Obama addresses affordability of college

President Obama has increasingly focused on higher education in recent remarks during college visits and in the State of the Union Address. Highlighted agenda items include a “Race to the Top” initiative to improve the quality of education and a proposal to make federal support dependent on a university’s tuition rates. As part of the latter, universities that increase their tuition would receive less federal funds.“States also need to do their part, by making higher education a higher priority in their budgets. And colleges and universities have to do their part by working to keep costs down,” stated Obama in his State of the Union Address. “If [colleges and universities] can’t stop tuition from going up, the funding [they] get from taxpayers will go down. Higher education can’t be a luxury. It is an economic imperative that every family in America should be able to afford.”The president’s remarks have been carefully scrutinized by UC students who have witnessed significant increases in tuition costs. “How long will it take to make tuition affordable again? What are students and families supposed to do in the meantime? Maybe Obama should look into creating ways to make our tuition go farther. Because I don’t see how tuition has increased so much yet we’re being offered less options,” stated third-year student Lia Gonzalez.

Others, including Obama supporters, have expressed their disillusionment with the president’s promises. “I can’t think right now of anything else he can do, but no matter what people are still not going to be completely satisfied. I mean it sounds like a good plan but he has plenty of good plans that have yet to be implemented,” noted fourth year Nancy Nunez.

President Obama has continued to urge Congress to act and make college more affordable due to the nearing expiration of the the American Opportunity Tax Credit which directly relates to tuition costs. It was also pointed out that interest rates on newly acquired subsidized Stafford loans will increase from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent on July 1 of this year if Congress does not act.

Initiatives such as the “First in the World” educational pursuit and heightened funds allocated to the “college completion incentive grant” program are included in the president’s 2012 budget request. The “First in the World” program, whose goal is to set U.S. education as the leader in educational quality, would seek to implement successful practices among universities and colleges across the nation.

Meanwhile, the goals for the college completion incentive grant program would reward institutions who engage in “increasing the number of college completers and closing gaps in achievement among vulnerable student populations…create stronger articulation agreements [and] ease student transfers.”
The Obama administration’s creation of a  “College Scorecard” and “Financial Aid Shopping Sheet” are other initiatives aimed at university students. The White House website notes that the former provides information to students regarding a college or university’s cost, graduation rate, student loan repayment information and student earnings potential. Meanwhile, the “Financial Aid Shopping Sheet” allows families to compare the costs of different colleges and universities.

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