A Trump Presidency: Two Hints for Higher Education Policy


On Tuesday, November 8, Donald Trump rode a poll- and election model-defying populist wave to victory. Most of the opinion polling missed Trump’s victory. Models at the Princeton Election Consortium, Fivethirtyeight.com and Moody’s Analytics were off. Concepts that often torment students in the classroom, including “margin of error” and “uncertainty” triumphed. There was one notable exception, American University Professor Allan Lichtman’s “Keys to the White House” framework that correctly predicted the outcome.

Going forward, what might this mean for U.S. Higher Education?

At present, specifics are largely absent. A Republican-held House of Representatives and Senate will likely shape the outcome. For now, some possibilities can be gleaned from Trump’s campaign website. The website contains the following broad language concerning Higher Education:

  • Work 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.

The actual details that will still need to be developed will determine the impact of his policies on Higher Education, colleges and universities, the nation’s students, the role of the Department of Education, and the role accreditors will play.

Finally, the limited share of attention Trump devoted to Higher Education issues may suggest that initial policy ideas could be modest. Instead, his larger and more immediate priorities likely lie beyond the Higher Education policy landscape.