This blog was born in 2005, during the tumultuous first year of George W. Bush’s second term as president, but it grew up during the Barack Obama presidency. Obama made his way into several posts here over the past eight years — no surprise, given the constitutional law professor’s interest in higher education policy. As Inside Higher Ed’s Doug Lederman and Paul Fain wrote on Thursday, “[N]o president in history has, with his rhetoric, so clearly embraced the idea that postsecondary education is a must for individuals and essential for the country’s economic and societal well-being” or “pushed as hard to improve its efficacy, from the belief that something so valuable should deliver on its promises.”
More than any other president before him, Obama could legitimately claim the mantle of “higher education president.” From his administration’s crackdown on for-profit colleges to the failed attempt to create a rating system for higher education to efforts to make college more accessible to Americans and increase graduation rates, Obama took a keen interest in higher education.
This blog took notice. I wrote about Obama quite a bit on this platform during the past eight years. At times I praised him for his vision, at times I lashed out at his policies and actions, and at other times I riffed off of the perspectives of others smarter than I am. Culling the posts down to five that I thought were worth rehashing here was difficult. But here they are. You can find many more by entering “Obama” in this blog’s search engine.
- Brand Obama takes the helm. As Obama prepared for his 2009 inauguration, I reflected on an April 2008 Fast Company piece about Obama’s rise as a brand. “The promotion of the brand called Obama is a case study of where the American marketplace — and, potentially, the global one — is moving. His openness to the way consumers today communicate with one another, his recognition of their desire for authentic ‘products,’ and his understanding of the need for a new global image — all are valuable signals for marketers everywhere.” Interesting to re-read this as Brand Trump assumes the presidency.
- #highered and Obama: the first four years. My look at the president’s first term of office and its impact on the higher education sector. “Obama’s first-term vision for higher education seems to connect to the ideals of keeping college affordable and accessible to people of all income levels,” I wrote back then. He kept his promises to recruit math and science degree graduates into teaching careers, reduce subsidies to private student lenders, expand Pell grants for low-income students, increase research opportunities for college students and increase funding for land-grant institutions, but fell short in a few areas, such as his efforts to create a college tax credit program (a compromise that watered down the initiative), simplify the financial aid application process (another compromise), to support college credit initiatives and to create scholarships to recruit new teachers.
- The higher ed agenda and Obama’s second term. Written soon after his re-election, this post gleans the Obama team’s campaign document, Blueprint for America’s Future (PDF), for hints of what might have been in store. Alas, many of the hopeful ideas in the campaign document failed to materialize. But at least there was a blueprint.
- Dear Mr. President… was my reaction to Obama’s 2012 State of the Union Speech. I was frustrated by a generalization the president made about higher education’s lack of efficiency. “If you can’t stop tuition from going up, the funding you get from taxpayers will go down,” he said. “Higher education can’t be a luxury, it is an economic imperative that every family should be able to afford.” It was a pretty good rant, if I do say so myself, and proof that I wasn’t always in lockstep with Obama.
- Our national science education agenda. Written in 2010, in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, I lashed out at the Obama administration for plans to cut funding for STEM education. “How is it,” I wrote, “that in the midst of the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history — a catastrophe that can be attributed at least in part to technological hubris — the Obama administration is proposing cuts to many national programs that are designed to expand education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics?”
And so we close the books on the 44th president of the United States, one of the best presidents of my lifetime.
So, one last time, I want to say”Thanks, Obama,” for giving me so much to write about and think about over the past eight years.