Trump Win Opens Questions for College's Books

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Published by Inside Higher Ed

Experts, meanwhile, wondered what Trump’s economic proposals could do to tuition revenue.

If Trump’s policies like trade protectionism and infrastructure spending end up boosting middle-class families’ fortunes, it could mean a boom for enrollments as families attain a newfound ability to send students to college. Subsequently, that would likely boost college revenues. But if the income gap widens under Trump, or if student aid is cut substantially, enrollments could fall.

“Most schools are tuition driven,” said David Strauss, a principal at Baltimore-based strategy consulting firm Art & Science Group. “Enrollment revenues might change in a dramatic way.”

Those in fund-raising have raised several possible scenarios going forward, Strauss said. Trump’s proposed tax cuts could benefit wealthy donors, providing them with more money to give away to colleges and universities. Major gifts already tend to come from the wealthy.

But Strauss talked to one official in a college development office who worried that Republicans in Congress will slash the size of the federal government, pulling it back from some issues that motivate well-heeled donors. If, for example, the Environmental Protection Agency is gutted, some donors might give to environmental causes instead of universities.

“He is envisioning a potential for greater philanthropic competition as government pulls back from things,” Strauss said of the conversation with the development officer.


Trump has talked about colleges and universities needing to spend money from their endowments, and some Republicans have proposed minimum spending requirements. But while that might have an impact on institutions’ ability to grow their endowments, it’s unlikely to significantly impact most college operating budgets.

“If they make institutions increase the spending rate, it all depends on how far they go,” said Rick Hesel, another principal at Art & Science. “For a lot of places, it doesn’t make a lot of difference in what it contributes to the operating expenses.”

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