The Obama Agenda

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Democratic Party released its 2012 platform late Monday night, and, like the administration’s policy over the past four years, it focuses on higher education through two prisms: federal financial aid and the need to increase the proportion of Americans with college degrees.

There’s little in the lengthy list of party positions to surprise even cursory observers of the Obama administration’s approach to higher education policy. The Republican platform was wide-ranging and critical, but also specific: the party hit colleges and universities on several fronts. It alleged political and scientific bias, called for changes to the student loan program and more support for alternatives to four-year colleges, and attacked affirmative action and in-state tuition for students who lack legal documentation to live in the United States.

The Democratic platform is less detailed. (Colleges that felt attacked by the GOP might not mind the tradeoff.) The plan focuses on what the Obama administration has done on higher education, and doesn't touch on some of the issues raised by the GOP document.

Instead, the Democratic plan reiterates Obama’s goal that the United States will have the world’s highest proportion of college graduates by 2020. It provides an overview of the administration’s actions on higher education over the past three and a half years — including ending bank-based student lending, creating the American Opportunity Tax Credit and expanding the Pell Grant. It also touts the income-based repayment option for student borrowers, an issue the administration plans to push in the final months of the campaign.

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