The question of how federal policy might influence higher education is a pretty daunting and slightly difficult issue to respond to. There is no doubt that with a new President and a new cabinet, we are headed for some big changes in both our K-12 and Higher Education institutions. Like everything else with this administration . . .
Obama photo by Steve Rhodes
Transparency is going to be a big keyword in education, as it is shaping up to be in every other industry. This means that those universities that have the largest endowments- even though they have all taken a significant loss these past months- will be asked to be more clear when showing how they dole out their financial aid and when they’re considering what percentage of these billion dollar endowments they should allocate toward student scholarship and tuition dollars. It also means that we’re going to start seeing more inter-disciplinary programs within universities, say, just as an example, between the finance programs and the ethics/philosophy departments. With Obama, he has also made it very clear that his goal is for our students to remain (regain, I believe is the word we’re looking for) our status as the most well-educated in the world when it comes to the math and sciences. This is not only going to alter how we test for competency, but we also need to examine how much we are willing to invest in good, solid teachers and teacher-education programs at all of the universities across the country. As we have seen in the past weeks and hopefully will continue to see in the coming months and years, some of the most intelligent students graduating this year from some of the most prestigious schools are entering the world of TeachAmerica and AmeriCorps, etc . . . If teaching can become the sought-after career of top college graduates, the entire mindset towards the profession will change from the ground up. No longer will it be a sort-of “last resort” or a career that is attractive because it offers good summer vacation, but it may very well gain momentum as a career that has meaning and impact and the force to create positive change.
With this comes a significant need for investment in all areas of the field of education. President Obama has mentioned rewarding the best teachers for their good work and making sure that the opportunity for students in a rough neighborhood with a typically “bad” school will have the same opportunities for advancement as those who are born into a more middle-class neighborhood with typically “good” schools. Granted, there are big steps that must be made on the state level and this should, by no means, fall on the shoulders of the federal government alone. However, I must say that it is quite refreshing to know there is a person in the White House who continues to surround himself with very intelligent people who have, for the most part, really practical experience and are looking to devise true and sustainable solutions to our problems. I’m not letting him off the hook just because he’s an obviously bright and intelligent person who very much values the role that education can play in social mobility. He still has to prove that he walks at the same rate in which he talks. However, I’d be remiss to say that I don’t feel a bit more comfortable knowing that my President is smarter than I am.
So there it is. What do you think? How is Obama doing with education? Leave a comment and let us know.