THE COMING FIGHT ON EDUCATION POLICY…. In theory, education policy should be an area where the Obama administration and congressional Republicans can find some common ground. In practice, however, there appears to be a big fight ahead.

The fight apparently won’t be over the existence of the U.S. Department of Education, though plenty of GOP candidates included the idea in their platforms. Rep. John Kline (R) of Minnesota, poised to take over the House committee that oversees education policy, noted this week, “In some ways, that’s sort of a talking point. There will be those who campaigned on that language. I’m not sure they always know what it means.”

If anyone’s starting a list of areas where Republicans will probably ignore the demands of Tea Party zealots, put a check next to “leave the Department of Education intact.”

So, where can we expect the disputes? Access to higher ed.

“Under a Republican Congress, [the Pell Grant program] will certainly be revisited and reconsidered in a substantial way,” said Moran, of AASCU. Whether that means raising eligibility standards, cutting the maximum award level or drastically reshaping the Pell program remains to be seen. A senior Republican Senate staffer echoed that view. When it comes to finding ways to cut federal student aid spending, said the Republican Senate staffer, “if John Kline doesn’t fire the first volley, Paul Ryan in the budget committee is going to.”

As Daniel Luzer has reported for quite a while, the Pell Grant program is already in a tough spot. Kline appears poised to make matters considerably worse.

Younger voters chose not to play much of a role in the midterms. Perhaps a big fight over Pell Grants will (a) remind these voters about the stakes; and (b) offer some added motivations for 2012.

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.