The Exodus Begins

WASHINGTON — A key member of the Obama administration’s higher education team is departing, diminishing the chances that much of substance will happen in federal postsecondary policy making until the president is either re-elected or ousted.

James Kvaal, who came to the Education Department as deputy under secretary of education a little over a year ago after a stint at the White House National Economic Council, is leaving to join the campaign to re-elect President Obama. Kvaal could not be reached for comment, but a department spokeswoman confirmed his plan to move on.

Kvaal’s departure does not leave the Education Department without experienced hands on higher education policy; Under Secretary Martha J. Kanter, a former community college president, and Eduardo M. Ochoa, assistant secretary for postsecondary education, remain in their posts, along with a slew of career staff members.

But Kvaal, like his predecessor, Robert Shireman, was generally seen as the agenda-setter in an Education Department where Secretary Arne Duncan (like many of his predecessors) pays far more attention to K-12 than to higher education and takes a hands-off approach to postsecondary issues.

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