During his confirmation hearing Tuesday, Arne Duncan, Obama's appointee for Education Secretary, disclosed broad ideas but few specific plans for education in America. Much of the hearing before the U.S. Senate focused on elementary and secondary education, though questions related to paying for college did surface. Duncan's primary focuses appear to be on college access and college affordability, moving away from the emphasis on accountability the nation has seen under Margaret Spellings, the current Secretary of Education.
According to coverage by The Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed, Duncan's primary goal related to college aid is to guarantee access to student loans for everyone attending college. Taking up one aspect of Spellings' policy, he also expressed an interest in simplifying the FAFSA to make applying for federal student financial aid more enticing for college students. Additionally, Duncan pledged to work towards the goals of increasing Federal Pell Grants and instituting the $4,000 education tax credit that made up a major part of Obama's campaign platform.
Congress may already be taking steps towards some of these goals in drafting the next economic stimulus package. Reports have abounded this week that plans are in the works to increase the maximum available Pell Grant by $500 and to consolidate two existing federal higher education tax options into one $3,000 tax credit for higher education expenses.
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