Kristin Tyndall, editor
President Donald Trump will meet his 100th day in office on Saturday, April 29. The milestone offers a good opportunity to take stock of what his administration has meant for colleges so far and what might be coming next.
The past 100 days:
A critical FAFSA tool goes dark: Students trying to fill out their FAFSAs were surprised in March when the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) suspended its Data Retrieval Tool without warning. Without the tool, applicants need to go through several additional steps of paperwork—further complicating a process that's already so confusing, billions of dollars in aid go unclaimed each year.
Two executive orders on immigration: In March, Trump signed an executive order temporarily blocking citizens from six majority-Muslim countries from entering the United States. The order updated a previous one that stranded students and scholars around the world, encountered legal challenges, and was repealed. In wake of the order, international students may face challenges processing their visas in time to attend classes this fall. Early surveys also show that recruiting international students may become more difficult for colleges.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos: After a highly contentious confirmation process, Betsy DeVos was named education secretary in February. Shortly after her confirmation, DeVos argued that faculty "tell you what to do, what to say, and more ominously, what to think." She remains a controversial figure: In a poll, DeVos pulled the lowest approval rating out of six prominent Trump appointees. More recently, DeVos named nine new staff members, including a former Jeb Bush staffer and a general counsel to a for-profit education company.
Reversed protections for trans students: In February, the Department of Education and the Department of Justice released a "Dear Colleague" letter that reversed protections for transgender students put in place by the Obama administration. Some college students have used the guidelines to advocate for access to bathrooms and residence halls that correspond to their gender identities, and experts say the new letter creates a "much more ambiguous situation going forward."
550,000 student loan borrowers in limbo: In recent weeks, the Department of Education released statements that have confused borrowers who believed they were eligible for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness. The announcements further clouded a program that already has convoluted requirements and an uncertain future, experts say.
What Trump plans to do next:
Cut $9 billion from the Education Department: In March, Trump released a preliminary budget outline for the 2018 fiscal year, which starts on October 1, 2017. The budget outline cuts $9B from the Department of Education and millions from other agencies that fund higher education. For example, the plan would cut $5.8 billion from the National Institutes of Health, $200 million from programs that support underserved certain student populations, such as TRIO and GEARUP, and close the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Affordable Care Act repeal + replace: House Republican leaders are working on a revived version of a bill designed replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The White House is pushing for a vote by Thursday, April 27. Details of the bill have not yet been released. Based on Trump's statements about earlier versions of the plan, experts say repealing the ACA might reduce administrative burdens for colleges, but also raise costs for many of their employees.
Build a wall: Another government shutdown deadline approaches on April 28, and Trump insists that any spending measures include funding for a border wall between the United States and Mexico. Higher education leaders say the wall will have a minimal impact on the exchange of ideas and information, but express concerns about how the wall as a symbol could damage U.S. relationships with Mexican students and scholars.
Give commencement speeches: Trump is scheduled to speak at Liberty University and the United States Coast Guard Academy this spring. Meanwhile, VP Mike Pence is scheduled at Grove City College and the University of Notre Dame (Advisory Board Daily Briefing, 4/21; Snell/Costa, Washington Post, 4/23; Montanaro, NPR, 4/23).
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