George H.W. Bush and Higher Education!

Dear Commons Community,

George H.W. Bush, who died on Friday, is not generally regarded as having had a major influence on higher education. However, during his term as president (1989-93), he was involved with legislation and other developments that were important to this sector. Here is a sample courtesy of The Chronicle of Higher Education:

  • The reauthorization of the Higher Education Act in 1992. Among the key provisions were the creation of a direct-loan pilot program, a toughening of the path for student borrowers seeking to discharge their loans in bankruptcy, and the enactment of the 85/15 rule (which would later become the 90/10 rule) , which specified that colleges could receive no more than 85 percent of their revenue from federal student aid. (Efforts by the first Bush administration — spearheaded by then-Education Secretary Lamar Alexander — to rein in for-profit collegesare largely forgotten in higher-ed lore.
  • The crackdown on the Overlap Group. The Justice Department investigated a group of admissions officers from elite colleges who gathered annually to compare and adjust financial-aid awards being offered to prospective students with the intention of making aid dollars go further.
  • Supreme Court nominations. The Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill hearings heralded the #MeToo movement, and David Souter proved to be a key advocate of academic and intellectual freedom.
  • The subdued reaction to the Tiananmen Square massacre. China’s student-led pro-democracy movement electrified the world. Then came the slaughter of an untold number of protesters. Bush, who had embraced China’s people as the chief U.S. envoy in the mid-1970s, made diplomatic overturesto the country even as the rest of the Western world was seeking to isolate it.
  • Passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act. In George Bush’s most enduring legacy for higher education, he signed legislation expanding protections for college applicants and students with disabilities.

Bush’s state funeral will take place Wednesday at Washington National Cathedral. A graduate of Yale, he will be interred Thursday at his presidential library at Texas A&M University, which is also home to the Bush School of Government and Public Service. 


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