Issues surrounding education were hot topics leading up to the recent election.
President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan pledged an array of education-based initiatives to help students and families—from lowering student loan interest rates to addressing the dropout rates. But with President Obama’s recent reelection, is the president’s administration living up to the promises he has made to students or is there a lot of work to be done in the next four years?
To date, President Obama has kept many, broken some and compromised a few promises related to education. To help students assess progress, and better understand some of the promises,CengageBrain (www.cengagebrain.com), the premier destination for purchasing Cengage Learning textbooks, has highlighted some of the important issues surrounding higher education and the progress made by President Obama.
American Opportunity Tax Credit: Designed to offset college costs, President Obama promised that “This universal and fully refundable credit will ensure that the first $4,000 of a college education is completely free for most Americans, and will cover two-thirds the cost of tuition at the average public college or university and make community college tuition completely free for most students.” The tax credit did come with a caveat and recipients were required to fulfill 100 hours of community service. However, when the tax credit was granted the credit fell short of the $4,000 promised by Obama and, in reality, falls in the $1,800-$2,500 range.
Address the Dropout Crisis: During his 2008 campaign, Obama suggested addressing the dropout crisis by providing funding to school districts for use in intervention strategies. Since students who drop out are usually on the path before high school, Obama’s initiative focuses on middle school intervention. He dedicated around $50 million a year between 2010 and 2012 to the High School Graduation Initiative.
Reduce the Burden of Student Loans: President Obama hit home with a crowd at theUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel Hill after remarking that he only paid off his student loans eight years ago. One of his ongoing promises is to help students repay loans faster and more efficiently. CNN showed the president took nearly $60 billion that was going to banks and lenders and cut out the middleman. While this helped, the cost of college is continuing to grow and the funding boosts may not be as significant as they seem.
Simplify the Application Process for Financial Aid: Anyone who has ever filled out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) form knows it can be a frustrating process. President Obama suggested streamlining the process by enabling families to check a box on their tax form authorizing their tax information to be used in the financial aid process. This promise was partially kept. An option was present on tax forms, but only 80 percent of users are eligible for the feature.
Raise Awareness of College Financial Aid: To help students and families get the most out of federal programs, President Obama pledged to spend $25 million per year on programs that raise awareness of college funding.
Race to the Top: Race to the Top (RTTT) was created in 2009 and individual states were awarded points and funding for their efforts towards educational policies. While Arne Duncan and President Obama back the program, there has been a significant amount of backlash from politicians and policy analysts and educators around the accuracy of testing and measurements.
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