In the spirit of the New Year, here are five predictions for 2015.

1. Gridlock will continue. Don’t assume the new Congress will accomplish more than the 113th, which was the second least productive, in terms of bills passed, in modern history (the 112th Congress was the least productive). While Republicans will hold 54 seats in the Senate, they won’t have a filibuster-proof majority, so Democrats will be able to block bills from advancing. And President Obama will still have veto power over measures that pass both chambers. That means that the gridlock and partisan warfare that we’ve seen in recent years will continue, and is likely to worsen as the 2016 election approaches. By the fall, the prospects for compromise on major legislation—education or otherwise—will be dim.

2. Funding will remain tight. Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the new majority leader, has promised a return to “regular order” on appropriations, so spending bills are passed on time and another government shutdown is not risked. But budgets will remain tight, especially once the latest round of across-the-board spending cuts, known as the sequester, is applied. In that context, the most colleges will be able to hope for are modest increases for research and student aid; most programs will have to fight just to keep level funding. The Perkins student-loan program, which is set to expire in September, will be particularly vulnerable. If government accountants conclude that continuing the program would cost taxpayers, lawmakers may well abolish it.

3. Colleges will have to compete for attention. Republicans have laid out several priorities for 2015, including overhauling Mr. Obama’s new health-care system and approving the long-stalled Keystone XL pipeline.Renewal of the Higher Education Act, the main law governing federal student aid, is not among those priorities. Even on the education committees, the Higher Education Act will take a back seat to theElementary and Secondary Education Act, which is long overdue for reauthorization. In a recent survey by Whiteboard Advisors, a policy-oriented consulting business, only 8 percent of higher-education insiders predicted the higher-education bill would be finished by the end of December.

Still, some progress is possible. The House, which is taking a piecemeal approach to reauthorization and passed three bills last year, may get a few more measures through. And in the Senate, the new chairman of the education committee, Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, may introducehis own bill, to replace the 874-page behemoth that his now-retired predecessor, Sen. Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa, unveiled in November.

That brings us to Prediction 4:

4. Simplification will rule the day. For years, lawmakers have been talking about the need to simplify student aid. They’ve made some progress, particularly when it comes to streamlining the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or Fafsa. But most everyone agrees that the system is still too complex and confusing. Now, with Republicans about to control both chambers, a more radical revamping is in the works. In the Senate, Mr. Alexander has drafted legislation to shrink the Fafsa to the size of a postcard and to reduce the number of grant and loan programs.

Meanwhile, House Republicans have offered a road map for reauthorization that calls for “one grant, one loan, and one work-study program” and just two loan-repayment programs.

Their proposals will face pushback from aid administrators, who worry that oversimplifying the Fafsa will force states and institutions to create their own forms to assess need. And interest groups will fight any effort to eliminate programs, including Perkins loans and the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Program. But with lawmakers in both parties embracing simplification, it’s clear that some changes are coming.

5. For-profit colleges will breathe a little easier. Senator Harkin’s retirement last month means that for-profit colleges probably won’t face any major investigations in the coming Congress. But they’ll still have their Congressional critics, including two prominent Democratic senators, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Richard Durbin of Illinois. And they’ll continue to face scrutiny—and lawsuits—from state attorneys general and federal regulators, including the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Still, Republicans aren’t likely to single out the sector in the way Democrats have. Rather, they will seek to apply any accountability regimes to all colleges, for-profit and non.

Regulatory Outlook

And what can colleges expect from the Education Department in 2015? In short, rules, rules, and more rules. The agency, which has been on a regulatory binge in recent years, is set to finalize its controversial teacher-preparation regulation by the fall, and will establish a new rule-making panel—this one focused on loan repayment—that will start its negotiations next month. Draft rules on student debit cards and distance education are also likely this year. And don’t forget the much-malignedgainful-employment rule, which takes effect in July, and President Obama’s controversial college-ratings plan, which is supposed to be final by the fall.

Congressional Republicans, meanwhile, will do their best to thwart those rules. They’ve already vowed to block the gainful-employment rule, calling it an example of government overreach. And they’re threatening to block the federal ratings plan, too, with Senator Alexander leading the effort in the Senate.