Higher ed 2017: What's hot and what's not

Skills training is 'in' this year. Free college? Not so much.

President-elect Donald Trump will be taking office in a little over two weeks. Whether you're celebrating or despairing, you'd be smart to prepare for how the Trump Administration will approach higher education. 

Though Trump himself has said little about his education policy plans, experts and leaders in the field are filling in the gap with their own predictions.

In a series of conversations with the Chronicle of Higher Education, higher ed leaders, policy advocates, and state and federal government officials predicted which policies and trends will be "hot" in Trump's administration, and which will "not."


1. New models for financial aid

One growing trend is income-sharing agreements, which go hand-in-hand with the movement toward business involvement. Investors will help pay for students' postsecondary educations, and in return, the students will pay the investors back a percentage of their earnings once they graduate.

2. "Skin in the game"

Institutions in the coming years are likely to bear some of the cost when their students fall behind on federal loans—or at least that's what a conservative Congress would like to see happen, analysts say.

3. Private lending

Conservatives are urging private capital to play a greater role in student loans. It's also possible that private companies and capital could step in to bridge the gap if the Trump administration decides to eliminate or curtail federal PLUS Loans.

4. Skills training

An estimated five to six million jobs in the United States are unfilled because candidates lack adequate skills. And that number may soon rise, as rumors suggest that Trump is preparing to propose a major public-private infrastructure investment. Experts say postsecondary institutions–especially community colleges and vocational schools—have a big opportunity to provide training to help fill these skills gaps.

For more information about how the transition could affect higher ed, see our Trump Primer


1. Title IX sexual assault enforcement

Some experts have predicted the Trump administration might eliminate Title IX enforcement by the Education Department's Office for Civil Rights, but other analysts say it's unlikely. There is more consensus that the office will, at minimum, back off from the aggressive stance it took under the Obama administration. The same goes for the enforcement of gay and transgender rights, which notably flared in 2016 over access to bathrooms, and could be poised to make headlines again in 2017.

2. Free college

Many in higher ed say the free tuition campaign died with the defeats of Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. However, it is possible that groups such as the Campaign for Free College Tuition will still attempt to encourage the idea on the state and local levels.

3. Loan forgiveness

A recent report from the Government Accountability Office raised concerns about the costs of loan forgiveness programs, which expanded significantly under the Obama administration. The new Congress will likely place limits on loan forgiveness amounts. 

The new administration could impact your enrollment strategy

4. Federal enforcement of for-profit colleges

Under the Obama administration, the Education Department's "student-aid enforcement unit" took action against for-profit schools. It is uncertain whether the interagency will disappear, but chances are its priorities will shift, and for-profit institutions such as the University of Phoenix will not receive the same harsh treatment they did under the Obama administration.

5. The "gainful employment" rule

The Obama administration created this regulation to crack down on programs that leave students with debt burdens unmanageable relative to their future earnings. But the rule has resulted in many schools' closures, which is why Congress is looking to repeal it (Blumenstyk, Chronicle of Higher Education, 12/21).

See what EAB expert David Attis predicts under the Trump administration

Next in Today's Briefing

What New York colleges need to know about the free tuition plan

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