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Will Trump Administration bring change to public higher education?

WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

A Washington-based organization for higher education is waiting to see what type of education policies will be enacted by the Trump administration. This week the nominee for Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, appeared before a Senate committee for a tough round of questions at a confirmation hearing. WBFO's senior reporter Eileen Buckley talked to the leader of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (ASCU). 

“Well it's kind of an unchartered pathway and so we are waiting to learn more about that,” responded Dr. Muriel Howard, president of ASCU. She is also a former Buffalo State president. 

When DeVos was nominated in the fall by Trump, Howard's organization issued a news release, pledging to work with DeVos on the nation's most “pressing higher education” challenges. They said that includes affordability for students and financing public institutions.

“We’re looking to see who will be the new deputy undersecretary that will be responsible for working with us in public higher education,” noted Howard. “We have been trying to anticipate what some of the challenges and issues might be.”  

The organization is made up of members include more than 400 colleges and universities. These public institutions provide millions of students’ with higher education opportunities and many of the students come from other countries.

Howard said many of the foreign students on public campuses are very concerned about Trump’s tough stance on immigration.  

“Some campuses are getting legal volunteers that are signing up and saying they will help advice students, if they have expertise in regard to the immigration law,” Howard explained. “DACA becomes real important for us so that’s the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals, so all those students that registered with the federal government, in a very trusting and believing way, that they would be helped now find themselves kind of in the crosshairs.”  

Howard said she also she believes 'deregulation' will also be on the table with the new administration. 

WBFO asked for a specific example of an item for deregulation.

“Well, for example there’s a new teacher education regulation that was just put in place, kind of quickly, that will make it very cumbersome for colleges and universities to collect the data and manage the data and put it back out on teachers in terms of outcomes and whether teaching someone three years from now – did you make a difference there, positively or negatively – that would be very hard for our institutions to manage that information,” responded Howard.

WBFO asked Howard what she believes would be the biggest challenge ahead for public higher education in 2017.

“The Higher Education Reauthorization Act could come up this year and that Act covers everything we do in higher education. How we get funded, in terms of our Pell, all of the Title IV money, all of the Title III money, policies around sexual misconduct will be addressed under that act, so we just want to make sure that we work closely with the new administration and with Congress,” remarked Howard.

Howard was careful not to be critical of a future education leader.

“But I know she’s also supported the state college and university in Grand Valley where she lives, so she does know something about higher education,” said Howard.