By: Sabrina Cereceres

 

The plan basically says we, as a nation, will not give education our full attention.

The Trump administration has proposed an absurd new plan: dismantle the Department of Education by forcing it to merge with the Department of Labor.

This is not the first time the Department has been placed on the chopping block by Republican policymakers. However, due to the administration’s questionable leadership, the current restructuring plan is something to keep on your radar. Here are some specifics to get you up to speed and thinking about who the Trump administration has in its crosshairs.

According to a 132-page document containing the plan’s details, the administration’s goal is to merge the Department of Education with the Department of Labor. The newly combined agency would be labeled the “Department of Education and the Workforce”. In short, the newly formed agency would have four main offices: K-12 Education; American Workforce and Higher Education Administration; Enforcement; and Research, Evaluation, and Administration.

Officials in the administration are selling the plan as a way to “train the American workforce” and “reduce administrative costs.” In reality, merging the two departments will result in the federal government having a reduced focus on education programs.

The cost of college has increased over 1,000 percent; the student debt crisis continues to climb past $1.5 trillion; and even children in K-12 are lacking the tools they need to succeed. The decision to merge the two departments weakens the nation’s commitment to education at a time when it is needed most.

Advocates fear the new agency will reflect a narrow agenda that concentrates primarily on worker-related issues. Vital programs at the Education Department, like college financial aid and on-campus civil rights investigations, could be slashed in a futile effort to shrink the federal government. These changes will put millions of vulnerable students, student loan borrowers, and families at risk.

“How do we prepare a competitive workforce without a robust education system?”

Let’s be honest; The Trump administration’s plan basically says we, as a nation, will not give education our full attention. It says that education is not a top priority. They miss the point. How do we prepare a competitive workforce without a robust education system?

The proposal is vague about what it will do to help Americans pay for college. It says even less about plans to address the student debt crisis, protect loan forgiveness, or improve financial aid programs.

The higher education component of this proposal dodges the number one factor preventing Americans from improving their lives through education – skyrocketing costs. The merged agency is supposedly dedicated to “strengthening the capacity of colleges and universities to promote reform, innovation, and improvement in postsecondary education,” but it lacks the vision of seriously addressing prohibitive costs and student loans.

A separate Department of Education, as is the case today, has broader resources which allow it to work on a multitude of important issues.

The proposal does not include a suggested budget or employment figures. Administration officials have gone out of their way to suggest that the proposal is “not an attempt to cut jobs.” However, consolidating the two agencies could lead to a dwindled staff and fewer resources dedicated to issues like investigating student loan fraud and improving financial aid programs.

“The proposal is vague about what it will do to help Americans pay for college. It says even less about plans to address the student debt crisis”

A diminished workforce could also mean the privatization of many current Department of Education services; a long-term goal for many within the administration, including Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

The announcement of this drastic restructuring follows a month of shocking developments that are sure to negatively impact students and borrowers.

Earlier this month, Trump’s head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Mick Mulvaney, shut down the agency’s ‘Office of Students.’ The decision was made despite the fact that the little-known, but effective, office returned over $750 million in relief to people defrauded by their student loan company or for-profit school.

Less than a week after Mr. Mulvaney’s blow to students, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos exercised her own oversight rollback. DeVos ordered the Department of Education to dismantle the team that investigates fraud at for-profit colleges. This decision came just weeks after DeVos hired controversial former for-profit college employees to fill top positions in the government.

 

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