How will higher education fare in the election?

For-profit education and higher-ed funding are likely to feel the impact of the presidential election.

As the nation edges closer to final results from the Nov. 6 presidential election, many higher-education stakeholders are outlining how each candidate’s victory might affect funding and policy for colleges and universities.

During a Nov. 2 webinar featuring a handful of college and university experts, panelists agreed that both candidates want college to be more affordable. But while President Obama wants to increase federal funding for Pell Grants and other higher-education programs as part of his strategy, Republican candidate Mitt Romney has said he would not funnel additional government aid to schools. Instead, he wants colleges to seek more competitive and innovative ways to deliver that affordability.

Kris Amundson, director of strategic communications at Education Sector; Trish Brennan-Gac, senior policy advisor and consultant with Learning Point Associates; and Sally Stroup, vice president and legal counsel at the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities, addressed some key policy issues and also pinpointed a few areas that are of particular concern to the higher-education community.

College affordability

An Obama administration likely would propose more across-the-board funding than a Romney administration, Stroup said.

“I think one place where you will see some disagreement is in who is the provider of student loans,” Amundson said. “Obama took a good deal of that away from the banks, and that’s where [his administration] got the money they used to increase the total they were giving away in Pell Grants. Romney reps have said that’s something he would rescind and bring banks back into it.”

Paul Ryan, Romney’s vice presidential running mate, proposed a budget that would do more in terms of freezing the maximum Pell Grant level, she added. Ryan’s House budget plan would keep the top Pell Grant award in the coming school year at $5,500 but in future years would reduce the number of students eligible, not the award sums. In other words, fewer students would receive Pell Grants, but the neediest would not see their awards changed.

Laura Ascione

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