President Obama, who won re-election Tuesday night, has already hinted how he might deal with higher education in a second term. The question now is how much of that agenda he will be able to accomplish in the next four years, given the budget crises he will face and the expectation that Republicans in Congress will continue to oppose his priorities.
The president’s victory means that colleges can expect the White House to continue to stand up for federal financial aid, as well as for federal research money, in the likely fierce budget battles in the coming months. But the depth of the financial issues the country faces means that federal dollars are likely to be limited, and the president's support is more likely to halt deep spending cuts than it is to find new money for higher education programs.
It also suggests the continuation of a regulatory agenda that many colleges, especially for-profits, found to be onerous or at least overreaching.
In the near term, a second Obama administration means that the status quo will continue. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has already said he plans to stay for the president’s second term. Although the “gainful employment” regulation, which seeks to rein in for-profit colleges by denying federal aid to those whose students cannot earn enough to pay back their loans, was thrown out in court in July, the department has signaled it intends to take another stab at implementing the regulations, which the court supported in principle. The department will also go forward with new federal rules making income-based student loan repayment more generous, published Thursday but not yet in effect.
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