Catherine Rampell asks that interesting question. Trump is hostile to higher education but courts the steel and aluminum sectors? Maybe he disdains higher education because, as he said during the 2016 campaign, he “loves the uneducated.”

Rampell says that Trump

“has been threatening [higher education] with anti-immigrant policy and rhetoric; several recent data releases suggest that the long-term growth in international students has now reversed itself. In response, a reader asked me how U.S. employment in higher education compares to employment in some of the industries Trump has sought to protect through tariffs.

“As you might expect, the comparison is not exactly flattering to Trump’s trade policies: Higher ed vastly dwarfs those other sectors.

“According to the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’s Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, from the third quarter of 2017, about 3 million people were employed by colleges and universities, both public and private. That tally excludes those employed by junior colleges (an additional 697,000), technical and trade schools (131,000), and other related employers, which likely enroll fewer international students.

“By contrast, in iron and steel mills and ferroalloy production, employment tallied 82,000. Alumina and aluminum production had 57,000 jobs. Meanwhile, millions of Americans are employed in industries that use these metals as an input (aerospace, construction, energy, beer can manufacturers, etc.), and will therefore face higher prices and the threat of layoffs. Many millions more may also find their jobs threatened if, say, China follows through with its threats of retaliatory tariffs.

“I would offer you my chart of higher ed employment vs. steel and aluminum employment, but given that higher ed employment is more than 20 times as large as steel and aluminum employment combined, the chart’s a bit hard to read.”