Obama Calls Cost of Higher Education a ‘Constant Struggle’

US President Barack Obama wants to ensure that everyone can afford higher education. In his weekly radio address, Obama said that while attaining a college degree is important for future success, the cost of higher education is “a constant struggle.”  The average American who holds a bachelor’s degree earns more than $28,000 a year more than someone without.

Those that attain a bachelor’s degree are also more likely to have a job.  The unemployment rate for those who graduate from college is less than one-third of the rate for those who do not attend higher education.

Obama would like to introduce new initiatives to help with this problem.

Included in the proposed reforms are a new student loan system that would see more money for students, expanding the amount of grants and college tax credits available, and giving the option for students to have their student loan payments reach no more than 10% of their income.

The president also asked Congress to pass a bill that would allow students to refinance their loans using today’s lower interest rates.

Obama continued his speech by suggesting that while the federal government is doing their part, universities need to lower their costs as well.  He proposed this happen by linking federal aid to college performance, as well as incorporating new scorecards that would allow parents and students to evaluate schools prior to beginning the application process.

A letter from fifty higher-education leaders from Virginia was recently sent to Education Secretary Arne Duncan concerning this last initiative.

“In addition, we support accountability and efforts to improve our work in this area,” the college presidents wrote. “However, we have serious reservations about the proposed college rating system.”

The new rating system is expected to be based on the percentage of students in attendance who qualify for Pell grants; average tuition; average debt; graduation and transfer rates; income of graduates; and the number of students who go on to receive advanced degrees.

According to the university presidents, the ratings will have “negative unintended consequences,” as schools will feel pressure to increase graduation rates by enrolling more higher-income students, not to mention the ratings’ dependence on graduate earnings would create a flawed system.

“Students who choose public service or non-profit sector employment with lower starting salaries than their peers should not be considered failures, and their higher education institution should not be penalized for those choices,” they wrote.

Also mentioned in Obama’s speech was a recently launched $75 million challenge in an effort to reduce the costs associated with attending college and raising graduation rates, and Duncan announced this week a series of commitments that will support students who need academic help in college.

He closed the address by calling on all students of higher education to challenge themselves by working harder and aiming higher.

“This is a challenge I take personally. And to all you young people, now that you’re heading back to school, your education is something you have to take personally, also. It’s up to you to push yourself.”