When it comes to higher education, the United States seems to be lacking, ranking ninth in the world with students enrolled in college. But the President wants to change that. On August 22nd, President Barack Obama unveiled a plan that could make schools more affordable, accessible and attainable for every student in the country.
The key component of his proposal is to create a federal college rating system, evaluating colleges on student performance, graduation rates and costs.
But the head of one local college feels that where the President’s attention is most needed is on our younger students.
“The focus should be shifted to K-12 where if they set standards and expectations and held students accountable then we at the higher education level would get a better student pursuing their credential,” said Robert Breuder, President of the College of DuPage. “That’s not happening in this country. We have so many students coming to us that are deficient in terms of the core competencies they need to have in higher education, which is reading, being able to write well, communicate well and of course math skills. That’s where we need to put the emphasis.”
Obama’s plan would tie financial aid to the new rating system, which would encourage colleges to keep prices down. North Central College has already made a few changes as a result of the proposal.
“We’ve already made a few adjustments in terms of the way we go about awarding financial assistance,” said Marty Sauer, Dean of Admission and Financial Aid at North Central College. “Mostly in terms of transparency, the ability for families to clearly understand what their net cost is, what the break down is between scholarships, and grants, and loans and work eligibility. At the end of the day we want every family to know what their obligation is, what our commitment is to the students and in the end what’s the best solution.”
But many colleges and universities don’t seem to be as focused on cost, forcing many students to stay close to home or go to a community college. This semester alone, COD saw a 6.7% rise in full-time students.
“We’re finding out more and more today that students are not making the decisions to go away, they’re staying local,” said Breuder. “They’re realizing that what’s in their backyard is exemplary. There’s no reason to go to Iowa, no reason to go to Champaign. It’s right here for a while lot less money.”
The biggest opposition to the plan so far is funding.
“I think we’re going to find the idea is one thing. Actually affecting that idea, putting it in reality, being able to define the criteria and execute the criteria in an equitable way across higher education in this country is not going to be an easy thing to do,” said Breuder.
One place college administration would welcome the government’s help is by keeping student loan rates low.
“I’m interested in the potential opening up of things like income contingent payment,” said Sauer. “I think the more flexibility that students have in terms of how they can repay their student loans, the less anxiety there may be on the front end in terms of levels of borrowing.”
The President hopes that by 2020, America will once again have the most college graduates in the world.
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