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  • Enormous changes in higher education on the cards?
  • Posted By:
  • Jamie K
  • Posted On:
  • 17-Feb-2013
  • On 12th February, our president gave the much awaited State of the Union address. He challenged all Americans to think on a large scale pointing out that as Americans we all share the title of pride. He went on to say that only higher education can build the fundamentals for this idea. Our President pointed out that all our communities are deeply linked to the fate of our colleges.

    Obama’s address was animated and there was a sense of inter-connectedness. His speech implied that as citizens, it is the responsibility of each one of us to accept certain obligations to future generations and to one another. He stressed on the fact that we are the authors of the next great chapter of our nation’s history. 

    Our higher education leaders today contribute to the hugely dominating hyper-moralized political scripts. It is time for them to transform their roles to being architects of change. Rather than indulging in ideological warfare that is an intrinsic part of campus culture today, we must focus on majoritarian, democratic politics.

    Based on shared and self-interests, it is time for us to change the existing moral higher education into cross-partisan political movement as this is the only way to foster civic learning and democratic engagement. Changes in our current environment are going to be dramatic and to combat this, it is necessary for higher education to consider its administration an ally, not a foe.

    Similar to last year’s state of union address, higher education segment this year too focused on affordability and stress was placed on how colleges must not fund their deficit with public money. The supplemental document released later by our President put forth ideas that point to large scale changes in the higher education system, the largest perhaps since the 1972 Higher Education Amendments.

    It was back then that the Pell Grant was created to help low-income students. This massive government support for higher learning is offered to those who are eligible to pay for accredited colleges. The keyword here is accredited and colleges are accredited by independent non-profit organizations run by colleges themselves.

    This means colleges basically control Pell Grant access and also access to financial aid and student loans. The structure, price and higher learning character are aspects determined by existing colleges. This regulatory monopoly is one of the major detrimental factors for our higher education.

    Obama administration aims to put an end to this monopoly that has had negative effects on innovation and price. Our President will now convince Congress to consider factors such as affordability, value and student outcomes as a scale to identify eligible higher education institutions for federal student aid. This can be possible only by implementing an alternate accreditation system or fine-tune the existing one by incorporating affordability and value measures.

    The accreditation system in existence since the middle of twentieth century has been determining eligibility for federal financial aid in its capacity as an exclusive franchise. Working out eligibility for federal financial-aid system based on a new set of accreditation guidelines will certainly be a major change that will have a positive overall effect.


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