Trump’s Education & Health Cuts Cripple Indians’ American Dream

How will Trump’s policies on healthcare and education affect Indians living in the US? Without a doubt, negatively.

Published31 Jul 2017, 02:59 PM IST
Education
4 min read

The 2-million-strong Indian-American population has always taken pride in its public system. Be it the access to a quality education or provision of health services, the US has always had an edge over other developed countries. But that might change soon as Trump prepares to trim the spending on education by over $9.2 billion (14%) as well as repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) 2010. While both these decisions have met with strong criticism from within the Republican Party and the Senate, the mere thought of such drastic measures should worry the Indian diaspora.

The majority of the proposed education spending cuts are in the field of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) focused programs. For instance, Trump wants to totally scrap the $1.1 billion 21st Century Community Learning Center program, which finances after-school and summer programs, including many with a STEM focus. He also wants to roll back the new Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants, one of the few federal programs that school districts can use for science and technology. It is well known fact that many Indian-American students go on to focus their studies on STEM and these move will force them to either choose different subjects or move them towards the private education system which is fairly expensive.

It is difficult to ascertain the rationality behind this move given that President Trump recently decided to donate his quarterly salary of $100,000 towards a camp focused on STEM and reiterated his commitment towards the STEM fields.

Substantial cuts to the tune of $2.3 billion are also proposed for teacher training and class-size reduction which will directly impact the quality of education. The money, on the other hand, is getting diverted towards the school choice program for which most NRIs are not eligible as their income levels are higher than the stipulated level for this program.

Not a Book-Friendly Budget

Policies of the Trump administration will significantly increase the cost of attending college in USA.
Policies of the Trump administration will significantly increase the cost of attending college in USA.
(Photo: AP)
The Indian-American population has the highest percentage of college-going students in the US and most of them avail of the federal loan scheme, which offers interest subsidy.

Under this year’s budget, the government has proposed to stop subsidising the interest cost, which will significantly increase the cost of attending college. The government also plans to phase out the public service loan forgiveness scheme as well as make unfavourable changes to the repayment plans. This will have an impact on their decisions to pursue college in US and they may wish to explore other cheaper options across the world.

The news on the higher education front is also bleak for Indian students looking to study in the US on scholarships. The Trump administration has proposed to cut the budget for the Fulbright program by over 47%.

This program is highly sought after by the Indian students and scholars who wish to enroll in American colleges and research groups.

The visitor program which allows current and future leaders from India and the rest of the world to experience American culture and education is also downsized by 45%.

Massive cuts are also proposed for federally funded research programs in the field of environment protection and energy which will directly impact students who wish to enroll into Doctorate programs in these particular fields. The country that was known the world over for producing cutting edge technology and innovation is now staring at an intellectual slump thanks to Mr. Trump. On a positive note, this will surely provide an impetus to our ‘Make in India’ program provided the Indian government can put the money where the mouth is.

How will the Modi administration react to Trump’s education policy hurting Indian students in USA?
How will the Modi administration react to Trump’s education policy hurting Indian students in USA?
(Photo: Twitter/Indian Embassy in USA)

Unhealthy Economics

On the issue of healthcare, the NRIs can breathe easy for now as the bill to repeal ‘The Obamacare’ has been killed in the senate thanks to the ailing senator John McCain. However, this may not be the end of all deliberations on this issue. Given, Trump’s strong urge to win we might see another attempt at tinkering with the ACA.

Certain provisions such as excluding small business from providing insurance to its employees, charging senior citizens five times as much as the younger Americans, as well as charging higher premiums for those with pre-existing conditions, will be detrimental to the interest of the Indian diaspora in US.

If these changes are brought about, then cost of insurance will go up drastically and Indian parents who are dependent upon their children will bear the maximum brunt – this might even force people to send their aged parents back home to India.

The much touted ‘Great American Dream’ is under threat, as the US might not remain a favourable destination for Indians looking to settle abroad. The favourable social policy of the US was a big factor in the rise of Indian diaspora in their country, but given the misadventures of the Trump administration in the field of Public Education and Health, the prospective NRIs and students may not see the country in the same light anymore.

(Prateek Kanwal is a World Bank Scholar currently pursuing his Masters in Public Policy from Harvard University. Views expressed are personal and he can be reached out via Twitter @prateekkanwal)

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