Aid Expert to Play Key Role in Transition

Bob Shireman, Clinton White House veteran and college access advocate, tapped to help Obama team shape higher education policy. He plans not to work in the administration, though.
November 17, 2008

A familiar name in postsecondary education policy is integrally involved in the higher education transition efforts for President-elect Barack Obama's administration.

Robert Shireman, who was a White House education adviser in the Clinton administration, has spent most of this decade creating and leading organizations that advocate for college affordability and access. In recent days he has told some of the higher education experts who are often his allies that he will be helping to shape the Obama administration's higher education agenda. Shireman has told several people that he does not plan to work in the administration itself, even though he has been seen as a leading contender for a key role on higher education policy in a Democratic administration.

Shireman referred questions about his role to spokespeople for the presidential transition, who did not respond to requests seeking comment.

Shireman is founder and president of the Institute for College Access and Success, which has quickly become an influential voice in policy discussions, both federally and in some states, about financial aid, student loans, and other issues related to students' ability to go to college. Through its research and advocacy, it has prodded changes in federal policy related to income-based repayment of student loans and simplification of the federal student aid process, and held colleges accountable for their success (or lack of it) in enrolling low-income students.

Before founding the institute (and such ancillary organizations as the Project on Student Debt), Shireman, from a perch in the Clinton White House's National Economic Council, helped to implement the administration's higher education tax credits; before that, he was a longtime aide to the late Sen. Paul Simon, who, like President-elect Obama, was a Democratic senator from Illinois.

Several sources confirmed that Shireman had told officials at the foundations that support the college access institute, and at groups that work with it, that he would have to disengage from the organization's work for the time being because of an anticipated role in the transition.

The other higher education official whose name has surfaced to date in regard to the Obama transition efforts is Juliet V. Garcia, president of the University of Texas at Brownsville, whom news reports identified as playing a role -- though an undefined one -- in the transition.


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