I’m big on weekly to-do lists, there’s always one on my desk, typically on a white legal pad, and as I think of things that have to be done 2-3 weeks out, I scribble them down on a subsequent page. Included in the week of November 7 to-do list is “EASFAA blog – PSLF? DTR?” I’m a loudmouth champion of PSLF, and DTR – Defense to Repayment – has been generating lots of chatter lately, and as I was on the Negotiated Rulemaking committee that worked with ED to create it, I figured either of those would be good topics to write on.
Yeah, maybe some other time.
Chances are that most of my colleagues who will read this are as stunned by the results of the Presidential election as I am; the ramifications are many and far-reaching, and there’s no point in discussing all of them in this forum (meet me at a bar and we can talk all night). But what will it mean for families who need financial aid?
Trump the candidate did not make college affordability a major theme of his campaign. There was a brief chat about returning student loans to the private sector (although whether he meant the FFEL model or removing the federal government from the student loan business completely was unclear) and tweaking existing income-driven repayment plans. As is often the case with Republicans, there was talk of dismantling or shrinking the scope of the Department of Education and detail-free discourse about lowering college costs. A little-known surrogate supposedly advising him on education policy made comments about how nonsensical it is to give students financial aid to study such silly things as English or History or Psychology or anything else that isn’t specifically designed as job training (I’ve always figured that if those fields were called Conservative Arts instead of Liberal Arts, the right would be far more supportive).
As I write this, Trump trails Clinton in the popular vote and can’t really be said to have a sweeping mandate, especially in a campaign in which “policy” was discussed at only the most superficial level. That said, I can’t be dishonest and say that I’m not worried about how the ugliest parts of his campaign seemed to swing the election. The forces that Trump rode into town on hardly seem friendly towards helping those less fortunate, they have demonstrated no concern about social justice, and they view American higher education as a bunch of liberal elitist eggheads at best. It’s not a stretch to predict that the years coming up will not be easy for students and families who need our help.
Those of us who have been in the business for, well, a long time, remember the Reagan years. They weren’t rosy. Aggregate undergraduate loan limits were lowered midstream, forcing many students to leave school because their senior year loan was eliminated during their junior year. We were introduced to verification and origination fees, two banes of both students’ and aid administrators’ existence 30 years later. Costs rose and the Secretary of Education foolishly said that they were rising thanks to Pell Grants, even though there were years in which Pell awards were reduced.
Yet students kept going to college, and we were able to continue to help them. Innovations emerged, many of us found new ways to do things. Wiser men than I have said that necessity is the mother of invention (cue “Peaches En Regalia,” and bonus points to anyone who gets that reference). As a man much less wise than Plato (that would be me) has said, 2+2=4, but so does 3+1. Maybe the blessing in disguise is that our profession will be forced to muster up new creativity and find new ways to help students.
In the meantime, traffic is probably getting busy along the I-95 corridor northbound through Maine. New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island…all lovely places. You might be able to beat some of the traffic by taking Route 1, or try Route 3 through New Hampshire into Quebec.