The Higher Ed Case for Trump

Trying to walk in your shoes.

September 17, 2020

I'm writing this piece intending to reach out -- with open ears -- to my colleagues within academia who are planning to vote for Donald Trump in 2020.

I don't know you personally, but I know that you are out there.

To be very clear, I'm voting for Biden. And I don't agree with the arguments that I've made below. I'm not looking to be convinced to change my vote, and I doubt I'd persuade you. (Are undecided voters within academia even a thing?)

The goal here is not persuasion, but understanding.

The Higher Ed Case for Trump:

At the core, a higher education-centric rationale for supporting the president's re-election rests on a belief that the federal government should interfere less -- not more -- with the affairs of academia.

We think that a Biden administration will likely install a secretary of education who will take an activist and ideological-driven approach to regulating colleges and universities.

While we may agree with the likely Biden administration goals for higher education in terms of improving access and quality and lowering attrition and costs, we think that individual universities (and the states) are best positioned to chart their destinies.

One area of higher education policy where we think a Trump administration is preferable to a Biden administration is innovation. A Biden secretary of education is likely to be hostile to the idea of nonprofit/for-profit partnerships. We are skeptical of OPMs and other revenue-sharing agreements for online programs, but we want to be free to make our own choices and decisions.

There are other examples where an activist policy stance from a Biden administration may be detrimental, we believe, to higher education as a whole. Colleges and universities, we believe, should be free to decide both who they admit and how they support students while on campus.

Not everyone will agree with institutional leaders' decisions, but disagreement is a cost of freedom. We don't think that individual colleges and universities should be required to develop and enforce policies based on the beliefs -- however well intentioned -- of federal policy makers.

This higher ed-centric support for Trump over Biden starts with principles of autonomy and local (as opposed to federal) decision making. Of course, many of us within academia who support Trump do so for a variety of reasons.

The arguments that colleges and universities would be better off with a more market-friendly Department of Education are only one aspect of our reasons to support President Trump's re-election.

We are not only employees within higher education. We are parents and grandparents and citizens and many other things. Our reasons for voting for Trump over Biden are varied and complex, unified and straightforward.

We only ask that you respect our decision of who to vote for in November, even if you disagree, just as we respect yours.

We are arguing here that from a narrow higher ed perspective, we judge that a Trump administration is better for the well-being and resilience of colleges and universities than would be a Biden administration.

We are excited to have that conversation and to listen to why you believe (from a narrow higher ed perspective) the opposite.

Okay … Trump higher ed supporters (faculty and staff) -- how did I do?

How would you have written this differently?

Care to argue against the pro-Trump academic stance?

Fire up those letters to the editor.


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