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Trump Cabinet Picks Cast Uncertainty, Especially on Education, Labor

Photo by Gage SkidmoreDonald Trump's Cabinet nominees may influence his opinions on many key issues more than previous presidents were by their Cabinets.

When Donald J. Trump is sworn in as the 45th U.S. president on Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, he will bring a slew of new Cabinet picks that radically oppose the agendas of President Barack Obama’s Cabinet members.

The policies of the new leaders of several departments in particular could have an immediate effect on soon-to-be college graduates dealing with student loans and looking for work.

Loyola associate political science professor David Doherty said the effects on college students are uncertain and purely speculative because Trump has lacked clear policy positions throughout his campaign.

“We don’t really know exactly how things are going to play out,” Doherty said. “[President-elect] Trump is not really known for having a clear ideological position in the way that many ‘normal’ politicians are.”

While President Obama entered office with clear plans for carrying out his ideas, Trump hasn’t provided details on how he intends to execute his policy ideas, according to Doherty. This ambiguity of stances leads Doherty to think Trump might be more influenced by his Cabinet than his predecessors were by theirs.

“One possibility [about the] the importance of some of these Cabinet nominations is that they’re going to have an unusually strong role to play in shaping Trump’s position on legislative matters and policies,” said Doherty.

The most relevant department for students might be the Department of Education. For Education Secretary, Trump has tapped Betsy DeVos, a staunch opponent of Common Core education standards for public schools and a strong supporter of investment in charter schools, according to DeVos’s website. She favors giving families vouchers out of their tax dollars for children to attend any private school. DeVos’s positions on higher education, such as college affordability, are unclear.

“What [her nomination] means for college level education [is] we might expect to see less support for public universities. We might expect to see more support for loosening reigns that have recently been tightened on for-profit universities,” Doherty said. “It remains to be seen. She’s mostly known … mainly … for her positions on elementary and high school education.”

President of Loyola College Democrats David Evers said that while he’s not surprised by Trump’s Cabinet picks or those picks’ policy positions, he said he is still concerned about what those choices mean for the future.

“It’s exactly what I would have expected so far [from Trump], which means that I’m willing to bet [DeVos will] be toeing the party line when it comes to things like Pell Grants and student loans as well,” said the 21-year-old senior political science major. “It should make people more concerned about the future.”

Vice President of Loyola College Republicans Christian Geoppo said he likes DeVos’s views on education and said he hopes she gets rid of Common Core.

“[Common Core has] been universally condemned … my brother’s friends who are still in high school, they say that Common Core has really done a number on public education,” said the 20-year-old sophomore economics major.

Trump’s nominee for Labor Secretary is Andrew Puzder, the executive of the company behind burger chains Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s. Puzder would be a conservative leader of the labor department, having criticized minimum wage increases in a Wall Street Journal op-ed.

Geoppo said he feels confident in the majority of Trump’s Cabinet picks, but that Puzder’s nomination gives him some pause.

“He’s not one of my favorite choices, because I think if you want to head the Department of Labor, you should at least try to take labor’s side in at least some of the issues,” said Geoppo. “Minimum wage laws are now generally acknowledged to be good things.”

As a student who will be graduating soon, Evers said he thinks Puzder’s nomination is troubling.

“For a lot of college graduates … we have a lot to be worried about,” Evers said. “When it comes to pay equity [and] pushing forward on a minimum wage increase or rules on federal overtime, we won’t have that ally in the executive branch of government anymore.”

As unclear as the future of Trump and his Cabinet’s policies might be, Doherty said he expects a shift to the right in almost all departments in which Trump has appointed new leaders.

“We’re switching out a Democratic president, who, depending on who you ask, was somewhere between a slightly left-leaning centrist to a wacko socialist … but Trump has clearly appointed some pretty staunchly conservative people to the Cabinet,” said Doherty.

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Closer Look Editor

Michael McDevitt is a senior journalism major from Quincy, Massachusetts and the Closer Look editor for The PHOENIX. He started out as a news writer for The PHOENIX in 2015, worked as an assistant news editor in 2016 and as news editor in 2017-18. When he's not editing stories, Michael's probably watching “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.”

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