In President Obama’s State of the Union Address Tuesday night, he warned that colleges were being put “on notice” for their increasing costs of tuition. He mentioned that students should never have to consider college a luxury and threatened to cut financial aid to colleges if they continued to allow tuition fees to rise.
“We can’t just keep subsidizing skyrocketing tuition; we’ll run out of money,” said Obama. “States also need to do their part, by making higher education a higher priority in their budgets. And colleges and universities have to do their part by working to keep costs down.”
However, with a $6 billion reduction in state funding for colleges and an economic climate that appears to be getting worse rather than improving, eyebrows are raised in wonderment, and college officials are trying to figure out exactly how they are going to cut back tuition costs. 41 of the 50 U.S. states saw budget cuts that led to reducing course offerings to the bare minimum, increasing the class sizes to accommodate the influx of students, and merging academic departments at the expenditure of faculty positions.
No Solution Offered
President Obama did not explain any details in his State of the Union Address pertaining to exactly how he expected colleges to cut back on their tuition fees, however the message was clear: If colleges did not find a way to control their fees and keep them reasonable, the state would not be the only government level withholding funds from colleges.
Most Americans would probably agree with President Obama, who also said that a college education is “an economic imperative that every family in America should be able to afford.”
Justin Draeger, the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators president, was surprised that the President focused that much time of his State of the Union Address on the subject of college financial aid. Draeger mentioned that it’s difficult to keep college prices low in the current economic climate.
“We’re always concerned about proposals that would penalize schools, and ultimately students, for tuition increases when many times what causes a tuition increase is out of a college’s hands,” said Draeger. “Decreased state appropriations, increased operating costs, because of things like energy prices, can’t be controlled by schools.”
Federal Loan Issues
In addition to cracking down on colleges, President Obama also spoke to the Congress in his speech, addressing the issue of the interest rates on subsidized federal student loans. He was direct when he talked about working on keeping these particular interest rates low as well as creating more available work-study jobs for students who need to pay their tuition. President Obama also requested that the Congress consider extending the tuition tax credit worth up to $10,000 in four years, which is also an encouraging factor for many people to attend college.
While the President’s steadfast positioning on these topics is noble, there are questions that must be answered, like: How are colleges going to be able to continue to provide quality education with the already implemented cut-backs at state level? Will the higher learning system be expected to cut costs to the detriment of jobs and quality programs? If the government does start penalizing colleges for high tuition fees, how will government officials determine which colleges are providing “quality educations” and how will this status be evaluated?
Probably most important, though: Is it even possible for the government to force colleges to drive down costs enough for everyone who wants the opportunity to attend college and ensure that they are able to afford pursuing a higher education?