Having survived federal financial aid transactions through eight presidents, I offer my thoughts on the ninth—President Donald Trump—and how his administration may affect the education system and financial aid regulations.
Education regulations and programs are initiated by the U.S. Congress and ushered in under a president who does not object and, thus, receives credit for the program or policy. Even so, any president has Executive powers and influences in high places.
Knowing this, the Congress passed in November the Midnight Rules Relief Act (H.R. 5982), which ensured that Congress could disapprove any harmful rules the Obama administration may have issued as it heads out the door, specifically in its last 60 days in office. It is just one way the House of Representatives has been working to hold the last administration accountable for its end-of-term agenda.
Now, the question is—what will President Trump and a Republican-majority Congress do in the beginning of their term? How will their actions impact financial aid regulations?
Let’s start with the president’s appointments:
Trump has chosen Betsy DeVos as the new Secretary of Education. She is a charter school advocate and supporter of elementary and secondary school vouchers. She will be leaving her position as chairman of the American Federation for Children, a group that pushes for the expansion of charter schools.
Reflecting upon her appointment, she said, “I am honored to work with the president-elect on his vision to make American education great again. The status quo in ed. is not acceptable.”
It seems that DeVos will have like-minded colleagues in Congress as well. Rep. Virginia Foxx (R–NC) assumed chairmanship of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce early January. In an interview with The Chronicle of Higher Education, she expressed her longtime criticism of the Obama administration’s higher education policies. In the interview, she said that other Republican representatives are ready to join her in reversing the course on many of the policies of the previous administration.
What specific changes might these ladies be spearheading in the coming months?
- Christian colleges may be in for some relief on being forced to comply with funding requirements that push against Christian beliefs, as President Trump has spoken repeatedly about his respect for religious freedom, and he appears to be opposed to the PC culture.
- Many in the marketplace expect that the new president will end the Obama Administration’s heavy regulatory focus on proprietary colleges.
- The new administration could alter or discontinue the gainful employment rules on federal financial aid funding.
- One of the recent rules expected to be released involving state approvals of distance education programs could be revised or deleted.
- Proposed rules referred to as defense of repayment published in November and scheduled to take effect July 1, 2018 could be scuttled by the new administration. These proposed rules apply to all institutions and forbid colleges from barring class action lawsuits by students. The rules would also require colleges to post a letter of credit with the Department of Education in the case of a number of triggering and early warning events.
- It has been suggested that the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS), which has lost its right to accredit colleges and is currently under appeal, may be given more time by the new administration to resolve its accreditation effectiveness.
- While President-elect Trump has spoken about education being managed by the states, it is believed that he was speaking of elementary/secondary education and not Title IV funding.
- What will happen to federal loan programs remains an open area of discussion as Mr. Trump has stated that he feels that the banks and other private lenders should be involved in financing the programs and not the federal government. From a practicality standpoint it would take months if not years to transition back to private lending. It may even involve dual lending for a period of time. Just something to watch!
- We can expect the new administration to continue to encourage colleges and universities to control costs of higher education.
Looking beyond 2017, our major concern for federal student assistance is the Congressional action to reauthorize the Higher Education Act (HEA) of 1965 for another five years. HEA is the legislation upon which Title IV financial aid currently functions.
It is during the reauthorization process that Congressional education sub-committees and full committees tinker with the current financial aid regulations before reauthorizing federal student assistance.
I will monitor the events leading up to the reauthorization and keep financial aid administrators and other clients informed as events unfold.
What do I do?
During Richard M. Nixon’s first term, I spent my first few years in the financial aid industry representing the Office of Education as a trainer, evaluator of tripartite applications, and convention speaker. I was also the first proprietary National Council member of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA).
In 1974, as President Ford took the helm, I founded and remain the president of Weber & Associates, offering expert financial aid management and consulting services to higher education schools and colleges.