How will the fiscal cliff effect students?

The Fiscal Cliff is looming. It’s hard to brown for more than six seconds on any website without seeing something about it, but what exactly is it? Well, in a nut shell the Fiscal Cliff is the fact that certain tax cuts are going away, and spending cuts are going into effect. This will happen at the same time, meaning that at the same time the taxes for people and businesses will go up, and government spending will decrease.

Cuts in education are coming in 2013, photo by stockmonkeys.com

The tax increases will be mean the losses of many jobs, a tightening of the already weak job market, and a much higher tax bill for most Americans. The simultaneous spending cuts will mean the loss of the many jobs, and a decrease in the benefits received by many Americans.

Almost across the board, this translates to an 8.2 budget cut to all government departments, including education. Which is the point of this whole blog – the Fiscal Cliff is going to hit the department of education as hard as anywhere else, and schools and education programs nationwide will be cut back almost ten percent.

According to Senator Tom Harkin, who tried to put a face on some of these cuts, this will translate to almost two hundred thousand teachers who WONT be receiving professional development training. It also means one million eight hundred thousand students will not be getting services from need-based grants. There are a lot of specific cuts laid out, but overall it comes down to that eight percent budget cut across the board.

One of the biggest ways the Fiscal Cliff will affect distance learning students is through financial aid. That budget cut will be severe in terms of the government lending out money in loans, or giving it out in grants. With less money to spend, the government will spend less on education, and even less than that on giving away to people for their education. So if you are in a position where you NEED scholarships or grants to afford school, this may be a major concern for you. That said, there are many scholarships and grants out there not connected to the federal government.

At the moment, federal student loans and Pell grants are considered to be exempt from many of these budget cuts. But with only two weeks left until we drop off the Cliff, the government still has no plan on how to proceed, to anything can happen, and nothing is sacred.

When this is combined with the scheduled tax increases, and Americans are paying more in taxes and have less income to spend on things like college courses and textbooks, it could be a hard year for adults trying to go back to school.

There are a few mitigating factors. As I already mentioned, state and local government, private industry, church and community organizations, and the like can all offer scholarships or grants for college. Sometimes these come with strings attached, other time they do not.

The Fiscal Cliff budget cuts will not begin immediately on January 2, 2013. By that time the budgets for the year will already have been implemented. But on January 2, things will change, and policies will evolve, and the cuts will begin quickly thereafter. But the cuts in services should be rolled out gradually, meaning that January 2nd isn’t a hard and fast end date for the current education opportunities.

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