The White House announced Tuesday that President Trump will nominate Robert L. King to be the assistant secretary of postsecondary education.
King, who has decades of experience in state government but none at the federal level, is Trump’s first nominee for a higher ed post at the Education Department. All but three other Senate-confirmable positions have already been filled at the department.
King is currently the president of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education. Previously, he served as president and CEO of the Arizona Community Foundation and chancellor of the State University of New York System.
Before his career in higher education, King had been a key aide and ally of former New York governor George Pataki, a moderate Republican. He served as Pataki’s budget director and director of the Office of Regulatory Reform before joining the SUNY system. Some critics said his relationship with the governor did too much to shape his leadership at SUNY. His stint there ended in 2005 after he lost the backing of trustees.
The Education Department has been slow to fill the key higher ed post -- possibly a sign of early struggles to convince top political talent to join the administration. Claude Pressnell, president of the Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities Association, pulled his name from consideration for the assistant secretary job last year after several months of discussions with Secretary Betsy DeVos about joining the department.
Diane Auer Jones, the Education Department's top higher ed official, was delegated the duties of under secretary and assistant secretary of postsecondary education after joining the department. She'll continue to serve in both roles until King can be confirmed, a department spokeswoman said. If he is confirmed by the Senate, Jones will remain in the under secretary role. The spokeswoman said the department could not offer any updates on plans for an official nomination for that post.