Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Ahead of Inauguration, Higher Education Looks to Obama

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Ahead of Inauguration, Higher Education Looks to Obama

Article excerpt

As the nation prepares for the second inauguration of President Barack Obama, the higher education community is gearing up for a second term that may see both continuity and change in his education policies.

In a legislative landscape similar to his first term, Obama again will face a divided Congress, as well as fiscal challenges. But the president will need a bipartisan agreement to deal with some of the most pressing issues.

This "fiscal cliff," on which Congress and the White House finally reached a deal Jan. 1, is a combination of fiscal issues converging at once: the expiration of George W. Bush-era tax cuts plus payroll tax reductions and education deductions enacted under Obama, the need for another increase in the federal debt ceiling and looming across-the-board budget cuts that trigger if Congress and the president fail to agree on a larger debt-reduction plan.

The deal prevented education funding cuts of about 8 percent with the prospect of additional cuts in future years.

"A budget sequester ... would have [had] a terrible short- and long-term impact on the nation's investments in scientific research and education," says Hunter Rawlings, president of the Association of American Universities.

With programs such as local Head Start, special education and Title I programs and federal TRIO programs (which provide services for 61,000 low-income students), and GEAR UP (which affects 57,000 low-income youth) safe from broad cuts--at least for now--the nation will look to the president in his second term to address other key areas for students and their families in pursuit of higher education.

With the American Opportunity Tax Credit, through which tax breaks are given for college tuition annually, and Pell Grants, which were not on the chopping block in 2013, still intact, the president's affordability agenda is expected to forge on.

Some of the affordability discussions are expected to include:

Pell Grant shortfall: By eliminating student loan subsidies given to banks, Obama has funded increases in the maximum grant for needy students. But due to heavy use of the program in the recession, Pell has a shortfall approaching $8 billion by 2014. …

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