President Donald Trump has submitted his first budget to Congress, an event many have been waiting for anxiously. Candidate Trump, during the presidential campaign last fall, spoke frequently about reducing the size of the federal government and “draining the swamp” of Washington, so this budget was among his first emphatic statements in support of those pledges.
There is a lot to discuss about this FY18 budget, including the fact that virtually every Cabinet and other agency included in the budget – with the exception of Defense, Homeland Security, and Veterans Affairs – is seeing a decrease in funding from FY17 levels ranging from 1 percent (NASA) to 31 percent (EPA). There are my details still missing, however, as this is known as a “skinny budget,” typical of that submitted by first-term presidents who do not have much time to put the budget together. My particular and admittedly selfish interest is how this budget is likely to affect the nation’s roughly 4,600 degree-granting institutions of higher education. Here’s the spoiler, for those who don’t want to bother reading this entire post: The news is not good.
It’s been almost seven weeks since President Trump was inaugurated, and it’s been quite tumultuous for those of us in colleges and universities around the country. Regardless of one’s politics, I think that many of us were not sure what to expect with the new administration, largely because then-candidate Donald Trump said relatively little about higher education during the campaign.
Earlier this week, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo joined other politicians who have proposed free college programs. As I have pointed out about similar proposals made by President Obama and former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, there are numerous problems with these programs. In a commentary in The Hechinger Report, I outline why this is still bad public policy.
The Chronicle of Higher Education asked me to write a column about President-elect Trump’s nomination of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education, focusing on what impact she would have on higher education across the nation. DeVos, who has a long track record as a Republican activist and supporter of charter schools and school vouchers in Michigan, was a surprise choice to many. While she has paid much less of her attention to higher education, in the column I suggested a few areas on which she may focus as Secretary.
During the presidential campaign I wrote about the higher education proposals of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Since the election last week there has been so much that has happened in our country that I almost wouldn’t know where to start to comment. However, one thing that has been very disturbing has been the outbreak of racist, nationalist, misogynist, anti-immigrant, and other bigoted actions across the nation. This morning’s San Francisco Chronicle has an op-ed I authored calling on President-elect Trump to take quick action to stop them.
I did not read another Donald E. Westlake novel after I graduated from high school and left Madison, even though he published many more volumes before he died in 2008. I discovered other writers and topics that garnered my attention, both through my studies in college and graduate school as well as outside of those topics. But I have maintained my love of reading throughout the subsequent years.
When I finished my doctoral studies and had a few months free between graduation and when I started my first job as an assistant professor, I bought myself the present of a copy of the John Updike book, Rabbit Angstrom: A Tetralogy. The volume, published a couple of years earlier, was a compilation of Updike’s four Rabbit novels, each of which I had read in sequence over a period of about 20 years earlier in my life. For me, it was an indulgence to be able to sit and reread all four of these books, which were among my favorites of all time (ranking right up there with Westlake, of course), and which chronicled the life of Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom from high school through the end of his life.
I was on vacation back east last week, not far from the small town in Connecticut in which I grew up. I lived there from birth until I graduated from high school and went off to college. Madison was small, at least by the standards of the eight other places I have lived since then, all of which dwarf Madison in size. The population when I left in 1977 was somewhere in the ballpark of 10,000 people; the most recent census data show that the town has grown somewhat since then, but as of last year the population was still only about 18,000.
There were not a lot of diversions for an adolescent the town back then. There was no arcade; in fact, I don’t think there was even any public place that had a pinball machine. There was no fast food; the closest was the soda counter at Jolly’s, one of two drug stores in the town. Television was limited to over-the-air channels, which consisted of the three major networks, ABC, NBC, and CBS; public broadcasting; and three independent stations from New York City – WOR, WNEW, and WPIX – which I recall broadcast mostly reruns and professional sports.
There has been a good amount of discussion on the presidential campaign trail about the issue of college affordability and student loan debt. I have written in previous blog posts about some of Hillary Clinton’s proposals, as well as those of Martin O’Malley. This week, I wrote a column for the website The Conversation, where I described why any discussion of college affordability needs to start with the role of Pell Grants, the foundation of the federal government’s student aid programs.
This week, the Washington Post is running a series titled, “Do we need to remodel our university system?” The Post invited me to contribute an essay to the series in which I argue that one of the strengths of our system is the many forms of postsecondary educational institutions we have, and that it provides students with many options. I invite you to read my essay as well as the others in the series.
Last Sunday my family and I had the opportunity to march in San Francisco’s Pride Parade with members and supporters of the university’s LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning) Caucus. It was a beautiful summer day in San Francisco, which means, I am finding out as a new resident, it was sunny and about 70 degrees on Market Street in the city.
There were over 200 participants in our group, which included faculty, staff, and students; young and old(er); and members of the LGBT community and those who are supporters of it. Everyone appeared to be having a wonderful time, and it was great to see all the enthusiastic supporters of the university along the parade route. San Francisco has long been known as being welcoming to the LGBTQ community, and this was demonstrated throughout the entire parade route.