Preparing for a second Trump administration

What might the next American presidential administration mean for higher education?

I’ve been tracking the US election closely, given the many impacts its results could have on colleges and universities. Until last month I thought the race too close to call this far ahead, with each candidate having a 50% chance of winning, taking into account various factors and metrics: polls, prediction markets, the thirteen keys model, and so on.

Now, after the first debate and its fallout, I think it’s time to plan on the likelihood of a second Trump presidency.Trump and Biden debate 2024 June_CNN

Obviously this is a chaotic moment. News organizations are increasingly asking Biden to step aside, which is inflecting their report.  A growing number of politicians, pundits, activists, and donors are openly calling for Biden to step down as well as to suggest replacements. There is a great deal of spin, leaking, lobbying, and a fierce amount of backstage scheming.  Sifting through this as best I can, I think what’s emerging is that Biden’s chances have dipped down and Trump’s have grown.  Poll-minder extraordinaire Nate Silver thinks Trump now has 2:1 odds over Biden.

Four months is a long time in politics.  All kinds of things could happen: a health crisis for either candidate; changes to either the Gaza or Ukraine wars; twists to the American economy; domestic disasters, climate-driven and otherwise.  To say nothing of Trump’s various legal processes… yet I think it’s prudent for academics to start taking a second Trump term as a serious possibility, and to start planning accordingly.

I don’t come to this conclusion with any delight.  Personally, I’ve never been a Trump supporter.  I have grave concerns about what his administration might do to the world, including higher education, and will do my best to stop such a thing from happening.  Yet I think the election is playing out in such a way that we need to prepare.  Others are making contingency plans, like NATO.

As a professional futurist, I have some practices and platforms which might be useful to academics and the academically-adjacent as they consider what Trump 2.0 might mean. After talking with my Patreon supporters and a bunch of colleagues, here’s what I can offer.

Future Trends Forum sessions First, I’m looking for academic experts on this election to meet with us.  Professors of political science, government, economics, etc. are welcome.  We can connect them with the Forum live audience to hash out a forecast of what the next presidency might mean for higher ed.

Second, I could run a scenario exercise, a virtual tabletop simulation.  We would start with positing how election night might turn out, as participants (playing the roles they currently have, or wish to have) explore how they might react. We then advance to inauguration, then to one or two potential events which impact higher ed.

An online book club reading of Project 2025 This is a Heritage Foundation book, a very detailed plan of actions for Trump to carry out.  Project 2025 has won a great deal of attention as the most clearly visualized and publicly accessible vision of what such a presidency might look like.  We can read it together, sharing our impressions, reactions, and plans.

A virtual workshop I could set up a virtual event whereby academics meet with election experts to learn, brainstorm, collaborate, and plan.  This sounds like the Forum sessions I proposed above, but this would be longer.  It might be two hours long, to allow a deeper dive.  I could also break it into a series of (say) three live sessions, giving participants time to reflect between meetings; we could also add an asynchronous venue for interstitial conversation.

Sharing information and forecasts Over the next four months I can find and aggregate information which helps us better anticipate a Trump presidency. I’ve been doing that already to an extent.  I can share the results here, as well as via YouTube vlogs and across social media.  For now, a tag: #election2024.

What do you make of these ideas?  Would any in particular be useful to you as you look ahead to November and beyond?  Please let me know in the comments.

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5 Responses to Preparing for a second Trump administration

  1. Dahn Shaulis says:

    All of those protests and labor strikes on college campuses the last three years may have value in the resistance.

  2. Glen McGhee says:

    I looked at Project 2025 reforms for 34 CFR 600, 602, 228, and …. I was shocked at the magnitude of proposed changes, which in my view, are completely implausible. Whoever wrote this nonsense has no idea how HE works; there is no chance of US Congress agreeing to any of this. Why bother to read it?

    • sibyledu says:

      Because it doesn’t need Congress to make it work. It’s designed as a playbook for officials in a second Trump administration so that they can carry out policies without Congressional authorization or even direct presidential authorization. You’re right that parts of it can’t be carried out without statutory change, but a lot of it can be. To be sure, the end of Chevron deference may curtail the program, but it’s likely that officials will enact much of Project 2025 without waiting for court tests or Congressional approval.

  3. Glen McGhee, FHEAP says:

    This article from IHE on Project 2025 argues it serves as a rallying flag ’round which the faithful will gather — for BOTH red AND blue! LOL!

    https://www.insidehighered.com/news/government/politics-elections/2024/07/11/how-project-2025-could-radically-reshape-higher-ed

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