As President-elect Donald Trump started filling his cabinet last week, speculation has grown around Hillsdale’s own President Larry Arnn as a potential pick for the secretary of education.
In an email exchange with The Collegian, Arnn confirmed that his name has been one of many suggested to fill Trump’s administration with qualified individuals, but he declined to give any specifics.
“[Trump] has a lot of jobs to fill,” Arnn said. “Names fly around at light speed. Mine is one of the minor names. This is not the first time this has happened to me.”
Arnn said in a follow-up email that he is unsure of the specifics regarding if he was on an official shortlist but promised that he will keep the college’s best interests at the forefront of the decision.
“Some people of influence would like for me to do it,” Arnn said. “They are not the people who would decide. If those people decide to ask me, then I will make a decision. I will make no decision that I think would harm the college or result in my permanent separation from it.”
A variety of sources have also confirmed on background that Arnn’s name was floated as a potential pick for secretary of education.
A congressional staffer confirmed to The Collegian that in a conversation, top Trump adviser Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama, expressed that Sessions was sympathetic to the idea of Arnn as a potential secretary of education.
A Michigan-based Trump campaign volunteer said Arnn’s name has been considered and is on a shortlist of candidates.
On Wednesday, numerous tweets increased speculation that he is a finalist.
“Just told LARRY ARNN of Hillsdale is finalist for Secretary of Education,” tweeted Phil Kerpen, president of American Commitment, a conservative-based 501(c)(4).
In addition, conservative political commentator and radio personality Rush Limbaugh discussed it on his show on Wednesday, stating that he was thrilled at the prospect of Arnn taking on a role in Trump’s Cabinet.
“Can you imagine if Larry Arnn ended up as education secretary?” Limbaugh said. “You put him in there at education and Cruz or Jeff Sessions as attorney general — look, I’m here to tell you that the names I have seen floated are more solid and better in terms of conservatism than your average Republican nominee would put together.”
Arnn would be an interesting choice for secretary of education, given Arnn’s frequent lectures against the bureaucratic state and regulatory agencies. Last year, when Hillsdale was excluded from the Education Department’s College Scorecard website and labeled as a “certificate degree-granting institution,” Arnn expressed his dissatisfaction with its analysis.
“Hillsdale College, 1844. United States Department of Education, 1979,” Arnn said. “The latter has never been very good at history or even current affairs.”
The Education Department has since labeled the misidentification of Hillsdale as a certificate degree-granting institution an error.
According to Politico, other names in consideration for secretary of education include Rep. Luke Messer, R-Indiana; William Evers, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution; and the former chancellor of Washington, D.C.’s public schools, Michelle Rhee.
This is the second time during the course of this election season that Arnn’s name was dropped for a Capitol Hill position. Following the resignation of former Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, in October 2015, Steve Hayes, Weekly Standard senior writer, said in a Fox News segment that Arnn would be a quality choice for the position.
“There’s a reason he rose to the top of my head,” Hayes told The Collegian at the time. “He’s intelligent, serious, and has a background with understanding statesmanship. Having spent hours in the classroom and in lectures he’s given, I know he understands what’s at the heart of the republic.”
Arnn said he wasn’t seriously considering leaving Hillsdale for Capitol Hill at that time, and Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, was chosen.
Numerous Hillsdale students said they would be ecstatic, if Arnn were to take a position in Trump’s administration.
“I’m not a fan of the Department of Education, like a lot of students here,” freshman Alexis Nester said. “But I’m sure if appointed, he would work to reduce it.”
Some members of Hillsdale’s politics department, however, said it’s way too early to speculate on political appointments.
But politics department chairman Mickey Craig said it would be a blessing to have someone with Arnn’s experience in the Cabinet.
“I think Arnn would be a great secretary of education,” Craig said. “As a college president, he has dealt with the education department and a lot of the idiotic things they do. He has studied politics and the Constitution. It would be good for him to be at the Cabinet table.”