President Barack Obama has taken aim at rising college tuition costs during his tour of upstate New York and Pennsylvania, revealing plans to tie federal assistance to colleges to their attempts to keep costs down for students.
In a visit today at the University of Buffalo, Obama said, “Colleges are not going to just be able to keep on increasing tuition year after year and passing it on to students. We can’t price the middle class and everybody working to get into the middle class out of college.”
Obama said part of the reason for rising prices at universities was the distribution of $150 billion in federal assistance to students. The president said he wants to reward schools that keep their costs down by increasing their share of the aid pie, while cutting funding to those schools who allow tuition to skyrocket.
In addition, Obama wants to link aid to school quality, with a federal rating system that would cut funding to lower-rated colleges. The rating system would also allow for prospective students to better compare colleges.
Reaction among Congress fell along party lines, with Republicans arguing that it would curtail innovation, make higher education more bureaucratic, and even possibly lead to price controls. Democrats, as expected, praised the plan.
Getting any sort of plan through Congress promises to be a difficult challenge, and even if that were to happen, changes won’t happen overnight. Any links between higher education funding and the federal government’s college rankings wouldn’t be implemented until 2018 at the earliest.
Obama’s trip and discussion of college costs follows up on promises the president made in his 2012 State of the Union speech, when he vowed to halve the rate of tuition increases by 2022.
The opinions contained in this column are solely those of the writer.
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