President Donald Trump chose Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, the largest Christian college in the world, to lead a White House task force to reform higher education. According to the Associated Press, Falwell discussed the position with Trump’s senior strategist on Tuesday, Feb. 2.
“Jerry Falwell Jr. being asked to head the higher education reform task force is par for the course, given the laundry list of conservatives Trump has nominated to his cabinet,” senior Griffin Gibson, a former intern with Americans for Prosperity in the District of Columbia, said. “Under Falwell’s leadership, this task force can be expected to recommend the elimination of various federal regulations that are currently imposed upon higher education.”
Julie Hixson-Wallace, vice provost of accreditation, said that higher learning institutions are left with little freedom for implementing their own missions while meeting demands of accrediting agencies and the U.S. Department of Education. Hixson-Wallace said she expects Falwell to give universities more liberty in interpreting regulations in regards to institution’s particular mission.
“Regional accreditation standards and the U.S. Department of Education regulation are sometimes at odds, placing all institutions of higher education in the middle, often creating overly complicated requirements,” Hixson-Wallace said. “As president of a faith-based private Christian university, Mr. Falwell is certainly in a position to understand issues faced by intuitions such as Harding.”
Len Stevens, executive director of External Communications for Liberty, confirmed Falwell’s acceptance of the position but said details regarding the initiative have yet to be established.
“President Falwell will lead education task forces, but the scope of those task forces has not been announced,” Stevens said. “There is no further information to share on that at this time.”
In a separate interview with CNN, Stevens said Falwell is interested in decreasing regulations for institutions of higher learning, particularly that of Title IX. Hans Bader, a senior attorney at the Competitive Enterprise Institute and previous attorney in the Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights, said he believes Falwell will judge Title IX cases more precisely.
“In his public comments (Falwell) has shown a welcome willingness to question improper bureaucratic micromanagement of colleges that began under the Obama administration,” Bader said. “Such micromanagement has resulted in unfair treatment of students and faculty.”
Hixson-Wallace said Falwell’s new position will benefit universities with his looser perspective on policy and regulations for higher education.
“I hope Mr. Falwell will accomplish lessening of the specific oversight that is currently required by the accrediting agencies and USDOE to enable universities to interpret, within their mission, the standards and criteria for a quality education,” Hixson-Wallace said. “Having such a voice at the table makes me feel more confident that our interests are likely to be represented.”
Falwell became the president of Liberty University in 2007. He graduated from the university in 1987 with a degree in religious studies and history, and later earned a doctorate from the University of Virginia School of Law. Falwell endorsed the president in January, days after Trump spoke at Liberty.