Following the Trump administration’s recent plan to consolidate the Departments of Education and Labor, ACPA College Student Educators-International stands with experts and organizations in the field of higher education against this proposed consolidation. While we agree that there is a clear intersection between education and the workforce, we believe that both departments carry out specific functions and important work.
This proposal offers no evidence that a merger would improve operations for either department as the administration claims. We express our deep concern that this proposal represents a larger-scale move in the United States to divest from higher education, and we encourage our members as well as all student educators, student affairs professionals, and university administrators to stand in solidarity against any proposal or effort that does not offer immediate and strategic action to improve current conditions for institutions of higher education, rather than potentially threatening their capacity to operate effectively.
Any state or federal legislation that seeks to move funds and expertise from institutions of higher education will only serve to accelerate the urgent funding crisis college and university campuses across the United States have undergone for the last several decades. The Department of Education started as a small-scale office designed to collect statistics and through the years it was a part of various agencies such as the Departments of Interior and Health and Human Services.1 However, in the 1950’s and 60’s, federal funding for the department began to reflect the demand for improved conditions for all students. The department then expanded to include efforts for the benefit of minoritized communities, shifting the scope and purpose of the Department forever. This mission is one of great importance, as we still have a long way to go before our systems of education are equitable for all.
ACPA College Student Educators-International centers the improvement and development of institutions of higher education through our work as an association, and we value the efforts of the Department of Education in the past. We also acknowledge that under the current administration, the Department of Education and the Office for Civil Rights have been more lenient on investigations including ending over 1,200 civil rights investigations due to “insufficient evidence.” Sources have also indicated that the Trump Administration is limiting the scope of investigations to individuals rather than systemic, structural problems. We believe that this new approach is problematic and indicates a divestment from the values and priorities that the Office for Civil Rights and Department of Education have upheld for years. We believe that the proposed consolidation would only further exacerbate the current state of the Department of Education.
We will continue our practice of disseminating information through our network of members and will continue to advocate for the betterment of colleges and universities across the world. We acknowledge that while there is overlap between education and labor, education is about democracy and citizenship, not just about jobs.
1 “An Overview of the U.S. Department of Education-- Pg 1.” Home, US Department of Education (ED), 14 May 2018, www2.ed.gov/about/overview/focus/what.html.
Additional resources on this issue:
- Association of American Colleges & Universities and the American Association of University Professors: Joint Statement on the Value of a Liberal Education
- Inside Higher Ed | The Life-Shaping Power of Higher Education: Liberal Arts Education
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