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Higher Education Under President Trump

Is your Higher Ed Brand Poised for Success under the Trump Administration?

With the Inauguration only days away, much drama and confusion are swirling around President Elect Trump, not least of all in the realm of education. Much is unclear about what the higher education landscape could look like four years from now and how institutions will need to individually adjust to stay relevant and competitive.

So what’s causing the most unease? According to Inside Higher Ed, many academic leaders share these concerns:

  • Current national and global climate deterring international students
  • Campuses discourse and decisions about “safe spaces”
  • The rise of the anti-intellectualism that won Trump broad support – Inside Higher Ed

While Trump’s approach to higher education is still being formed with the nomination of Betsy Devos as Education Secretary, it is fairly certain that things will be different.  Here are 4 areas we believe are in his sights:

1)    Accountability Adjustment

Trump has stated that accountability would include ending the tax-exempt status of colleges and universities with large endowments that do not use those funds to cut tuition rates. Colleges need “to spend endowments on their students, not themselves.  They need to use that money to cut the college debt and cut tuition, and they have to do it quickly.”  – Inside Higher Ed

2)    Cost Reduction

Trump has also stated that colleges could save money by eliminating the “tremendous bloat” in their administrations.  While Trump blamed colleges for rising tuitions, he also blamed the federal government. Trump has previously stated he wants to lower college tuition by reducing the “unnecessary costs” of colleges’ compliance with federal regulations.  – The Chronicle of Higher Education

3)    Endowments Recalibration

Trump’s spotlight on endowments seem real. In remarks at a rally in September, he said, “Instead these universities use the money to pay their administrators, to put donors’ names on their buildings, or just store the money, keep it and invest it. They should be using the money on students, for tuition, for student life and for student housing.” – Inside Higher Ed

4)    Financial Aid Reboot

On the campaign trail and again recently, Trump has also expressed an interest in basing student loans on graduates’ incomes and refinancing student loan debt. He has also said he supports risk-sharing proposals, which would hold colleges accountable for student outcomes. Risk sharing would put colleges on the hook financially when their graduates are unable to pay back their student loans. Trump also supports freeing student borrowers from debt after 15 years of repayment. – U.S. News & World Report

What does all this tell us? At least on the fear about how anti-intellectualist trends may influence attitudes towards higher education, Mr. Trump does appear to support the need and value of these institutions by way of wanting to ensure higher education is cost-accessible for more Americans. It will be up to colleges and universities to communicate progress in this area across all audiences.

In the areas of global climate and campus discourse, the coming months will be an excellent time for institutions to look at their student experiences and public missions to understand how they respond to these emerging factors.

Those responses will impact college and university brands – they may support existing positions, like The University of Chicago’s public rejection of “safe spaces”, or may highlight a need to reposition.

Without proactive planning and action, this changing landscape under a Trump administration combined with the current global climate could compromise the standing of higher ed brands. Those institutions who can identify and communicate their relevant benefits and timely point of views to student prospects and key stakeholders will not only endure, but can succeed.

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