The tumultuous early weeks of the Trump administration have produced plenty of headlines and controversy, but almost nothing on higher education. The nominee for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, has only recently been confirmed, and given her background in K-12, higher education was not a major theme of her Senate hearing. The announcement of a task force to reform higher ed, to be led by Liberty University President, Jerry Falwell, Jr., gave little detail about its policy priorities or objectives but remains the young administration’s only substantive action on higher ed to date.
Why the Administration Matters
Ultimately, public policy is just one of many factors shaping the edtech environment; and, regardless of policy direction, any administration should provide consistency and stability for the institutions and investors that purchase our products and services.
However, the few signals from the new administration have yet to allay any fears about instability, causing concern about revenue and institutional mission. Action to curtail immigration risks the ability of colleges and universities to recruit students from abroad, engage in global research communities and attract faculty talent, endangering important revenue sources and institutional reputations.
Also, the president’s tweet threatening UC Berkeley’s financial aid funding over a controversial speaker on campus may prove to be an isolated incident, but it reinforces concerns among institutions that this administration will intervene unexpectedly and directly. Such uncertainty among edtech’s customer base will have considerable and direct effects on the sector.
Though it’s too early to predict what impact the administration’s higher ed policies will have on the education technology sector, last year’s electoral campaign and executive actions in the early weeks of the administration may offer some insight into education priorities, pointing attention—and, potentially, funding—toward workforce development and institutional accountability. Neither area is a major departure from longstanding trends in higher education, but the administration’s emphasis will create opportunities for entrepreneurs and investors alike.
(Next page: Workforce initiatives and accountability in the Trump Era)