Republican gains mean uncertainty for higher ed

Looks like the elections haven’t really changed the scenarios for higher education that I laid out on Monday.

Media outlets that reported on the scene after the elections — such as the Chronicle of Higher Education, Washington Post and Inside Higher Ed — had no firm prognostications.

Uncertainty still reigns, as the Chronicle of Higher Education reports:

The large number of new members of Congress creates uncertainty about the direction higher-education policy will take over the next two years, with lobbyists saying they don’t know much about many of the newly elected individuals’ views on college issues. The lobbyists said they are unsure of what Republicans’ priorities will be on higher education, how likely they are to follow through on plans to cut spending, and how much either party will be able to accomplish in a divided government.

Much of the uncertainty is because of the power split:

Looking ahead, college advocates say they aren’t sure what to expect from a divided government and whether split control of Congress will lead to stubborn impasses or force pragmatic compromises.

Many folks also don’t know exactly where the new chairman of the House education committee, Minnesota’s John Kline, stands on a number of higher-ed issues.

As a field without too many entrenched views, the Washington Post says, education might be a place where both sides can cut some deals.

A few things you’d see from the readings:

Easing up on the for-profits. The Chronicle does see action focusing on for-profit colleges. Republicans might scale back bills focusing on them — and maybe eliminate the proposed “gainful employment” rule, which punishes schools with graduates who have too much debt. For-profit reps are also schmoozing the huge influx of freshman legislators, who they think might be friendlier toward that sector than their predecessors, who have carried negative attitudes from years ago.

More overall scrutiny. Republicans have said the feds are picking on the for-profits, so just might extend scrutiny to all colleges and universities.

Spending cuts. Although the “Pledge to America” spending cuts doesn’t target higher-ed, its overall budget priorities could lead to less money for National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, earmarked research grants directed to specific colleges and universities, student aid, and the National Endowments for the Arts and the Humanities. Yet the Chronicle says programs with long records of support from both parties — such as Pell Grants and the National Institutes of Health — might remain untouched. So we’ll see.

DREAM Act — another shot? With its champion, Harry Reid, remaining as Senate majority leader, the DREAM Act might see another drive for passage.

People: The Chronicle has profiles of several of the key legislators for higher-ed — Speaker John A. Boehner, Kline, Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, newly elected Ohio Governor John Kasich, and incoming Florida Governor Rick Scott.