Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Wishing on a Star: Leaders across the Nation Remain Hopeful That the Trump Administration Will Usher in a New Era for the State of Higher Ed

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Wishing on a Star: Leaders across the Nation Remain Hopeful That the Trump Administration Will Usher in a New Era for the State of Higher Ed

Article excerpt

Higher education leaders across the nation are anxiously pondering the rise of businessman Donald Trump as president of the United States and the arrival of scores of people that he will be hiring to help put his ideas into action.

For sure, few people--those who supported Trump's bid to win the election and those who supported others or did not vote at all in the 2016 election--have definitive insights about Trump's plans. He has had little engagement with higher education during his decades as a businessman. He was less than specific about a number of hot-button issues during his presidential campaign. To date, the views of many he has selected for his team run the gamut.

Questions may abound on a variety of fronts about how Trump and his team will deal with the myriad day-to-day realities of running a nation of some 320 million people. There is an unofficial consensus, however, that higher education leaders need to exert extra energy to help Trump understand the roles of institutions of higher learning, and Trump and his team are likely to demand a different approach from educators to getting his ear.

"They are going to be very much about return on investment (ROI)," says Johnny Taylor, president and CEO of the Thurgood Marshall Education Fund, the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that raises funds for scholarships to help students attend historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

Serving the underserved

The Obama administration and several leadership teams both Democrat and Republican before Obama looked at higher education from a "civil rights or moral perspective," Taylor says. "They [Trump and his team] will be very much about ROI," Taylor says, based on Trump's campaign themes and the business people around Trump.

Taylor, whose observations resonate with other higher education advocates, says educators will get to make pitches for federal help as they have in the past.

Educators just need to know "this administration is going to be transparent. You can seek more money," Taylor says. "Be able to show what the return can be on investment," he adds.

Dr. Cynthia Teniente-Matson, president of Texas A&M University-San Antonio, who spent much of her career on the finance side of the California State University system, says institutional leaders may have to engage in "repackaging our message."

Matson says "there are ways to craft arguments or strategies" that embrace Trump's advocacy of "economic development and growth. We can talk about the value proposition, about the net gain," of embracing institutions that focus on educating students who come from underserved communities.

Indeed, many presidents and other higher education advocates see chances for Trump to succeed in achieving many of his political promises by using institutions with a history of serving the underserved as partners.

As any seasoned college president would know, rookie presidents--be they head of a university or a nation--need time and a desire to learn more about things they did not need to focus on previously.

"One of the most important things we could do is ask that the Trump administration take time and really understand what we are and what we do," says Dr. Juliette B. Bell, president of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES).

"We certainly want to be at the table so we can help inform and be a part of the discussion about the future of higher education," says Bell, who is nearing her fifth year serving at the helm of UMES. …

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