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The Daily Tar Heel

Higher Education Received Boost Under Clinton's Care

Some education analysts are more than willing to heap praise on the outgoing president.

"He's been the best president for education since the 1960s," said Jack Jennings, director of the Center on Education Policy.

Jennings said that since the doors of public education opened to all Americans during Lyndon Johnson's administration, no president has passed as much legislation that has made the possibility of college a reality for more students.

Jennings pointed to two specific tax provisions that have helped families pay for college -- the HOPE Scholarship and tuition tax credits. Combined, the programs affect more than 7 million families nationwide, Jennings said.

Much of Clinton's legislation came in the two years after the 1994 election, in which Republicans took control of both houses of Congress and passing more liberal legislation, such as universal health care, was no longer possible.

Robert Samors, UNC-system vice-president of federal relations, said North Carolina in particular has benefited from a program called GEAR UP, which helps disadvantaged middle school students prepare for college.

Samors added that Pell Grants have increased at an unusually high rate of 9 percent a year since 1996.

In the most recent federal budget the Pell Grant has been raised by $500 to $3,800, which is the largest single increase ever.

During the Clinton presidency, funding for the National Institutes of Health, which provides grants to many universities, has increased steadily.

Clinton's administration also enforced Title IX, a law banning gender discrimination in college athletics. Since 1992, the number of female college athletes has increased by close to 50 percent, while the number of male athletes has gone up by only 10 percent.

But even in the area where Clinton has excelled, critics are quick to point out that the president didn't accomplish everything he could have.

Jennings said that while middle-class families thrived during the Clinton presidency, students from low-income families still struggle to pay for college.

"I wish Clinton had put as much emphasis on expending aid to low-income students as he did for the middle class," Jennings said.

He added that since Clinton took office in 1992, education has become the main issue in American politics, which hasn't been the case for many years.

"In the last presidential campaign, the candidates talked a lot about education because people want quality schools and people want to send their kids to college."

The State & National Editor can be reached at stntdesk@unc.edu.

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