More from President Obama on college costs (part 1)

Written by: Donald Heller

Primary Source: The Dean’s Blog

This week President Obama outlined a new series of proposals to help Americans deal with the rising price of college.  Addressing college costs has been a priority of the president’s from early on in his first term, but this is probably the most comprehensive set of proposals that have been released at one time.  He described them on a two-day, two-state bus tour of college campuses.

There is a lot packaged in the president’s proposals, and in the next couple of blog posts I will provide analysis of some of the key pieces.  The proposals fall under three main topics:

  • Provide incentives for both higher education institutions and students to link financial aid to performance;
  • Encourage innovation on the part of colleges and universities to come up with new pathways toward less expensive degrees and provide better information to students and parents; and
  • Make loan debt more manageable for those who borrowed to pay for college.

None of these are new topics; over the course of the last four years, the president has talked about all three of these at one time or another.  The fact that the president has packaged his solutions to these issues together in a comprehensive fashion is an indication that the proposals will likely form the centerpiece of President Obama’s plans for reauthorization of the Higher Education Act of 1965, which is due this year.

As with any federal proposal that threatens the autonomy of the over 6,000 postsecondary institutions that participate in the student financial aid programs authorized by Title IV of the Higher Education Act or imposes a new regulatory burden on them – as this will likely be described by the higher education industry – there is going to be a lot of pushback from colleges, universities, and their lobbying organizations in Washington.  Probably the proposal that will garner the most attention will be the proposal to link federal financial aid to institutional and student performance, or in the words of the president, it was “time to stop subsidizing schools that are not producing good results, and reward schools that deliver for American students and our future” (as quoted in The Chronicle of Higher Education).

As I said, I will provide more detailed analysis of and reaction to the president’s proposals in the next two blog posts.  So stay tuned.

President Obama on college costs, part 2: Pay for institutional performance

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Donald Heller
Donald E. Heller is Dean of the College of Education and a professor in the Department of Educational Administration at Michigan State University. Prior to his appointment in January, 2012, he was Director of the Center for the Study of Higher Education and professor of education and senior scientist at The Pennsylvania State University. He also has held a faculty appointment at the University of Michigan. His teaching and research is in the areas of educational economics, public policy, and finance, with a primary focus on issues of college access and choice for low-income and minority students. He has consulted on higher education policy issues with university systems and policymaking organizations in California, Colorado, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, Tennessee, Washington, Washington DC, and West Virginia, and has testified in front of Congressional committees, state legislatures, and in federal court cases as an expert witness. Before his academic career, he spent a decade as an information technology manager at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Donald Heller

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