Editors' pick: Originally published Nov. 11.
Higher ed could be in for an extreme make-over once President-elect Donald Trump takes office in January. Trump has made some substantive remarks on policy. How they will be implemented are as yet a mystery.
While providing no details, Trump has, on more than one occasion, said that he wants to abolish the Department of Education (ED). It would be a radical--and according to higher ed experts--improbable task, something Trump couldn't do with just the stroke of a pen.
"Donald Trump cannot unilaterally eliminate the U.S. Department of Education," said Mark Kantrowitz, publisher and vice president of strategy at Cappex.com. "It is a cabinet-level department that was established by the Department of Education Organization Act of 1979 and began operating on May 4, 1980. The legislation carved it out from the Department of Health, Education and Welfare." Eliminating ED would require an Act of Congress.
"It isn't entirely clear what he intends," Kantrowitz continued. "At times he's talked about eliminating the Department entirely, while at others he's talked about cutting its budget. Most of the talk about abolishing the U.S. Department of Education has been in the context of K-12 education, mostly with regard to school choice. Perhaps he would shift some K-12 funding into block grants to the states or a voucher system," or eliminate Common Core and other national standards for local schools.
Although Trump has said "there is so much waste" at ED, it is efficient by federal standards. ED staffers number about 5,000, the lowest headcount among cabinet level departments. Any savings from a shutdown, Kantrowitz said, "would be a drop in the bucket."