Following last week's US Presidential Election, people around the world are anxious to see how Trump's presidency will affect the global political and economic landscape. The following is an outline of how the election results may directly affect those in our community through research and higher education funding, as prepared by Lewis-Burke Associates LLC. SIAM is proud to be active in science policy and will continue to stay involved as advocates for our community during the 2017 presidential transition and beyond.
Research, science, and technology have not been high profile issues for the Trump campaign, yet the campaign has recently outlined some key foci and general thinking by means of policy advisors and responses to questionnaires such as Science Debate.1 President-elect Trump has been clear that while the constrained fiscal environment will require prioritization, he views investment in academic research and space exploration as critical roles for the federal government and appropriate areas for long term investment. He has also noted a few major challenge areas that could become areas of focus for his Administration such as cybersecurity, defense research, clean water, energy independence, and feeding the world with a special emphasis on the role of agriculture. In particular, in the area of space policy the campaign has outlined a more detailed vision through advisor and former congressman Robert Walker that would include an increase in deep space exploration and a focus on hypersonics technology at the expense of Earth science.2 Past Republican Administrations have specifically emphasized basic research but also deprioritized applied research, environmental sciences, and social and behavioral sciences, and this is a potential approach of the Trump Administration as well.
The next presidential administration is likely to have a strong voice in issues pertaining to higher education, although details from President-elect Trump are scarce. As would be the case in any administration, higher education policy making is complicated by diverse factions within the community, each of which has unique and sometimes conflicting interests. These different groups include public and private nonprofit institutions of higher education, for-profit institutions, students, elite research universities, liberal arts institutions, and community colleges.
While President-elect Trump has not provided detailed plans for higher education reform, he has referenced tenets of the Republican Party’s platform, including support for eliminating or reducing the power of the Department of Education (ED), returning the student loan system to the private sector, reducing the breadth of the H-1B visa program, and eliminating the gainful employment mandate. President-elect Trump has also expressed interest in decentralizing the role of the federal government, in areas such as accreditation, which will increase the role of states and the private sector.
One of the more concrete education proposals offered by President-elect Trump is an income-based repayment plan for federal student debt. He proposes payments be capped at 12.5 percent of income per month and that debt be forgiven after 15 years of steady repayment. The current Revised Pay As You Earn plan (REPAYE) caps payments at 10 percent of monthly income and forgives student debt after 20 years. President-elect Trump has also said he would consider the tax-exempt status of large endowments as an incentive to lower student costs. President-elect Trump has expressed interest in reforming and reducing federal regulations on universities. Further, there is a potential for a Trump Administration to counteract what it sees as regulatory overreach taken by ED under the Obama Administration, such as its rules on gainful employment, teacher preparation programs, as well as the Department of Labor’s rule on overtime pay.