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How the new Congress will affect higher education policy

Inside Higher Ed takes an early look at the how the leadership change in the House of Representatives--and possibly in the Senate, too--will affect higher education:

Democrats, who captured the House of Representatives and made significant gains in the Senate (control of the Senate remained in doubt early this morning, with key races in Montana and Virginia undecided — check back for updates), have vowed to aggressively push an agenda that includes helping students and families better afford college, an effort that higher education officials (and of course student groups) very much support.

But while Democrats may be likelier than their Republican counterparts to seek to ratchet up spending on student financial aid, it is doubtful that they will be any less inclined than Republicans are to hold colleges accountable on a range of fronts, including the prices they charge students and the quality of the education they deliver. So the outlook for higher education may be a decidedly mixed one, college lobbyists and other observers of Congress and higher education speculated as they awaited the election results Tuesday.

The full impact of the changeover in the House and the Democratic gains in the Senate, which end 12 years of full Republican control of Congress, won’t be clear for months. Divided government could result in deadlock, or moderation that results in compromise and some progress.

Among the uncertainties are what effect partial (or more, if the Senate flips) Democratic control will have on the renewal of the Higher Education Act, which has languished in Congress; whether the power shift will leave the work of Margaret Spellings’s Commission on the Future of Higher Education dead in the water; and how much the takeover will change the climate in Congress for for-profit colleges and lenders, both of which have gained from their relationships (forged in significant part through campaign contributions) with Republican lawmakers.

Read the whole story.