By Steven Muller
Here's what's perhaps most unusual about President Obama's big budget proposals for higher education: That he's thinking about higher education at all. Delineated in a handful of brash proposals Thursday, Obama's plan to make college more affordable and within reach of more students represents a break from the approach that President Bush took — he focused much of his energy from Day 1 on improving K-12 education, most notably with his signature No Child Left Behind law.
"It was unusual for President Bush to make higher education a significant part of his budget," said Terry Hartle of the American Council on Education, a lobbying group for college presidents. "President Obama has made this a very substantial part of his first budget." Education, at both the K-12 and college level, was a huge beneficiary of the $787 billion congressional stimulus, accounting for about $106 billion. So a $5.3 billion increase, as Obama wants for education spending, is largely symbolic this year. But Obama proposes significant changes that advocates say could benefit students in the long run.