Said Obama on Saturday:
"Higher education shouldn’t be a luxury, or a roll of the dice; it’s an economic imperative that every family in America should be able to afford."
The Wall Street Journal video discussion with David Wessel takes on the issue of the high cost of college and asks if the President can cajole a "huge American industry" into changing its ways.
"In 2011, students owed an average of nearly $27,000 in loans, making it second only to mortgages in consumer debt."
Delinquencies, however, have also been on the rise they state. As the pressure mounts to find enough work to pay off debt and still have housing, groceries, and utilities, congressional lawmakers have managed to also strike a deal to maintain low interest rates on loans, though the debate to do so was fierce and those rates may rise in the future.
Said Obama in the weekly speech:
"... students and families and taxpayers cannot just keep subsidizing college costs that keep going up and up. Not when the average student now graduates more than $26,000 in debt. We cannot price the middle class out of a college education. That’s why I proposed major new reforms to make college more affordable and make it easier for folks to pay for their education."
His ideas are:
- "First, we’re going to start rating colleges based on opportunity – are they helping students from all kinds of backgrounds succeed, and on outcomes – their value to students and parents. In time, we’ll use those ratings to make sure that the colleges that keep their tuition down are the ones that will see their taxpayer funding go up."
- "Second, we’re going to jumpstart competition between colleges over innovations that help more students graduate in less time, at less cost, while maintaining quality. A number of schools are already testing new approaches, like putting more courses online or basing course credit on competence, not just hours spent in the classroom."
- Third, "... we’re going to help more students responsibly manage their debt, by making more of them eligible for a loan repayment program called Pay-As-You-Earn, which caps your loan payments at 10 percent of what you make. And we’ll reach out directly to students to make sure they know that this program exists."
The President knows, he stated, that the proposed reforms "... won’t be popular with everybody. But the path we’re on now is unsustainable for our students and our economy."
From NPR comes the word that indeed, not everyone is happy.
The American Council on Education, described in the NPR story as "the Washington, D.C.-based lobbying group for college and university presidents," is mentioned as being politely receptive to Obama's ideas. The story quotes a portion of a statement from ACE President Molly Corbett Broad:
"Today's proposals, which we continue to investigate, would seem to create a system of ranking institutions based on a set of outcomes-related data. ... We will be vigilant in working to prevent tying the receipt of aid to metrics, which could have a profoundly negative impact on the very students and families the administration is trying to help."
Also mentioned in the NPR article is Robert Shireman, described as "a former top official in Obama's Education Department who now heads a higher education advocacy group in California."
Shireman tweeted a key question after the president's speech:
"#BarackObama college plan: good there's time built in to develop the details. Big Q: will college lobbyists cooperate or undermine as usual?"
The NPR story identifies one big sticking point: in 2018 using the value-index score in deciding the amounts given for financially needy students via Pell Grants.