What can students expect from Obama this time

By Anne Davey, Staff Writer

November 9, 2012

America has always been the land of tremendous opportunity, especially when it comes to higher education. In recent years however, the cost of college and the burden of debt has been rising quickly, leaving Americans with too much debt and too few opportunities.

Now, more than ever, this cannot be the case because higher education is absolutely vital for success in the modern world. Understanding that America has to out-educate the rest of the world to be competitive in the global economy, President Obama has made education a national priority.

As current students at High Point University, it is vital that we understand the effects this new administration will have on us. Here are some aspects of college and university life that will be affected, both positively and negatively, under the second term Obama administration.

Student Debt: In this regard, the president seems to have students’ backs. The President has committed to increase grant funds and lower interest rates for borrowers who are relying largely on federal aid. Unless there is any major ideological shift, that position is not expected to change. Earlier in the year, Obama successfully petitioned Congress to stop interest rates on government-funded student loans from doubling to 6.8 percent. Extra change? We’ll take it.

Unemployment: Youth unemployment has spiked to higher than ever under the Obama administration. Even worse, gridlock in Congress has kept the issue from being properly addressed. Since the current recession began, 2.7 million people between the ages of 16 and 24 have lost their jobs or can no longer find employment. A glimmer of hope in the form of the President’s American Jobs Act was quickly stymied by a non-compliant Congress earlier this year. And without the cooperation of Congress going forward, don’t expect job prospects to improve. That goes for enrolled students and recent graduates alike.

DREAM Act: President Obama has urged Congress to pass the DREAM Act, going as far as to say, “I’ll sign it right away.” The act seeks to give undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship provided they attend college or serve in the military. “It’s the right thing to do, period,” the President said in June. Obama’s re-election could provide undocumented millions the opportunity to pursue higher education, at our taxpayer expense.

College Costs: President Obama has given up on cost reform and seeks only to borrow and spend more and more of the next generation’s money — claiming to help them today and then sending them the bill tomorrow. Under this approach, the cost of a college education has risen by 25 percent, and student debt has reached a record $1 trillion. When we graduate, these effects will be felt heavier than anything by us, as students.

Rising Tuition:  Don’t expect the President to be much help in this domain. Tuition is on the rise nationwide, and economic forecasters don’t see federal relief doing anything to stop this any time soon. President Obama has stated that he wants to combat college costs by rewarding universities that keep costs down with federal funding.

Federal Student Loans: The President signed a new law that makes it easier for students to pay back their federal college loans. Starting in 2014, new borrowers will pay no more than 10 percent of their disposable income, and the President recently proposed accelerating this benefit for current students. The law also allows any remaining debt to be forgiven after 20 years. Those engaged in public-service professions—such as teachers, nurses, or members of the armed forces—will have any remaining debt forgiven after 10 years if they make their payments on time.

Federal Grants: President Obama made college more affordable by doubling funding for Pell Grants, increasing the number of recipients from 6 million to 9 million since 2008. He achieved this in part by eliminating the middlemen from the college-loan program, by taking away billions of taxpayer dollars that were going to the banks instead of students and placing them where they should have been in the first place.

Pell Grants: Consistently a strong supporter of Pell Grants, President Obama will allow for increases in the maximum federal assistance offered. Basically, he will give out more to financially needy students, preventing soaring tuition from putting college out of reach for those that are financially struggling.

Tax Credits for College Students & Families: The President created and extended the American Opportunity Tax Credit, worth as much as $10,000 over four years of school. The college tax credit is expected to have helped an estimated 9.4 million students and families in 2011.

As is the case with any administration, President Obama’s plans will have both positive and negative effects on students in the coming years. Two things are certain: that job prospects are slim and college costs are rising steadily. The important thing is to stay updated and be aware of what is to come. These regulations, changes and policies will affect no one more than they will affect us, directly.