How Would Obama’s Budget Affect Higher Education?

President Barack Obama is proposing a $14 billion one-time investment into higher education, according to the 2013 budget released on Monday. The $14 billion would go toward aligning education programs with workforce demands, raising teacher’s salaries, and increasing college affordability, according to a U.S. Department of Education (DOE) press release. The proposal comes along with a DOE request for $69.8 billion, a $1.7 billion increase from 2012.

"In these tough budget times, the Obama Administration is making a clear statement that high-quality education is absolutely critical to rebuilding our economy," Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education, said in the DOE press release. "If we want to strengthen the American workforce, we must continue to invest in education."

Yet, the overall budget, which calls for $3.8 trillion in spending and new taxes on 2% of the nation’s wealthiest people, has been heavily criticized by Republicans. "The president’s budget is a gloomy reflection of his failed policies of the past, not a bold plan for America’s future," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said to the Associated Press. "The president offered a collection of rehashes, gimmicks and tax increases that will make our economy worse."

There’s loaded rhetoric from both sides, but how might Obama’s plan actually affect higher education?

  • Increase Pell Grants, Freeze Student Loan Interest Rate
  • The 2013 fiscal plan would increase the maximum awarded amount to $5,635 from $5,555. The Pell grant is awarded to 10 million students as they pursue higher education. The DOE is also proposing to freeze the interest rate on subsidized student loans at 3.4%, instead of allowing it to double in the summer. There are other investments, such as $14.5 billion for Title I College and Career Ready Students and $534 million for School Improvement Grants. "These investments are absolutely critical, not just for our nation’s students, teachers and schools, but for our country’s economy," Duncan said in the press release. "Through these programs, we can help drive reform that will ultimately strengthen the workforce and create more job opportunities – especially in well-paying, high-demand fields."

  • Fund College To Career Program
  • President Obama is also proposing $8 billion in mandatory funding for a Community College to Career Fund. Administered with the DOE, the program would "provide funding to develop new partnerships between community colleges and businesses in order to train and place 2 million workers in high-growth industries," the DOE press release read. The funds would help community colleges work with local business to train students, and the businesses would then offer paid internships for low-income students so they can earn academic credit while also getting an early start to their career, the press release read.

  • Reward Effective Teachers; Reduce Shortage of Math and Science Educators
  • The 2013 DOE budget request also calls for $5 billion in competitive funding to reward states and districts who enact bold reforms that "help better prepare, support, and compensate teachers." That includes about $620 million set aside in Title II funds, which would ultimately go to programs that attempt to reduce the shortage of science, technology, engineering, and math teachers. There is also a proposed $400 million set aside for the Teacher and Leader Innovation Fund, which is an increase of $100 million from this year. The program rewards states and districts who try to improve the effectiveness of education in high-need schools.

For a full rundown of the President Obama’s 2013 budget, click here.

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