Election 2016

Trump’s secretary of education leaves questions hanging on the implementation of education policy in the United States

Moriah Ratner | Staff Photographer

President-elect Donald Trump's nomination of Betsy DeVos as secretary of education has left some educators wondering how the Trump administration will be implementing education policy.

Donald Trump’s recent nomination of billionaire and education activist Betsy DeVos for secretary of education has raised question about what kind of policies she would implement for higher education.

Syracuse University has been mostly self-sustaining for many years with funding primarily from tuition and donations, said Donald Dutkowsky, economics professor at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. Trump will not necessarily be a big player in SU’s operations, he noted.

The federal education policies will have a bigger impact on state schools, but even then, most public colleges get their funding from the state, so any impact from the federal government would be indirect, he said.

As for student loan debt, he predicted the amount of forgiveness is not going to increase.

Trump seems to be following a conservative agenda, with one example being his pledge to dismantle President Barack Obama’s health care law, Dutkowsky said. But Dutkowsky questioned to what extent Trump’s business ideas could be applied to education.

DeVos, meanwhile, is well-known for her support of charter schools and is an advocate of school choice, which encompasses a group of programs offering families alternatives to public schools based on the location of their residence.

Additionally, DeVos encourages traditional vouchers, which are state-funded scholarships that pay for students to attend private rather than public schools.

“I work with a lot of high school teachers, and I know public schools seem to get a bad rap at times, because they have to educate everybody,” Dutkowsky said.

Unlike colleges and charter schools, he added that public schools can’t exclude any students. However, this doesn’t make them lesser than private or charter schools, he said. Many teachers he works with are concerned about the seemingly anti-public school bias that DeVos possesses, he said.

Dutkowsky said he hasn’t heard his students linking the election to student loans, and that instead they’ve mostly been discussing the broader health care and social issues. Still, he pointed out, there might be repercussions felt within higher education.

“I don’t doubt that this conservative, competitive bent will spill over into higher education as well,” he said.


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