Quick disclaimer: I’m not a politician or expert on politics! Just some amateur discussion here.
President-elect Trump announced his nomination of Michigan Republican Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education last week, a move that underlined his commitment to school of choice voucher systems. School choice is a hotly debated concept that allows federal funding to follow students wherever they want to go to school, whether it’s a private, public, or charter school.
Trump called her a “brilliant and passionate education advocate,” but American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said she had a “reckless and extreme ideology.” I love the spirit of school choice because it allows everyone to decide for themselves how their tax dollars are best spent, and I think school systems could benefit from a taste of the competitive market. But there are a lot of problems with it that concern me as well. If all the children (and therefore funding) in my town went to the private Christian school, my children’s choice would drastically suffer. I’m interested to see what will happen with those policies either way.
DeVos’s policies could influence my family in a wide variety of ways, but one significant impact to my budget over the next ten years will be if student loan policies change, such as going back to the old private student loan system. I still carry student loan debt, and with a kid going to college in the future, I’m concerned about what student loans will mean for her, too.
Trump’s plans for education seem to need more time to develop, but he has mentioned a couple key points:
● A new income-driven repayment plan where payments are capped at 12.5%, but the balance is forgiven sooner (15 years)
● Holding colleges accountable for student success
● Cutting tuition and reducing regulation costs
● Using private institutions to fund student loans instead of the government
● Increase school choice programs
I think a lot of people are asking themselves, “how much can Trump actually do?” Whether you ask the question with hopes that the answer is everything or nothing, there are some policies he’s proposing that he would be able to issue an executive action over. Other ideas would need the support of Congress.
As Secretary of Education, DeVos has the opportunity to help Trump narrow and define his objectives, and it’s not clear what opinions she has other than promoting school choice. We will have to wait and listen over the coming months to hear more of her thoughts. It doesn’t appear that she has an experience at all as an educator despite a lifelong advocacy of school choice. It’s a bit curious that someone with absolutely no experience as an educator would be our Secretary of Education.
As far as the ideas Trump’s mentioned so far as listed, I think we’re looking at a mixed bag. Cutting tuition costs sounds great, as long as de-regulation doesn’t mean we’ll have thousands of “Trump Universities” springing up across the country that frauds students and leaves them without the education they were promised. Changes to student loan repayment might be beneficial, but it’s hard to see how higher monthly payments will do that, especially short term. It will cause lots of difficulty for borrowers trying to pay off their student loans.
DeVos seems like a great choice when I consider all of the people throughout the country that Trump could have tapped, although my political experience probably doesn’t give me enough credibility on selection advice. Bottom line, we’re just going to have to wait and see what the Trump policies become as they mature and develop with the influence of Congress and Betsy DeVos.