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In his first address to a joint session of Congress, President Donald Trump brought up several issues that could impact colleges and universities, without mentioning higher education directly.

During his hour-long speech on February 28, Trump echoed many of the positions his campaign—and now administration—have shared, including middle-class jobs creation, border security, terrorism, and the confirmation of his nominee to the Supreme Court.

The White House is expected to release its FY18 budget request on March 16, and Trump hinted at what might be included. Most notable is a $54 billion increase in defense spending, which would require cuts of the same amount to nonmilitary programs, including education, science, and the environment. More information on these cuts will likely be outlined in the budget request.

The president announced he will ask Congress to approve legislation that "produces a $1 trillion investment in infrastructure of the United States, financed through both public and private capital, creating millions of new jobs." Such an investment would eclipse the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 stimulus bill, which included $105 billion of the package's $831 billion in total spending for infrastructure improvements.

Trump also highlighted his long-standing position that there are too many regulations in Washington, mentioning the deregulation task forces he plans to place in each agency, as well as his executive order directing federal agencies to identify two existing regulations for elimination for every one new regulation promulgated. Few specifics have been provided on how this deregulation plan would work.

The president also called for border security and the enforcement of current immigration laws. He made no indication of what this means for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which allows young undocumented individuals who meet specific criteria to register with the federal government without fear of deportation in order to work, pay taxes, and attend school in a legally sanctioned way.

While the details of a "repeal and replace" of the Affordable Care Act are uncertain, the president made clear that his campaign promise was still a top priority. Congressional Republicans in both chambers passed a budget resolution in January that included instructions permitting ACA repeal legislation to move through the Senate through a process that prohibits Democrats from filibustering. In his address, Trump highlighted principles for Congress to consider when replacing ACA:

  • Allow for patients with pre-existing conditions to have access to coverage.
  • Help citizens purchase their own coverage through the use of tax credits and expanded health savings accounts.
  • Give governors resources and flexibility in regards to Medicaid.
  • Protect patients and doctors from unnecessary costs.
  • Allow for the purchase of insurance across state lines.

He did not mention of the provision in the ACA that allows children to stay on their parents' insurance plans until they reach the age of 26.

Trump did not provide details on his tax plan, though he did mention "massive tax relief for the middle class." Otherwise, his mentions of taxes were focused solely on businesses.

Following the joint session, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement, "President Trump's plan to grow our economy will work because it focuses on a middle-income tax cut for working families and an end to regulations that are stifling job creation." He added that the administration plans to "unleash the new jobs and higher wages Americans desperately need and deserve."


Bryan Dickson

Director, Student Financial Services and Educational Programs


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