Trump wants to build a free online university — and make Harvard pay for it

Trump plans to establish a tuition-free digital university and compel Harvard to fund it

If Donald Trump becomes the president, he aims to bring about a “revolution” in the field of higher education.

As part of his latest campaign policy, he has promised to establish a federally funded online university that will provide free degrees, and most importantly, will not allow any form of “wokeness” or “jihadism”. This initiative is aimed at ensuring that all students have access to quality education without having to worry about any political or religious influence that might distort their learning experience. With this move, he hopes to make education accessible to everyone, regardless of their financial status, while promoting an unbiased and diverse learning environment.

In his recent policy proposal, Trump suggests a new approach to financing education, which involves imposing taxes on the considerable endowments of private universities. The revenue generated through this taxation would be utilized to establish a new academic institution called the “American Academy.” As per the plans outlined to POLITICO, this academy would offer credit to students for their previous coursework and leverage their qualifications to help them secure employment with the U.S. government and federal contractors.

The policy proposal by Trump has come at a time when several U.S. institutions, including top universities, are facing increasing political scrutiny. The recent attack on Israel by Hamas has put these institutions under the spotlight, with prominent business leaders, politicians, and donors criticizing their alma maters for their response to the incident. Some of them have even threatened to withdraw future donations to schools for their ambiguous or muted statements or for allowing pro-Palestinian speakers on campus.

According to a video of his proposal, Trump expressed concern over higher education turning students into communists, terrorists, and sympathizers of various dimensions. He emphasized that despite spending more money on higher education than any other country, such indoctrination cannot be allowed.

According to officials from the Trump campaign, they have not yet finalized who will be in charge of the American Academy. However, they did mention that they are considering the inclusion of private sector resources and have identified several possible models. These models include oversight by an existing government agency, a board or commission appointed by the President, or a private entity funded by the public.

If the federal government were to create a new educational institution with a sole purpose of competing with the already existing thousands of schools, it would completely transform the landscape of American higher education.

If Trump wants to push his plan forward, he’ll have to win over Congress first. His proposal involves backing the new educational institution by imposing taxes on wealthy endowments, which has always been a popular subject among conservatives.

In 2017, the tax law introduced by Trump imposed a 1.4 percent tax on the investment income of the wealthiest private universities in the country. This was the first time such a levy was applied. As per the latest IRS data, in 2022, 58 institutions paid a total of $244 million in taxes under this law. It remains uncertain whether this amount would be sufficient to finance the proposed new educational institution. Trump added that he plans to raise funds for the school by imposing fines and lawsuits on wealthy universities as well.

In an attempt to make his political stance known, the former president has made a move in a policy area where the current president has been trying to establish a presence. This action can be seen as a political maneuver aimed at asserting the former president’s beliefs.

The Biden administration has implemented several initiatives to provide debt relief to Americans, particularly those burdened with college debt but without a degree. These individuals typically have lower levels of debt compared to college graduates, but face greater difficulties in repaying their loans.

In a bid to appeal to a significant portion of the American population, Trump has set his sights on the over 40 million individuals who have attended college but failed to complete their degree.

In the video, he outlines his plan to offer a range of credentials, including degrees, that would be recognized by the federal government and contractors. The American Academy would provide credit for previous coursework, and students would have the chance to finish their education at no cost.

According to a campaign official, the current plan being proposed is in contrast to Joe Biden’s approach of eliminating hundreds of billions of dollars of student loan debt to enable free college education. Instead, the focus is on creating affordable college education options without incurring the massive expense of trillions of dollars.

The Trump campaign has previously entered the realm of education policy battles.

In 2021, there was a proposal by former President Trump to establish fresh accreditation standards for colleges and universities. He also suggested eliminating diversity, equity, and inclusion administrators, as well as advocating for the protection of “the American and Western civilization” in academic programs. In addition to this, he proposed the implementation of entrance and exit exams for students in higher institutions to ensure they receive their money’s worth. Trump also recommended that institutions provide accelerated and cost-effective degree options, as well as career placement opportunities.

Donald Trump’s previous attempt to establish an educational institution, Trump University, resulted in a $25 million settlement due to allegations of defrauding students. The real estate seminar program was the subject of controversy and legal action, which ultimately led to the settlement.

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