RELEASE: ​Report Lays Out Larger Narrative Behind Obama College Scorecard & Early Financial Aid Application Announcement

Higher Education

September 14, 2015





Report Lays Out Larger Narrative Behind Obama College Scorecard and Early Financial Aid Application Announcement 

Resources and Reform: The Obama Administration’s Higher Education Legacy and the 45th President’s Challenge 

WASHINGTON, DC  – The Obama administration’s release of outcome data on thousands of colleges and announcement that students can apply for financial aid as soon as next October (instead of January) is another marker in the President’s broader higher education record and agenda. We’ve analyzed that record, framed the larger agenda, and challenge the 2016 candidates to stand for resources and reform in higher education as opposed to one or the other.

Michael Dannenberg, the Director of Strategic Initiatives for Policy for Education Reform Now, said “The plans President Obama discussed today are another contribution to his larger higher education legacy of expanding college affordability and holding colleges accountable for results. Too often, students spend too much for college and get too little in return.”

Dannenberg is a co-author of a recent report entitled Resources and Reform: The Obama Administration’s Higher Education Legacy and the 45th President’s Challengewhich lays out the policies and hardball political tactics behind the Obama-era investment in financial aid and extension of the policy paradigm beyond simply addressing college access and affordability to also focus on college completion and college quality.

Co-author Mary Nguyen Barry said, “For too long, Democrats advocated only for increased investment in higher education and Republicans advocated only for higher education reforms. Obama embraced the idea of increased resources and reform for higher education. Will any of the 2016 candidates do the same?”

Under Obama’s watch:


  • Pell Grant investment nearly doubled. Nearly 3 million more working-class students now attend college with the help of Pell Grants than did in 2008.
  • Higher education tax credits more than tripled. Tuition tax relief was increased from a maximum of $3,000 over two years to a maximum of $10,000 over four years; $4,000 in benefits are now refundable for those with incomes so low they have no tax liability.


  • The Education Department cracked down on shoddy for-profit colleges.  Corinthian Colleges were forced into bankruptcy. Hundreds of millions in for-profit college penalties were reimbursed to students.
  • New regulations released that will drive federal financial aid to teacher preparation programs that produce candidates who generate student achievement gains in K-12 classrooms.
  • New data released and packaged on student outcomes, including college-by-college graduation and loan repayment rates – disaggregated by economic subgroup – empowering students and families to hold colleges accountable for results.

The next President, regardless of party, should double down on the Obama extension of the higher education policy paradigm from college access and affordability to college completion and quality by tying resources to reform and use the report’s policy recommendations as a guide down that path.

The report recommends that the next president:

  1.  Establish minimum performance standards for colleges to access federal financial aid. Over 100 four-year colleges have graduation rates below 15 percent.
  2. Cap student loan debt for students, colleges, and states that meet their shared higher education responsibilities; and,
  3. Set the stage for the next big policy movement around student learning outcomes. It’s time for a “Higher Ed NAEP.”

Full report is available here. For more information on Education Reform Now, please visit and follow @EdReformNowUSA.