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What an Obama Presidency May Mean For College Education

Dec 12, 2008 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Columnist | 0 Comments

Now that Barack Obama has officially won the presidency, he’s got a lot of work to do.  Higher education, like many other issues, is faced with serious challenges. Over the years, college has become more expensive and less accessible to many—and it’s now common for college students to graduate with debilitating student loan debt. At the same time, the effects of the broader financial meltdown and shrinking funds for college grants and federally subsidized loans have made the situation even more bleak for college students.

Barack Obama has made several proposals that are aimed at addressing these problems. Here are a few things his presidency may mean to college students and their families across the country.

College would be more affordable

Obama has proposed a tax credit designed to pay the first $4,000 of tuition for all families paying for an online college education, in exchange for 100 hours of community service. The website states that the tax credit will make college “completely free” for some community colleges and cover much of the cost of public universities, although it’s a drop in the bucket for some expensive private schools.

Obama and College Education

Obama's education plan could usher in more affordability for US colleges who in recent years have steadily raised tuition and costs on all things. This added expense has already been burdening college students like never before.




Earn more credits while you’re in high school

Barack Obama has set an ambitious goal to increase the amount of high school students taking Advanced Placement and college credits 50% by the year 2016.  He also plans to expand on a proposal he’s already sponsored in the Senate to make grants for high school students seeking credits at community colleges more readily available for those whose high schools don’t provide them with the opportunities on their own. AP and advanced-level credits in high school can often be applied toward college degrees and even cut tuition costs at some schools.

See Also: High School Online

Applying for Federal financial aid will be easier

If you want to apply for a Pell grant or a subsidized loan today, you have to fill out the FAFSA—a long, complicated and sometimes-contradictory form. And if you make a mistake, it could affect the amount of aid you get.  Obama wants to make the process easier by simply allowing future college students and their families to check a box on their tax returns saying they wish to be considered for Federal aid.  Their tax information can then be used to decide how much they qualify for.

More Direct Loan money for students

Obama has stated in the past that he believes education loan subsidies for banks are part of the root cause of the student loan scandals.  Instead of delivering Federal loans through banks, he would like to cut banks out of the mix entirely and expand the amount of money available through the Direct Loan program.  This could have the effect of reducing the types of conflicts of interest seen during the student loan scandals, where colleges received kickbacks for encouraging students to take out loans with specific banks.

Incentives for community colleges

Obama has also stated that he would like to provide incentives for community colleges to conduct research on the types of careers in demand in today’s job market and develop courses of study to qualify students for these careers, as well as incentives for two-year programs to transfer students to four-year programs.  This could lead to an easier path from two-year to four-year degrees and college degrees more applicable to job market realities.

Affirmative action may change

While Obama supports affirmative action, he has also stated that he would prefer class and race to be more equal factors than they are today.  Obama believes that while one’s race can be a factor, one’s financial situation and class level can also have a large impact on college availability and expectations.

It’s tough to predict how much of Obama’s higher education wish list will make it into Federal law.  But Obama and Biden have demonstrated concern for the availability of college to all Americans.  Hopefully their existing platform and previously stated views on higher education issues are a sign of positive change to come. 




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