On the first scheduled speaking event of his bus tour through upstate New York and Pennsylvania, President Obama outlined his plans to increase college affordability.
In a conference call held before the President's remarks his Director of the Domestic Policy Council, Cecelia Munoz said that the President's plans constituted 'bold reforms', that were 'not going to be popular with everyone.' Munoz also described the initiative as a cornerstone of the President's larger plan to to rebuild the prosperity of the American middle class.
Describing affordable college education as a 'bedrock principle' of the country, Director Munoz also outlined the now familiar statistics: a 250 percent increase in the cost of average tuition over the past three decades, while typical family incomes have only seen growth of 16 percent.
Addressing an estimated 7,500 students and staff at the campus of the SUNY University at Buffalo the president said 'Our first priority is aimed at providing better value for students and families'.
The first initiative is on a timeline. The President today announced that his education secretary Arne Duncan would lead an effort for a new rating system for colleges by 2015. 'I think we should rate colleges according to how they succeed', said Obama. The idea of a new ratings process is intended to disrupt the current privatized college rankings system which the President accused of being skewed and not giving students any idea of the value of the college's education programs.
The new system would look more at factors like graduation rates and employment outcomes. While putting the new ratings system in place by 2015 can be achieved through executive action, linking federal aid to the ratings would required Congressional approval.
The President chose to launch the initiative on the campuses of SUNY because they he sees the New York system ticking some key indicators say advisors. These include: making it possible for students to earn college credits in high school, helping students earn their degrees more quickly and using more innovative strategies to deliver courses online.
After leaving Buffalo, the President made an unscheduled stop at a Rochester cafe where they spoke with college students and graduates about his plan. It's also anticipated that he'll be making an additional stop in Seneca Falls, home to the National Women's Hall of Fame en route to Syracuse.
Here are the key platforms of the President's plan:
Paying for Performance
· Tie financial aid to college performance, starting with publishing new college ratings before the 2015 school year.
· Challenge states to fund public colleges based on performance.
· Hold students and colleges receiving student aid responsible for making progress toward a degree.
Promoting Innovation and Competition
· Challenge colleges to offer students a greater range of affordable, high-quality options than they do today.
· Give consumers clear, transparent information on college performance to help them make the decisions that work best for them.
· Encourage innovation by stripping away unnecessary regulations.
Ensuring that Student Debt Remains Affordable
· Help ensure borrowers can afford their federal student loan debt by allowing all borrowers to cap their payments at 10 percent of their monthly income.
· Reach out to struggling borrowers to ensure that they are aware of the flexible options available to help them to repay their debt.
And the full fact sheet from the Whitehouse is here.