Editorial: Obama’s higher education plans and policies a mixed bag
Published: Thursday, February 14, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 22:02
President Obama’s State of the Union Address, delivered on Tuesday night, focused for several minutes on higher education reform. This development, coming on the heels of record-high youth voter turnout for the second presidential election in a row, hopefully reflects a new era, one in which the issues of those in the roughly 18-25 demographic are no longer marginalized and given low priority. That being said, the president’s actual statements on the subject deserve mixed reviews.
Obama started by noting that “Through tax credits, grants, and better loans, we have made college more affordable for millions of students and families over the last few years.” Most students – at any university, not just UConn – would likely contest this statement. For most, any assistance his administration has provided has been more than outweighed by the soaring cost of university tuition. Legislation that kept the federal student loan interest rate from doubling, for example, was only extended for one year, so it wasn’t even much of a victory. The Senate has not passed a formal budget since April 29, 2009; relying instead on a series of “stop-gap” short-term budgets usually lasting only a few months. Is this to be the future of determining the federal student loan interest rate as well?
The Obama Administration made more people able to attend college, but they have not made it more affordable. They have just made it easier to rack up huge student loans that many people will not be able to pay back.
However, Obama deserves more positive marks for his call that “Tonight, I ask Congress to change the Higher Education Act, so that affordability and value are included in determining which colleges receive certain types of federal aid.” UConn in particular would do well in those categories, since it consistently receives high marks for best value. Kiplinger’s Personal Finances named us the #25 best value among four-year public colleges, up from #30 last year and #32 the year before that. Hopefully this could mean increased federal aid flowing here – something sorely needed in the wake of the $15 million state budget cut to the university announced in November.
Lastly, Obama announced that “Tomorrow, my Administration will release a new ‘College Scorecard’ that parents and students can use to compare schools based on a simple criteria: where you can get the most bang for your educational buck.” The website, unveiled Wednesday morning, is well laid-out and easy to navigate with information from the Department of Education. On the other hand, countless other books and websites already provide essentially the same information.