.4 billion Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants program, eliminating the $1.2 billion 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, eliminating the $732 million Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (SEOG) program, cutting $3.9 billion in leftover funds from the Pell Grant program as well as "significantly" reducing the Federal Work-Study program.

Missy Perry, director of financial aid with Piedmont Technical College, said the most surprising budget announcements for the school was the elimination of the SEOG program and the reduction in the Federal Work-Study program.

"It's a need-based grant that is given to the most needy students," Perry said of SEOG. "So those who are very, very low income, and each school gets an allocation, and then we have a little bit of leniency with how we award that out. So with us, we award it first-come first-serve -- so the first people who apply for it who are our most needy students receive that."

Perry said she was surprised about then news because the funding isn't being shifted to another grant.

"This is not just moving the funding -- this is actually slashing aid away from the most needy students," Perry said.

Josh Black, assistant vice president of enrollment and communications with Piedmont Tech, said the concern is that the Work-Study program will be reduced by a significant amount and the SEOG money will not be shifted to a grant with a similar purpose or simply used from leftover Pell Grant funds, since those are also being eliminated.

"At the same time, they're eliminating some of the surplus from Pell, which over the long-run, weakens that program. If you kept the surplus and you kept some of that funding and just moved it under one grant, that's one thing," Black said. "This is not shifting, it's doing away with."

The Work-Study program allows students to make extra money on campus while working around their class schedule.

"It allows students to have usually on-campus employment," Perry said. "So they get paid minimum wage up to whatever the school sets -- ours get paid $8 an hour -- but it allows the students to work, get some type of professional experience and use that money to help pay for whatever they need to for educational expenses."

Black said the biggest concern with Work-Study is not knowing how much it will be reduced by, and Perry said the program has already been reduced over the past few years.

"That funding has been going down every year," Perry said.

The budget did not specify how much the Work-Study program would be reduced by.

Perry said the program is also based on need, but it is much broader and up to the institution's discretion on how it's given out, but that there's been talk of making the Work-Study funds stricter and more need-focused.

"Right now there is some need built in to Work-Study, but it's not just targeted toward Pell-eligible students. So a lot of students who are not Pell-eligible but still have need apply for Work-Study as a means to support themselves, get themselves through, but now they're talking about eliminating that and making it focused on need," Perry said.

Piedmont Tech receives about $450,000 in Work-Study funds and has roughly 80 positions on campus for students in Work-Study funded by the grant, and if the funding was significantly cut or eliminated, the school would have to cut the positions they offer students -- which would have an impact on the campus.

"There would be no funding," Black said. "It's good for those students too, because the retention levels, retention rates for those students who participate, and graduation rates, are higher for those students because they're more engaged with the institution, they're more engaged with the faculty and staff, so they tend to stick around and graduate at a higher rate."

Contact staff writer Ariel Gilreath at 864-943-5644 or follow on Twitter@IJARIELGILREATH.