What Will Obama’s Higher Ed Priorities Be for a Second Term?

While this election day is being touted as a big win for the Democrats, considering the the control of the House remains with the Republican Party, there are questions about how much of his agenda — and which parts — President Barack Obama will be able to implement in the next four years. As he prepares to take the oath of office again this January, will the goals he outlined for higher education in the U.S. during his State of the Union Address last year remain a priority for the administration that will have to deal with a looming fiscal crisis as well as grapple with economic struggles that continue to haunt the country?

Some things remain clear. It is widely expected that in his second term the President will continue to support the expansion of the federal financial aid programs like Pell Grants and subsidized Stafford loans. In the coming battle over next year's federal budget, Obama will push for an increase in research and education funding.

Still, the country's finances being what they are, those expecting a federal windfall will be disappointed. According to Inside Higher Ed, it is more likely that the President's priority will be to serve as a barrier to deep budget cuts favored by the Republicans, rather than than to push for an additional chunk of the shrinking federal kitty.

In the short term, "I think it's very likely that the Education Department will continue to use its regulatory authority to advance federal education policy," said Terry Hartle, senior vice president for government and public affairs at the American Council on Education, after several networks called the race for the president late Tuesday night. Several new regulations are expected in the coming months, including new rules governing teacher preparation programs and a new round of negotiated rule-making dealing with fraud.

Tuesday's results did bring succor to at least one higher education system. After strenuous campaigning by Governor Jerry Brown, among others, voters in California approved Proposition 30, a sales tax and an income tax hike meant to raise money for California schools, colleges and universities. Brown's effort on behalf of Prop 30 is credited with "rescuing" California's community college system from extensive "trigger" cuts that would have gone into effect if the measure had failed.

Early returns — from mostly rural, conservative areas — had Prop 30 losing until just after 11 p.m., when votes shifted to the affirmative, never to look back. Returns from late-reporting counties — you know who you are, Los Angeles — continued to grow Prop 30′s margin into the evening, which stood at 53.0 percent to 47.0 percent at 1:20 a.m. with nearly three-quarters of California votes tallied.

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