Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Obama Administration Could Mean More Money, Scrutiny: Youth Expect Obama to Deliver on College Affordability, but That May Mean More Oversight of Colleges

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Obama Administration Could Mean More Money, Scrutiny: Youth Expect Obama to Deliver on College Affordability, but That May Mean More Oversight of Colleges

Article excerpt

With the Barack Obama era fast approaching in the nation's capital, postsecondary education advocates are preparing for an onslaught of new legislation while also making plans to work with new leadership at the U.S. Department of Education.

"We need to fasten our seat belts," says Barmak Nassirian, associate executive director of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers. While higher education leaders often lamented the lack of action by the Bush administration, he says, President-elect Obama's team is expected to take a more hands-on approach that may bring both positives and negatives.

"We're going to see a much more activist U.S. Education Department," Nassirian tells Diverse. Although this effort may lead to increased funding--Obama favors more financial aid for college--it could also bring greater oversight of colleges. "You're going to get more attention, but also potentially more regulation. That could be a negative."

Among other proposals, Obama has called for a $4,000 tax credit for students who perform 100 hours of community service annually for two years. He also seeks more federal help for community colleges and greater use of direct government loans for college rather than reliance on bank-supported lending. Of particular interest on minority education, he has favored federal aid for predominantly Black colleges and universities, or colleges that are not historically Black but enroll high numbers of Black students.

But with the economy in dire straits, the new administration may have to pare its education wish list. "There may be more money," Nassirian says, "but the overall budget picture is pretty tight."

One front-burner issue is Obama's selection of a U.S. secretary of education. The list of names circulating among advocates and the media range from former generals and cabinet members to superintendents of large city school districts.

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"We've heard everyone from Colin Powell to university academics," says Dr. Michael Lomax, president of the United Negro College Fund. While not offering a prediction, Lomax says it is imperative that the next secretary have a goal of greater college access and success.

"The priority is to ensure that more Americans attend and graduate college," he tells Diverse. …

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