Trump on Higher Education: His First 100 Days


Saturday, April 29, marks President Trump’s 100th day in office. The first 100 days of a new president is often considered a bellwether for the remainder of the presidency; it can serve as a general indicator of the administration’s priorities, tactics, and relationships with Congress. In the case of President Trump, many hope that it can aid their understanding of a president who is still largely seen as an unknown quantity. Candidate Trump gave little attention to education during his campaign and President Trump continues this practice.

So what has happened during President Trump’s first 100 days regarding education?


The first education challenge the administration faced was the confirmation of their nominee for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. With no education experience outside of her advocacy for school choice and the use of federal funds to support charter schools, DeVos faced substantial criticism from educators and others. DeVos’ close confirmation vote, the first time a cabinet nominee was confirmed on a 51-50 vote, signaled the administration’s willingness to go all in on school choice reform. However, there have been no other Department officials confirmed since DeVos’ confirmation, and numerous senior positions remain unfilled.

Addressing “Federal Overreach”

On the campaign trail Candidate Trump often railed against what he described as the “overreach” of the Obama Administration and made revoking such regulations and laws a priority of his first 100 days. Towards this goal, President Trump has signed several executive orders and pieces of legislation specifically aimed at reducing federal authority over education.

  • Executive Order 13771 requires two regulations to be cut for every one new regulation.
  • HJR 57 overturned accountability regulations adopted by Education for state reporting under the Every Student Succeeds Act.
  • HJR 58 overturned teacher preparation guidelines that required states and higher education institutions to annually rate teacher preparation programs based on the number of graduates employed in high-need schools, the length of time as teachers, and teacher impact on student-learning outcomes.

Most recently, President Trump signed an April 26 executive order requiring Secretary DeVos to conduct a study to identify the places where the “federal government has unlawfully overstepped state and local control.”

Diversity in Higher Education

Shortly after his inauguration, President Trump turned his attention to historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). Proclaiming “these institutions are important engines of economic growth and public service, and they are proven ladders of intergenerational advancement,” Executive Order 13779 returned the office charged with supporting HBCUs to the White House.

In contrast is an April 18 executive order calling for limiting H1-B visas to the “most-skilled or highest-paid petition beneficiaries.” Colleges and universities fear that any H1-B limitations would negatively impact foreign student recruitment since many of these students wish to stay in the U.S. after completing their studies in order to gain work experience. A March survey conducted by Royall & Company found nearly one in three prospective international students had less interest in studying in the U.S. because of the political climate. When further queried, 68.9 percent of the respondents specifically identified concerns with the current presidential administration.


In March, the White House released the President’s proposed “skinny” budget for FY18, which identified a number of areas for elimination including a federal student financial aid program, a before and after school enrichment program, and teacher preparedness programs. Also targeted were cuts to several areas including work-study programs, reading programs, and several programs that assist students from historically under-represented groups enroll in college. The only winner in the President’s proposed budget is school choice, with $1.4 billion additional dollars proposed.

Looking at what the Trump Administration has accomplished in its first 100 days is only part of the equation if we want to better understand what education will look like over the next four years. Next week we’ll take a look at what the next 100 days might hold for education in the Trump administration.

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