As President Obama begins his second term in office, it is clear that the unprecedented federal focus on higher education will continue for the foreseeable future. This level of attention offers both opportunities and challenges as we work to educate the people who will lead our nation. We have been fortunate that over the past four years, federal support for student assistance has increased. But with these funds have come additional scrutiny and a heightened willingness to regulate—even in areas that we would consider core to academic autonomy.
These challenges are at the heart of this issue of The Presidency. Libby Nelson of Inside Higher Ed, who covered the 2012 presidential elections, looks at the unfinished business the Obama administration is likely to pursue in a second term, particularly in the area of college cost. Of course, any look to the future must be informed by the past. Terry Hartle offers his take on the major themes and accomplishments of the first four Obama years, including its focus on shifting the higher education policy conversation from access to success.
Writing from Massachusetts, President Robert L. Caret offers his “to do” list for Congress when it comes to building a strong partnership with public higher education, urging policymakers to see public institutions as economic engines and vital partners in creating strong and healthy communities. And finally, Lumina Foundation’s Jamie Merisotis urges college and university leaders to consider the important role productivity has to play in helping our nation achieve its attainment goals.
It is clear that federal policymakers see higher education as a vital component in the success of our citizens and of our nation. As the second Obama administration unfolds, ACE will continue its work to advocate for the interests of students and institutions. We are grateful for your support and partnership in this work, and urge you to let us know how we can best be of service to you, our members.
Before I close, I wanted to take a moment to note the passing late last year of University of North Carolina President Emeritus William C. Friday, a giant in American higher education. President Friday will long be remembered as a champion for the life-changing potential of education and long be revered for his sage advice and great personal warmth. As former ACE President Bob Atwell noted after his passing, President Friday was a member of a great generation of remarkable leaders whose legacy will remain with us for generations to come.
Molly Corbett Broad
American Council on Education