What Donald Trump’s pick for education secretary could mean for student debt

President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, has a pretty public record of her advocacy in the K-12 education space. But what her appointment would mean for college students and student loan borrowers remains less clear.

The former chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party, DeVos, has worked through her advocacy group to advance an agenda promoting so-called school choice: Programs that provide free alternatives to public elementary and high school education either through public charter schools — which are typically privately managed, but publicly funded — or by providing families with public funds to pay for private schools.

DeVos’s record on higher education and student debt is much more sparse, so it’s hard to say how exactly she will approach issues like college affordability. But a reading of the tea leaves suggests that she may bring her support for an increased role of private actors in the public K-12 sphere to higher education. (Trump’s transition team did not immediately respond to request for comment.)

“It’s not too big of a leap to assume that a Department of Education under her leadership or in a Trump administration would be far friendlier to the market forces being a bigger part of our higher education system,” said Mark Huelsman, a senior policy analyst at Demos, a left-leaning think tank.

The Obama administration worked to crack down on for-profit colleges and to set more guidelines for the private companies collecting student loans on behalf of the government. With a President Trump and a Secretary of Education like DeVos, that work may not be a priority. Investors seem to believe that’s the case. The day after Trump’s election, stocks of major for-profit colleges and student loan companies rose.

Still, there may be some room in a DeVos Department of Education for priorities with bipartisan support like simplifying the application for federal student loans and simplifying the loan repayment system, said Robert Kelchen, a professor of higher education at Seton Hall University. In a speech on the campaign trail, Trump said he would like to change the student loan system so that federal borrowers pay 12.5% of their income for 15 years and have the remainder forgiven.

Given DeVos’s experience with K-12 education, Kelchen said he expects the undersecretary of education — a high ranking position within the Department — to have experience in higher education. That appointment will likely provide a better indication of what a Trump administration means for college students and student loan borrowers, he added.

“My initial reaction is to pay very close attention to who the undersecretary of education becomes,” he said. “I don’t think anyone has any idea what this means for higher education.”

[Source:-Market Watch]