Obama announces tuition plan

Courtesy Photo
Courtesy Photo

The Obama administration has apparently heard the cries of students struggling to pay for college and is taking action. President Obama is drafting  a plan, which will rank colleges across the U.S. based on criteria such as cost, dropout rates and graduate earnings, according to The New York Times. 

The plan is designed specifically to lower the cost of attendance at universities. By creating comparisons of schools, the idea behind the plan is that students will be able to choose the most cost-effective school that has what he or she is looking for, which will in turn encourage universities to lower the price of tuition to be competitive.

Public universities are funded mainly through the cost of tuition and from money given by the state. If the state does not provide enough funding to cover rising costs of materials, the price of operations including energy and water and increasing salaries must be passed on to the students.

According to The New York Times, this is the problem that has recently plagued colleges: as colleges receive less funding from the states’ governments, students are paying more to attend school to make up the deficit while not actually bringing in more money to the schools than in past years. These increasing burdensome costs mean that students will have to take out more student loans to attend college, or they will face the decision of choosing to enroll in college or not.

Joshua Von Herrmann, a senior political science major, notes one of the major problems of the college education system. “A college education is the new high school diploma, so most students feel like they don’t have a choice but to find a way to fund their college education,” Von Herrmann said.

According to USA Today, the plan proposed by President Obama could help students dealing with the rising costs, but students are concerned with what appear to be some serious, inherent problems in the plan. 

First, tuition rates are not entirely comparable. One university may have lower in-state tuition, but if you do not live in that state, you will not receive the benefits. The idea behind the plan – that schools will compete with each other and lower prices to attract students – cannot work when the student being appealed to is ineligible for the lower price. 

Here, a comparison might only be able to make a person regret that not living in one state and be unable to attend college in another state due to the price.

Secondly, there are problems with the ratings system. Some schools, which attract students with a poorer pre-college education, will perform worse in the rankings due to lower retention. Looking at post-graduate earnings also poses problems: will schools which attract already wealthy students automatically have a leg up? Are areas of the country which are not as industrialized, like Mississippi, at a disadvantage?

Meredith McPhail, a junior English and Spanish double major, also weighed in on the idea of university ranking. “It’s more important for universities to focus on specific issues affecting student success on individual campuses, rather than focusing on statistics, which might not accurately reflect the reality of student life,” McPhail said. “However, universities might be forced to strive for success according to this ranking in order to maintain enrollment and financial self-sufficiently.”

But, the plan proposed by Obama might be able to influence the tuition prices of private colleges. These schools do compete for students, which will mean the rankings could cause schools to lower their prices. This is at the risk of putting schools out of business if they are unable to keep their prices competitively low.

Von Herrmann shared his thoughts on the plan’s potential impact on The University of Southern “For USM, I think this could be a problem if we are ranked poorly by this scale, because the university may feel the need to make even more cuts to the quality of programs to save money,” Von Herrmann said.