So what will a Trump administration do to/for/with American higher education?
It is now established that it’s difficult to predict anything around Trump. Worse for prediction, his campaign said very little about post-secondary education, so we have little to go on. And yet we need to think hard about what this new administration might mean for the next four years.
Here are some possibilities, based on some Trump signals, recent Republican practice, and trendlines. They aren’t in any meaningful order:
The American economy might decline for various reasons (stock market shock, foreign capital gets cold feet, some businesses accelerate outsourcing, etc). This could drive more students to higher ed, as with 2008. It could also clobber endowments and already stressed state budgets.
The GOP might pressure the richest institutions to change endowment practices in favor of spending more on students. We’ve already seen signs of that at federal and local levels.
Related: the newly empowered GOP could pressure public and private institutions to freeze tuition. As the Trump site mentions, he’d like to
[w]ork with Congress on reforms to ensure universities are making a good faith effort to reduce the cost of college and student debt in exchange for the federal tax breaks and tax dollars.
Ensure that the opportunity to attend a two or four-year college, or to pursue a trade or a skill set through vocational and technical education, will be easier to access, pay for, and finish.
There may be increased pressure on science and research in general, such as funding cuts (exacerbated if the economy turns sour) and political attacks on certain research areas (think climate change, reproductive health) . There’s also a rumor or leak about Trump picking a climate change “skeptic” for the EPA. (Ars Technica has more on this)
For-profits could experience a renaissance, after their recent catastrophe. (cf Sara Goldrick-Rab)
We could see more student protest along the lines of last year, targeting sexism, racism, transphobia, and more, but intensified. Tensions could easily be heightened by Trump supporters demonstrating, protesting, acting creatively, or otherwise staking a claim in academic spaces. There are already early signs of a rise in anti-immigrant and -minority incidents. Perhaps we should plan on many scenes of pro-Trump students clashing with anti-Trump activists. Obviously part of this will occur, and be accelerated by, social media. We’ve already seen student unrest this week. (On a personal note, my university-attending daughter has already participated in two protests.)
The Obama administration pressured campuses to intensify their efforts to punish and reduce sexual assault. I doubt the Trump administration would be willing to continue this policy.
The academy is going to work hard to study how Trump’s upset of Clinton occurred. Political science, history, American studies, sociology, media studies, and other fields will be busy. Expect seminars this spring, along with conference panels, articles, and books coming as quickly as we can produce them. There are already conflicting schools of interpretation, such as racism and sexism versus economics as primary causal factors.
An emphasis on regrowing American manufacturing could lead to several outcomes: more support for maker spaces; a push for German/Swiss-style apprenticeship programs; pressure for K-12 to return to vocational tech; support for technical colleges.
Expanding copyright protection: a very pro-business leadership usually inclines towards strengthening intellectual property protection, from copyright to patents. Additionally, Trump is close to Hollywood, who’s long been militant in this sphere. So we might expect a return to the Bill Clinton era of pushing hard towards IP maximalization. Some researchers like this when they view it in terms of protecting their intellectual property, while others abhor it as a block to creative expression.
Related: Trump probably won’t support open education or open access for scholarly publication.
We could lose some international students, especially from Muslim-majority and Latino nations. That’s bad news for institutional diversity and economics. (Inside Higher Ed)
The Department of Education’s budget and influence might get cut back (Sara Goldrick-Rab).
What else should we consider?
(image found somewhere on Facebook; my apologies for not being able to source it; thanks to Edhead for the Trump site reminder)