Obama's New Plan for Higher Education

Friday, August 23, 2013

(Mike Liu/Shutterstock)

On Thursday, President Obama put forth a bold new plan for higher education with the goal of increasing college affordability by linking federal aid to education outcomes.

The proposals call for a new college rating system to be put in place before 2015, which would rank schools according to tuition, graduation rates, debt and earnings of graduates. It would also take into account the percentage of lower-income students who attend. This would be a significant disruption to the current U.S. news ranking system, that though somewhat maligned is largely relied upon.

The new ratings would be directly tied to financial aid so that those on top would get more affordable loans and larger federal grants. The plan also calls on colleges to disburse student aid over the course of a semester, rather than as a lump sum at the start.

President Obama kicked off an unveiling of the plan in a campaign-style two day bus trip that began yesterday at the University of Buffalo.

“Higher education cannot be a luxury," said President Obama. "It's an economic imperative. Every American family should be able to afford to get it."

The only thing standing in the way of President Obama’s idea is Congress—and Congressional approval has stopped his efforts before. President Obama acknowledged this potential push back in his visit to the University of Buffalo.

“These reforms won't be popular with everybody, especially those who are making out just fine under the current system," he said.

But in a time where the average borrower graduates with more than $26,000 in debt and faces an uncertain job market, affordability ranks high for many young people.

President Obama is wrapping up his tour today with a town hall visit to the SUNY Binghamton University, and a final stop at Lackawanna College in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

Kathryn Dura will be a senior at Binghamton High School this year. She’s already began the college search, and like every young person debt, jobs and finding a school that she likes are on her mind. Kathryn is joined by her father Dr. Paul Dura.



Kathryn Dura and Dr. Paul Dura

Produced by:

Ellen Frankman


T.J. Raphael

Comments [9]

Jimmy from Bronx, NY

Since we can't even agree upon a number one college football team what makes the president think that anyone can rank an entire university. No doubt these rankings will be misused by employers and shrink the hiring pool even further. Mythbuster time. It's not just public colleges that receive federal funding- nearly all colleges do. I'm a little concerned that the Obama Administration is attempting to instill a little too much of a top down micromanagement philosophy from Washington, D.C. that is destined to fail.

Aug. 23 2013 03:13 PM
Musetta from Montclair, NJ

What about the for-profits?

Aug. 23 2013 03:09 PM
Larry from Brooklyn

As a college professor, I often meet prospective students and their families at campus events. The most common questions from these folks is about internships and graduate degrees. Students show interest in housing, sports facilities, etc. No one has ever asked me about the quality of our faculty or how we teach our courses, the library, etc. What drives up costs at many schools is fancy dorms, fancy dining halls, sports facilities & internet capacity. Our students increasingly want solo rooms without any shared facilities... many schools compete on dorms, not academics.

Aug. 23 2013 03:05 PM
Bonnie from Texas

We keep hearing that higher education is a necessity for all students, that this is an economic imperative not only for the individual, but for the nation. This means a public school education (K-12)is no longer adequate preparation.

Since taxpayers eventually foot the bill for this shortcoming, I'd like to hear a public discussion about expanding and redesigning our public education system to fill this gap. This would, of course, include much in the way of technical & skills-based non-degree programs. Outcomes measurements could be developed to insure efficient use of tax dollars.

Aug. 23 2013 12:48 PM
Anna Wiehe from Portland, OR

I am a supporter of Obama, but as an educator, I see this as Obama trying to No Child Left Behind higher education. And we have seen how well that worked out with K-12...

What I foresee, is that Universities will increase their value by promoting programs that have more "guaranteed" jobs such as engineering and eliminate programs that don't always lead to high income careers (most liberal arts programs like philosophy, fine arts, etc). This way the university will be able to manipulate their stats, showing that more graduates have the ability to repay their loans. Do we really want to start cutting the arts in higher ed too?

Aug. 23 2013 12:39 PM
Elaine from Michigan

It seems to me that the majority, if not all, of the stories on NPR about education after high school focus solely on colleges leading to bachelor degrees and higher. What about stories on trade, apprenticeships and career training as well? So many students are not inclined or suited for higher education as in college degrees. The country needs people to train for work in other areas as well. Why not feature some of these opportunities to bring them into the realm of hope, future plans and prosperity for all people? Stop making it seem as if only college education matters in this country. That creates such and elitist view of our world.

Aug. 23 2013 12:15 PM

This latest example of the endless campaign wouldn't have anything to do with signing students up for Obamacare.......would it?

Aug. 23 2013 12:08 PM
Cindy from Bloomfield Hills, MI

The president said that more federal aid would flow to students who attend colleges with have higher graduation rates. Here in Michigan, colleges with the highest 4-year graduation rates attract the best and brightest (and usually, most affluent). So the effect of this would be more financial aid students at University of Michigan and Kalamazoo College, and less to students at Wayne State and Eastern Michigan University. Well-meaning, but the consequences would be hugely negative for most college students.

Aug. 23 2013 09:46 AM

This is another example of President Obama's attempt to create a socialist country. if he wants to put pressure on State colleges to lower tuition that is in his jurisdiction, but to put pressure on private institutions is over stepping his job description. He has no problem taking control of the college loan program so that the government, not private banking institutions benefit from the interest earned.
Also, when is the consumer responsible for their decision to take on these loans. In a capitalist system it is supply and demand. If students/parents made smart financial decisions and choose schools and programs that they could afford we would not be having this conversation. Being a college graduate from a state school and having two children currently in college you pick the best deal. Because colleges are BUSINESS!

Aug. 23 2013 09:34 AM

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