How Obama’s focus on higher education could help him–and hurt the GOP–in 2012

Since his State of the Union address, President Obama has delivered remarks at three community colleges and three public universities. He’s asked the National Governors Association to increase state funding for higher education, proposed federal incentives for colleges to rein in tuition costs, and talked about how job-skills training helps grow the economy, says Sophie Quinton for the National Journal. Those weren’t campaign speeches; they were policy speeches. But Democrats hope there will be a political payoff from Obama’s attention to college access and affordability. The president’s focus on the issue could help him cast himself as the candidate who supports young people’s aspirations — and provide a stark contrast to his Republican rivals.

“Politically, this is a very good issue for him, because it’s a way to appeal to an important constituency” said Trey Grayson, director of the Institute of Politics at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. For Republicans, he said, the issue of college affordability is “tricky. There’s a strong libertarian element to the Republican base right now.”

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Obama’s lowdown on higher education and student loan debt

Barack Obama can relate to one complaint from “Occupy” protesters. He and his wife once had to pay off $120,000 in student debt, the Christian Science Monitor reports. So when the president met Monday with leaders of prominent universities at the White House, he spoke with some authority about the high cost of tuition as well as a need for better teaching by faculty to ensure American workers stay competitive. Mr. Obama’s own education paid off. Just look where he sits. But for many in college today, dropping out is all too common when money dries up. And too many graduates fail to land jobs in their chosen fields or they don’t meet the hiring standards of employers because faculty aren’t held accountable for what students actually learn…

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Obama administration urges colleges to improve racial diversity

The Obama administration on Friday urged colleges and universities to get creative in improving racial diversity at their campuses, throwing out a Bush-era interpretation of recent Supreme Court rulings that limited affirmative action in admissions, the New York Times reports. The new guidelines issued by the Departments of Justice and Education replaced a 2008 document that essentially warned colleges and universities against considering race at all. Instead, the guidelines focus on the wiggle room in the court decisions involving the University of Michigan, suggesting that institutions use other criteria—students’ socioeconomic profiles, residential instability, the hardships they have overcome—that are often proxies for race. Schools could even grant preferences to students from certain schools selected for, among other things, their racial composition, the new document says…

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Obama, Singh seal higher education summit to take forward ties

India and the US will hold a first ever official higher education summit next year to take forward their ties in the sector, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and American President Barack Obama announced on Monday. According to the Hindustan Times, India and the US were discussing the proposal for summit level talks between the two countries as a deliverable from Obama’s visit. The summit level talks will witness top leaders of the two countries discuss areas of cooperation and concerns and is aimed at providing greater momentum to reforms that can facilitate further deepening of ties in the sector, sources said. Indian American groups and societies have held Indo-US conferences on higher education in the past, including one in Mumbai earlier this year. The summit next year will be the first time that the governments of the two countries will hold summit level talks on the subject, reflecting the uniqueness of their relationship in the sector, sources said…

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