In January 2012, while speaking at the University of Michigan, President Barack Obama tackled a subject that has many Americans concerned. How can the country deal with the rising cost of college education and the enormous loan debts students accrue as they prepare to enter the currently unstable job market?
Although the president carefully laid out his plans, many people are wondering if they will actually convince colleges to lower tuition rates.
The Tuition Cycle
The biggest factor that has an influence on tuition costs is state funding. In recent years, states have been cutting funding so colleges are forced to either raise tuition or cut services. Since colleges compete with one another for the same pool of qualified students, almost all colleges decide to raise tuition rather than forgo student services; even if said student services are beyond the scope of what the school can afford.
Since the schools are already managing to charge more without offering less, the states have no incentive to stop cutting their funding. However, according to many schools, their increases in tuition are not enough to make-up for what they lose in state funding.
President Obama’s Answer
One key part of President Obama’s plan to beat rising tuition costs is to try to keep states from cutting educational funding by threatening to reduce federal aid to states that raise tuition, and to offer economic incentives to schools that find ways to become more efficient.
Another important part of his plan is increase federal “campus-based” loan programs for colleges and universities that do the best job keeping their tuition rates in check.
Additionally, the president wants colleges to be held to higher standards when it comes to retention rates and the success of their graduates finding jobs. The proposal is similar to the “Race to the Top” program that the Obama administration uses for K-12 schools in which states “compete” for education funding based on the performance of their schools.
The Big If
Although many people – including some school officials – agree with the idea that something needs to be done about the skyrocketing cost of tuition across the board, the President’s plan is still vague on the specific details.
Another problem is that with the government already deeply in debt, many experts are wondering, “Where is the money going to come from?”
The President’s goals are deeply rooted in good ideas, but how feasible they are remains to be seen. At this point, the president has spoken to the people, but he has yet to put a formal proposal in front of Congress outlining his new program. Although, he has proposed extending student loan tax cuts and keeping student interest rates low, neither of which really deals with the problem of high tuition.
Time is going to be the most critical factor in seeing if the President’s goals are attainable. If President Obama and Congress can agree on a plan before the end of the year, it is likely the dramatic increase in tuition rates will come to a screeching halt.
However, if President Obama is not re-elected, the new president may have a different approach to the problem altogether. At this point, the seeds of hope have been planted, but how or when they will blossom is still very much undecided.