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  • Washington Highlights

    President Trump Issues Executive Order on Free Speech, Student Loans

    Matthew Shick, Sr. Director, Gov't Relations & Regulatory Affairs
    Brett Roude, Legislative Analyst

    President Donald Trump March 21 signed an “Executive Order on Improving Free Inquiry, Transparency, and Accountability at Colleges and Universities.”

    The order directs the heads of the Departments of Defense, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Labor, Health and Human Services, Transportation, Energy, and Education; the Environmental Protection Agency; the National Science Foundation; and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to “take appropriate steps, in a manner consistent with applicable law, including the First Amendment, to ensure institutions that receive Federal research or education grants [excluding student aid] promote free inquiry.”

    In an accompanying fact sheet, the Administration notes, “public schools should fulfill their obligation to uphold the First Amendment and private schools should comply with their stated institutional policies regarding free speech.”

    In a press statement, Senate HELP Committee Chair Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) cautioned, “I don’t want to see Congress or the President or the department of anything creating speech codes to define what you can say on campus. The U.S. Constitution guarantees free speech. Federal courts define and enforce it. The Department of Justice can weigh in. Conservatives don’t like it when judges try to write laws, and conservatives should not like it when legislators and agencies try to rewrite the Constitution.”

    Much of the Executive Order focuses on increasing transparency in student loan programs and directs the Department of Education to expand the College Scorecard to graduate and professional programs. The order also requires progress reports from the Department and studies on state innovations.

    In remarks at the signing ceremony, President Trump also hinted at exploring current borrowers’ repayment saying, “we’re going to start with 43 million people in the United States who are currently working to pay off student loans. And we’ll be talking about that very soon.”