NAICU Washington Update

New Office of Postsecondary and Lifelong Learning May Be in the Works

February 23, 2018

In response to a March 2017 executive order to reduce the federal government’s footprint, the Department of Education has been working to consolidate offices and reduce staff.  The result of such a consolidation may be a combined Office of Postsecondary Education and Lifelong Learning.

Internal documents leaked to the press (Inside Higher Ed and Politico) indicate a consolidation of more than six major offices at the Department, including responsibilities in all major areas – K-12, higher education, communications, and legislative affairs – is under consideration.  Additionally, the elimination of several senior positions in the Administration, such as the Office of the Undersecretary and the Office of the Deputy Secretary is being considered.

Of particular interest to colleges and universities is the proposed consolidation of the Office of Postsecondary Education and the Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education, which reflects the Administration’s increased focus on defining the purpose of higher education as training students for specific jobs.  The elimination of the Undersecretary could also be seen as a snub to higher education, as that position, while not required by law, has taken the lead on higher education policy in the last two administrations.  The Deputy Secretary, or “number 2,” at the Department, may fold into the Office of the Secretary.

Here is the current structure of the Department and explanation of offices.

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