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Nov 08 2017
by Sophia Johnson-Grimes

A Reflection on the Impact of Trump's First Year in Office on College Students

By Sophia Johnson-Grimes - Nov 08 2017
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As crazy as it seems, it has officially been one year since Donald Trump was elected President of the United States. One year since many lost hope, one year since many celebrated, and one year since the political divide in our country widened by several miles. It is often said that a lot can happen in a year, and it seems that our current administration has taken this phrase as a challenge. Many of the actions our new government has put into place have had, or could potentially have, an enormous impact on college students. Here are just a few of the things that Donald Trump and his administration have done that affects American college students in the past year. 

1. Trump's DACA Decision 

Jonathan Daniels via Unsplash

Back in 2012, former president Barack Obama signed off on a new protection act in order to secure the rights for those who were brought to the United States illegally as children, called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (otherwise known as DACA). As long as these children, referred to as Dreamers, had arrived before age 16 and had been living within the United States since June 15, 2007, they were eligible to be temporarily protected from deportation and permitted to work and apply to American colleges (DACA candidates are not, however, eligible for government provided financial aid, so many pay out of pocket for their schooling). It is estimated that upwards of 241,000 Dreamers are enrolled in college today. However, with Trump's major crackdowns on illegal immigrants, he and his administration have proposed disbanding this program, which means the citizenship status of the Dreamers is completely up in the air. Though Trump fiercely proclaimed his intentions of ending DACA during his campaign, he has recently suggested a somewhat softer stance, tweeting "Does anybody really want to throw out good, educated and accomplished young people who have jobs, some serving in the military? Really!" If DACA is disbanded, nearly 30,000 people will lose their protected status per month as permits start to expire beginning March 6th. When these permits expire, Dreamers will lose the ability to work and enroll in school, thus they will be forced to drop out and have an increased risk of deportation. Many colleges (including mine, Muhlenberg College) have made statements since news broke of Trump's plans for the DACA program, saying that they will continue to support dreamers in whatever ways they can. However, the future is still uncertain for the Dreamers and many are on the edge of their seats. 

2. Trump's Proposed Tax Plan

Vitaly via Unsplash

If you're anything like me, economics is somewhat of an enigma. However, it is vital to posses a basic understanding in order to truly understand what is happening in our country and our world. It seems like Trump is always talking about tax cuts, but what does he mean by this? In the most basic terms, Trump is planning to slice taxes for big businesses in order to simulate the economy through what is known as "Trickle Down Economics", the theory that money spurts from the top of the economic pyramid and spreads the wealth as it flows downward. His reasoning is that if he cuts taxes for big businesses, then they will have more money to spend to keep the economy moving and benefit everybody else. How does this relate to college students? Turns out, you as a college student can actually somewhat benefit from this new tax plan, as long as you're at the lower end of the tax bracket. According to UC Santa Barbara professor John Wooley, the main benefit is that this will double the standard deduction, aka the amount you take off your income before income tax is added. However, he continues by adding that this plan may indirectly affect you if you are still considered a dependent (living off of your parent's wages), especially if your parents live in a high tax state. Unfortunately, in the long run, the majority of students will not benefit from this plan because it leads to increased taxes/interest rates in the future, which contribute to student debt. The proposed plan is estimated to add $7 million to the deficit in the next ten years. So, long story short, we may benefit now, but we'll pay (literally) later. 

3. Cuts to the Educational Budget

Element5 Digital via Unsplash

College is extremely expensive nowadays, and students everywhere feel day to day anxiety about the mountains of debt waiting for them once they are handed their diplomas. With Betsy DeVos serving as secretary of education, there has been talk of slashing the federal education department's budget in favor of placing the money elsewhere within the government's budget. This proposal has an enormous impact on American public schools, but hardly anybody seems to be discussing the severe toll these cuts will take on America's colleges. DeVos's plan has two major impacts on those pursuing higher education: the federal student loan forgiveness program would be eliminated and interest rates would go up for students with graduate school debt. With the federal student loans forgiveness plan, enacted in 2007, former students were encouraged to seek public sector jobs within the government or a nonprofit organization and pay a small percentage of their salary in exchange for debt forgiveness. By cutting this program, the people who have formally participated will be completely cut off, leaving them with tremendous debt that they weren't planning on having to pay off. In addition, DeVos is planning on increasing interest rates for graduate students, which means it will take a lot longer to finally be debt free. She plans to re-route this extra money straight into the funding of private and charter schools, in favor of giving people a choice in where they can send their children to school, which ultimately will cause the demise of many public schools. All in all, nobody seems to benefit from this plan except the elite, leaving college students in the dust once again. 

These are just a few ways that Trump's presidency has affected our lives on campus, not to mention the rise of hateful incidences on college campuses since him taking office this past January. It has been a hectic and strange year, and unfortunately this is the world we live in at the moment. However, what college students need to understand is that these times don't have to be as scary as they seem, and that they can make a huge difference in how the next three years will play out. In order to change the lives of college students across the nation, students must take the initiative to make sure that institutions of higher learning continue to encourage all students to pursue their passions and continue to welcome all with open arms. To make a difference in the way politics affect your life on campus, click here to find the number for your local representatives. Make sure you continue to make your voice be heard, because change begins with you. 

Lead Image Credit: David Everett Strickler via Unsplash

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Sophia Johnson-Grimes - Muhlenberg College

Sophia is a freshman at Muhlenberg College. She plans to major in theatre, but politics have always been a passion of hers. She is also an avid reader and loves Parks and Rec, RuPaul's Drag Race, and Bojack Horseman.

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