President Obama recently revealed his new plan for making college more affordable. He intends to tie federal financial aid to colleges that score well on his rating system. The rating system is supposed to begin in 2015. It will measure colleges according to how many students graduate, the amount of debt college students graduate with, how much college tuition costs, and how many students are low-income.
President Obama declared “a crisis in the soaring coast of higher education”[i] and believes that college is “an economic imperative that every family in America should be able to afford”[ii]. According to The Guardian news source, the fees at public colleges have increased to 250% while average family incomes have only gone up 16% in the last thirty years[iii]. Obama hopes to address these issues with his new ranking system. He also wants Congress to create laws that limit loan repayments, to ensure that colleges stop increasing fees, and to request that state legislatures halt cutting subsidiaries.
The Obama ranking plan has two goals:
- to reward colleges that provide value to students by keeping a lid on tuition rates and student-loan debt
- higher ranked colleges in Obama’s system could qualify for increased federal grants and thereby making college more affordable
Obama’s new ranking system isn’t without accountability. Included in his plan are ways to make sure that students who are receiving financial aid are finishing their classes each semester before they are able to be the recipients of grants the next semester. Obama is concerned because he doesn’t want students taking on college debt if they are not finishing their degrees. Students may not have the means to pay back their debt without a college diploma.
While President Obama wants students to get the “biggest bang for their buck” [iv] and his new ranking system could assist in this goal, there is some skepticism regarding the ranking system based on federal aid as rewards. Obama realizes that his proposals may not be popular among certain schools that benefit “from the status quo”[v]. Certain higher education leaders also wonder how the Obama administration will be able to come up with a universal federal ranking system when many colleges and universities can’t agree on who their peers are.
Whatever the skepticism by some individuals or groups, President Obama believes that his ranking system may make college more affordable for students and families. He also thinks that his plan could help middle-class Americans in a 21st century economy.
[i], [ii], [v] washingtonpost.com/politics/obama-to-propose-college-ranking-system-that-could-increase-affordability/2013/08/22/73e674c0-0b17-11e3-b87c-476db8ac34cd_story.html
[iii], [iv] theguardian.com/world/2013/aug/22/obama-new-college-ranking-system-student-debt