On Thursday, April 10 from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m., U.S. Congressman Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, and other Democratic members of Congress hosted a Twitter town hall to discuss the recently passed House GOP budget. Developed by Senator Paul Ryan, R- Wisconsin, the budget proposed 5.1 trillion dollars in tax cuts to numerous programs, including funding higher education by limiting or eliminating Pell Grants. Using the #Umatter, participants were able to virtually question their representatives. The many questions asked revealed disapproval of the budget from both students and House Democrats, and support of the budget by many conservatives.

Why should students care about the Ryan budget?

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, stated that the GOP budget “makes college less affordable for students by cutting aid for higher education by $205 billion over the next ten years.”

“How does the Ryan Budget affect students in states such as Texas?

Congressman Castro stated, “60 percent of student aid is through student loans…the Ryan budget would hurt students through the proposal of charging interest of student loans while still in school.” With trillions of dollars of student debt accumulated, Congressman Paul Tonko, D-NY, agreed that increasing interest rates for students while they’re in school could be harmful.

He stated that the GOP budget would only add to the already large amount of student-accumulated debt. Along with the increase in interest rates, the newly-proposed eligibility requirements for Pell Grants would directly affect students by eliminating aid for part-time students and increasing the eligibility requirements for full-time students.

One alternative for college students might be the ability to attain an education through trade schools or vocational training programs, but Congressman Castro, who represents UTSA in San Antonio’s district 20, stated the “Ryan budget doesn’t expand for vocational education and cuts job training programs for 3.5 million people.”

Another tweet asked about the future of the American Opportunity Tax Credit.

The American Opportunity Tax Credit is meant to help parents and students pay for college by providing a credit to tuition payers. Congressman Castro stated that the “Ryan budget lets the American Opportunity Tax Credit expire, increasing student costs by $1,100 each year.”

A Twitter question also asked what students can expect if the Ryan budget were to pass.

Representative Marc Veasey mentioned that in ten years “63 percent of jobs will require a college degree.”

The increase in the percentage of jobs requiring a college degree might not be due to the proposed budget, but the proposed cuts make the ability to attain a degree more difficult, thus forcing low-income students to enter a job market ten years from now without a degree.

Many students contributed their perspectives during the town hall, varying from the positive to the negative.

Student Brian Joel voiced his dissatisfaction with the budget. “Students cannot pay off student loans and live the ‘American Dream.’ We shouldn’t be punished for wanting a degree.”

Alex Barbieri, political science student at George Washington University, mentioned that the budget hinders students’ ability to go to school and said, “education needs to be a priority.” Student Justin G. Till supports the Ryan budget and stated “ if Democrats’ idea of affordability is corralling more people into loans, they’ve got no solutions. #Umatter more than that, students.”

Congressman Castro ended the Town Hall by saying, “Thank you students for participating in our conversation on college affordability. Your voice is important to policy making. Stay engaged.”

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