Education leaders express hope amid uncertainty over Trump's plans


The stunning election of Donald Trump and the realization that he will soon take over the White House has left many industry leaders, including those in the education and technology sectors, facing a raft of uncertainties.

While the news brought a flurry of official statements Wednesday morning, most laying out expressions of hope towards working constructively with America’s 45th president, education executives still have only a limited sense for how Trump’s platform for change will unfold once he takes office.

“This is a big blank page,” said one executive closely involved with the K-12 education technology market, commenting via email under condition that he not be named.

Among the many questions and concerns raised by those in the education field, he said, is the future of the U.S. Department of Education.

Trump, the candidate, has proposed eliminating or drastically cutting the department. While his plans remain short on detail, they could disrupt the mechanism behind $1.3 trillion in student loans and put 490,000 teacher positions at risk, according to the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

“We are likely beyond the campaign rhetoric of closing the Department of Education,” said the education executive, but what the Trump administration will actually do is far from clear. “It will be important to see how Republican leaders in Congress, and whoever is selected to be the U.S. Education secretary, define priorities,” he said.

Another concern is what might happen to the Office of Education Technology within the Department of Education.

“Education is fundamental to our society and technology is increasingly becoming a fundamental tool in education. The U.S. Department of Education Office of Education Technology provides exceptional resources and support to districts and universities and I am in high hopes this work will continue through the transition to President-elect Trump’s new administration,” said Kecia Ray, executive director at the Center for Digital Education.

Higher education leaders also remain anxious about Trump’s intentions regarding college funding.

Trump vowed during a campaign speech in Ohio last month that he would force colleges to cut tuition rates, and take steps to address the burdens of student debt.

“If the federal government is going to subsidize student loans, it has a right to expect that colleges work hard to control costs and invest their resources in their students. If colleges refuse to take this responsibility seriously, they will be held accountable,” Trump said in that speech, suggesting he might go after the tax-exempt status of university endowments.

University officials counter that those endowments are helping to lower the cost of college education.

For now, leaders from a variety of education and technology groups have issued a salvo of statements expressing broad hope that they’ll have the chance to shape Trump’s education and technology policy positions once in office.

“I join more than 4,000 college and university presidents and other higher education leaders across the country in wishing President-elect Trump well as he prepares to embark on his term in January and address the many challenges facing our nation at home and abroad,” said Molly Corbett Broad, president of the American Council on Education in a statement.

“The entire higher education community looks forward to working with the Trump administration on key issues such as expanding access to educational opportunity, increasing levels of attainment and supporting cutting-edge research and innovation,” she said.

“Now is the moment for the country to reunite, promote civil discourse and support our students in every classroom in every community,” officials at the Consortium of School Networking said in a statement. “CoSN stands ready to work with President-elect Trump and Congress to address the top priorities that will improve student learning. Chief among those priorities are advancing digital equity and supporting access to high quality personalized learning environments. This starts by investing in a 21st century U.S. infrastructure to deliver modern educational settings and expanded broadband connectivity in and outside of school walls.”

Officials at the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) said in a statement, “We hope to work with him on our key priorities, which include ensuring that all educators receive adequate professional learning to integrate and make use of technology in the classroom, all classrooms are equipped with ample technology and sufficient broadband access, and all students – no matter where they live or how much money their parents make – have access to the Internet and computing devices.”

Technology sector advocates also expressed their hope that the Trump administration will keep the nation moving forward with technology.

“One of Trump’s big themes has been that America can do better,” Daniel Castro, vice president of the Information Technology and Information Foundation, said in a statement emailed to EdScoop’s sister publication, FedScoop. “Hopefully he’ll bring that attitude towards federal IT which still has a long way to go.”

Trump’s “platform of change, promising to scrutinize the way the Government works, and streamline and reduce the size of government” matched well with many of the reformation goals of the federal IT community, said Mark MacCarthy, senior vice president of public policy for the Software and Information Industry Association.

“Federal IT modernization, and streamlined procurement of IT services, particularly innovative cloud solutions, is a critical component of the Government’s mission. “So we are optimistic that this will be a high priority in the Trump Administration.