4 more years: What’s next for higher ed?

On the campaign trail, President Obama touted the expansion of Pell Grants and income-based repayment of student loans. He proposed federal funds to train two million workers at community colleges. But, with increased funding pressures and a still-divided Congress, what’s ahead for higher education in the president’s second term?

Expect more of the same, predicts The Chronicle of Higher Education. President Obama will continue to sidestep Congress to “change education policy through his own executive and regulatory authority,” higher-education advocates said.

The for-profit higher education sector is expecting the return of “gainful employment” regulations, which could cut access to student aid: For-profit college shares fell sharply the day after the election.

Even the nonprofits are concerned about more federal regulation, reports the Chronicle.

The Obama administration over the past four years “sharply expanded the federal government’s role in overseeing colleges and universities, often with no evidence that there was a serious problem that needed regulation,” said Terry W. Hartle, senior vice president for government and public affairs at the American Council on Education. He cited as examples some of the Education Department’s regulations on gainful employment, state authorization of online programs, and academic issues like the definition of a credit hour.

In speeches, President Obama talked of linking federal aid to colleges’ willingness to slow the rate of tuition growth. His goal is to cut the growth rate in half over the next 10 years. However, some think the president’s campaign rhetoric won’t generate a policy proposal. Deciding whether a college provides “good value” isn’t easy:  Colleges that have raised tuition sharply will find it easy to cut the rate of growth, compared to those that have raised tuition moderately.

Subsidized student loans could be “on the table” in budget negotiations, predicts Inside Higher Ed.

The Higher Education Act, which includes federal financial aid programs, expires in 2013, but the reauthorization process could drag on.