The Trump era: What may change, and what won't

An almanac to the next four years

As President Trump takes office, many in higher education are feeling uncertain about the future.

It's been particularly difficult to anticipate what the Trump administration will look like for colleges, as higher education was not a major focus of his campaign and his policy proposals are, so far, not very specific.

Based on clues we've gotten so far, here are the things that are most likely—and least likely—to change for colleges and universities in the next four years.

What may change

International enrollment: Trump has tweeted support for international students. But prospective international students may be discouraged from studying in America by anti-immigrant rhetoric and restrictive immigration proposals. The future of DACA students is also uncertain under Trump.

Financial aid: Trump is unlikely to pursue a federal "free college" initiative (though state-based initiatives are cropping up). But Trump has expressed support for income-based repayment and even offered his own version of the program.

The latest updates on Trump

Tax-exempt endowments: The president has criticized the tax-exempt status of "multi-billion dollar endowments" and the ways that colleges allocate the funds, calling for institutions to spend more of their endowments on financial aid.

Federal regulation: Trump has said that he wants to cut the Education Department "way, way down," but has not specified what would be on the chopping block. Trump has blamed the cost of complying with federal regulations for creating "tremendous bloat" among college administrations and driving up the cost of college.

Title IX: Analysts speculate that administration of Title IX could be one of the key functions targeted if Trump trims down the Education Department. The Republican party platform, which Trump has expressed support for, criticizes what it refers to as the "distortion of Title IX to micromanage the way colleges and universities deal with allegations of abuse."

What probably won't

Return on investment: Both parties have expressed support for "skin in the game" measures that make colleges more accountable for student retention, debt repayment, and employment outcomes. For his part, Trump has been highly focused on jobs and the economy since he started his campaign. Finally, employers say the skills gap persists and rumors suggest Trump is planning a major public-private infrastructure investment that will require skills training as well.

How concerns about ROI are affecting students' enrollment decisions

Affordability: State budget cuts and skeptical students have already spurred colleges to reduce costs. Some institutions have already discovered opportunities to reduce administrative costs in procurement, IT, finance, and HR. Experts say there may be even more funding cuts coming in the next few years.

Student activism: Trump's election kicked off a new wave of student activism, and students rallied again for the weekend's inauguration and Women's March. Campus unrest is likely to continue as Trump's administration gets down to work.

Protests on campus? Here are 3 steps you can take now

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