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Trump’s proposal for online university ‘American Academy’ receives mixed reviews


‘We absolutely need more competition among colleges and universities for students,’ political scientist said

Academics and conservative leaders weighed in on former President Donald Trump’s recent proposal for an online college that would “compete directly” with the “four-year university system” and would not allow “wokeism” or “jihadism” in its teaching.

Political scientist Samuel Abrams at Sarah Lawrence College told The College Fix Trump was correct that schools with “huge endowments” should be “scrutinized and monitored” like other nonprofit foundations.

They should be evaluated based on how they are “enhancing their communities and fulfilling their mission of education,” Abrams wrote.

Trump wrote on Nov. 1 on Truth Social that “in recent weeks, Americans have been horrified to see students and faculty at Harvard and other once-respected universities expressing support for the savages and jihadists who attacked Israel.”

“We spend more money on higher education than any other country—and yet, they’re turning our students into Communists and terrorist sympathizers,” he wrote.

“It’s time to offer something dramatically different… ‘THE AMERICAN ACADEMY'”


In the Truth Social video announcing his proposal, Trump said if he were elected in 2024, he would fund a degree-granting online university by “taxing, fining, and suing excessively large private university endowments” so as not to raise taxes.

The university will make lectures and other content available “online, to every American, for free,” he said. It also will be “strictly non-political.”

Abrams told The Fix that “we absolutely need more competition among colleges and universities for students” due to their politicization by diversity, equity, and inclusion “extreme progressive” politics.

“Some schools are so deeply infected by DEI that righting them may be impossible,” he said.

However, he is “wary of an online college being an absolute replacement” for in-person learning and does not believe America’s need for “debate, dialogue, discourse, and learning” can be satisfied virtually.

“Some schools teach skills wonderfully online,” he wrote. “But if we are going to see direct competition with four-year university systems that investment needs to be made for in-person instruction and socialization.”

“A huge part of the collegiate experience and learning takes place outside classrooms and that cannot be replicated online,” he said.

“Students need real alternatives to progressive DEI strongholds and a physical campus and a new school is a way to achieve that; digital doesn’t get us there,” Abrams said.

Abrams also said, “there is no way to keep colleges and universities from being political” since they study politics and policy.

“We cannot police or limit one’s politics, but we can demand systems that promote open inquiry and debate,” he said.

Senior political columnist Timothy Carney of The Washington Examiner wrote critically of the former president’s plan in a Nov. 3 opinion article.

Trump’s “proposal for a federally funded, ‘anti-woke,’ free university is rooted in [the] typical Trumpian errors: over-centralization, lack of prudence about the future, and a simplistic concept of both government finance and education,” Carney wrote.

However, Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk offered a positive take, writing Nov. 2 on X that Trump “is vowing to REVOLUTIONIZE higher education.”

The Fix reached out to Hutz Hertzberg, Turning Point Academy’s chief education officer, and to TP USA’s general mailbox to ask for additional comments. No response has been received.

The Fix also emailed political scientist Keith Whittington at Princeton University asking whether he believes online college could be a suitable replacement for in-person learning and whether he believes academia is overly politicized. He has not responded.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Dec. 2 that historian Kevin Roberts, president of Heritage Foundation, said he “loves” the former president’s plan.

However, “several former Trump administration officials said they were skeptical of the feasibility” of the proposed American Academy, according to the Journal. 

The Fix reached out on Dec. 13 to Cody Sargent, assistant director of media and public relations at the Heritage Foundation, to ask for more details on what Roberts favors about Trump’s plan and to ask for the organization’s thoughts on the advantages and limitations of an online university. It has yet to receive a response.

MORE: Professors bemoan Donald Trump’s announcement of presidential run

Editor’s note: This article has been updated with comments from Charlie Kirk and The Washington Examiner and additional details about whom The Fix contacted for comment.

IMAGE: @realDonaldTrump/Truth Social

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About the Author
Nathan Biller -- Colgate University