Obama sticks students with the tab

The college-rating system proposed by President Obama is designed to help students navigate their college options while decreasing the cost of higher education. Unfortunately his plan does not address the underlying problems faced by colleges and attempts only to relieve symptoms.

Obama’s ranking system rates colleges based on tuition, student loan debt, and percentage of Pell recipients, along with graduation rates and average earnings of graduates.

Obama wants to give higher Pell grants and lower student loan interest rates to students who attend high-ranking institutions, but a multitude of problems exist with this proposal.

Tuition costs are rising and are already as much as three times higher than they were 30 years ago after inflation adjustments. While Obama’s desire to keep them from going even higher is gallant, his plan doesn’t take into consideration the fact that state funding has decreased, forcing many colleges to increase tuition.

Overhead costs have also increased. Rose State’s Affordable Care Act bill was $500,000 this year. This is a recurring annual cost imposed by the president and congress that the college must recoup amid declining enrollment and decreased funding.

Graphic courtesy of MCTCampus.com

Graphic courtesy of MCTCampus.com

Student loan debt is also increasing due to higher tuition rates. The average student graduates from a four-year university approximately $26,000 in debt. Colleges with affluent families that don’t accrue loan-debt will be rewarded through Obama’s plan. State colleges like Rose State will be punished for increased student loan debt due to rising tuition.

Graduation rates could adversely affect ratings, especially for community colleges, which have higher remediation rates and historically lower graduation rates; some students transfer before graduating and many remedial students never graduate.

Including the average rates of graduates’ earnings may seem like an intelligent way to judge the value of higher education, but it doesn’t take into account graduates that go into public service or religious ministries with modest salaries.

The only area that community colleges may score well is the percentage of Pell recipients, but this one area is unlikely to balance poor performance in other areas of the system.

Initiating a college-rating system to better gauge a college’s educational value could be a helpful tool. Even if flawed, it should just be an indicator, not the final word in higher education funding.

Tying Pell grants and student loan interest rates to the ranking system is shortsighted. It doesn’t address more complex issues such as lack of funding and increased costs; it superficially categorizes colleges and leaves students at lower ranking institutions paying higher interest rates while receiving lower Pell grants.

A better way to solve college’s decreased income and increased costs is to start fully funding them the same way we do the military and prisons. Or perhaps the presidential and congressional salaries should be based on the economy’s performance. If so, none of them would receive salaries, much less raises; maybe we could send that money to the colleges.


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