President Obama’s Plans to Make College Affordable

President Obama’s recent plan to make college more affordable for the middle class has some worth but needs more thought. The plan’s goals are to:

(1) Promote innovations that cut costs and improve quality
(2) Help student manage loan debt
(3) Reward colleges and students for performance

Promoting innovation is a necessity. Colleges need to be challenged to utilize technology to be more efficient, such as redesigning courses to award credit based on learning instead of seat time. Most colleges easily have students spend five years before graduating with a degree. Some seem to have non-essential requirements, again requiring students to prolong their attendance.

The plan to help students manage debt requires proper management. The plan will allow student loan borrowers to cap payments at 10% of their monthly income and educate struggling borrowers about their options for student loan repayment. Some graduates seem to prolong their loan payments as long as possible even if they are able to pay it off sooner. Although many believe that student loans can’t be discharged in bankruptcy, that may not entirely true, per an article in the Huffington Post.

shutterstock_141582367Rewarding colleges based on performance appears to have some flaws. The plan intends to hold students accountable to making progress toward a degree and tie student loans to university outcomes based on ratings and hold students. There are students that make a career out of going to school and that should be done at their own expense, not on the public’s bill. However, rating universities based on educational outcomes, such as higher graduation rates and high return on investments, whereby students attending these higher rated schools would get more government loans and grants and pay lower interest rates needs to be reassessed.

(1) The college with the highest graduation rates and return on investments are generally elite, expensive private schools.
(2) Students who are able to attend this top rated schools don’t need aid, even if they are minorities. They are part of an upper middle class that already have the ability to make a lot of money and thus, are accepted by these schools.
(3) Technical and trade schools provide much needed vocations. If we only help those that go to a highly rated university to be professionals earning over six figures income, who will fix our cars when it breaks down or build our homes?

Those that are in low-income levels and can’t get into top rated schools are still not being helped with this plan. The plan appears to punish students that need aid the most.