On Teaching Fashion: The Obama Administration Goes to College

As most of the world knows, America’s new President, Barack Obama, and new Vice President, Joe Biden, took office this week.  The Obama Administration’s new White House web site now features its agenda for the next four years, and among the topics are the Administration’s plans for the US’s educational system.  Relevant to those of us in Higher Education are two big plans: 
  1. The creation of the American Opportunity Tax Credit; and
  2. Simplification of the application process for financial aid. 

According to WhiteHouse.gov, The American Opportunity Tax Credit ensures that the first $4000 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.”  Considering that community college tuition in California, where I teach, is about $500 per semester, they’re right to say it would be completely free for “most” students.  In other states, where the tuition is much higher (California is known for having relatively low community college tuition), it could be different.  With the economy in the condition it is in, enrollment has increased accordingly at my institution.  One can only imagine what the new tax credit would do for enrollments.  Did I mention that recipients of the credit would be required to complete 100 hours of community service?  One can only imagine what the new tax credit would do for our communities. 


Second on the list of topics relevant to Higher Education on the Obama Administration’s agenda is the simplification of the application process for financial aid.  As a college and university graduate who navigated the process myself as first, my parents’ dependent, second, a single adult, and third, as a married adult, and further, as a recipient of some very poor misinformation from both federal employees on the US Department of Education’s toll-free help line and the financial aid officers at one of the universities I attended, I can say with firsthand experience that the system is ready to be simplified.  

Obama and Biden propose eliminating the current federal financial aid application (commonly referred to as the FAFSA) entirely, and enabling families to apply simply by checking a box on their tax form.  Hallelujah!  It doesn’t get much simpler than that.  

While I’m not sure exactly how simple it will be to execute the new administration’s new ideas, they do sound like positive changes to the lives of American students and America’s future students.

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1 Comment

  • Ellen McKinney January 23, 2009 09.03 am

    Thanks for a very informative article. Dealing with financial aid paperwork is a definite problem for students at my school. Sometimes these difficulties even prevent them from starting class, or going to school that semester entirely. A simplification of the process would be very welcome!


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