Obama policies could influence Buffalo State

President Barack Obama spoke before an audience on Aug. 22 at the University at Buffalo. In his speech to the nation, Obama expressed the importance of higher education and how it should be an option for all Americans.

He discussed his plans to make higher education more affordable for students.

“At a time when a higher education has never been more important or more expensive, too many students are facing a choice that they should never have to make,” Obama said. “Either they say no to college and pay the price for not getting a degree or you do what it takes to go to college, but then you run the risk that you won’t be able to pay it off because you’ve got so much debt.”

The plan to make college more affordable includes implementing a rating system that gives rewards to colleges and universities based on performance, challenging schools to promote innovation that encourages students learning and competition between colleges, and helping students manage loan debt.

“College has never been more expensive,” Obama said. “Over the past three decades, the average tuition at a public four-year college has gone up by more than 250. A typical family’s income has only gone up 16 percent.”

The proposal to include a rating system for colleges and universities across the nation hopes to challenge schools to take responsibility based on student performance. Rather than federal financial aid going to students and colleges based on enrollment yearly, they will receive it based on how many students earn degrees.

“Our first priority is aimed at providing better value for students — making sure that families and taxpayers are getting what we pay for,” Obama said. “Our ratings have to be carefully designed to increase, not decrease, the opportunities for higher education for students who face economic or other disadvantages.”

The rating system will allow students and parents to see colleges based on their values. Students will be able to choose schools that have a higher value with students who graduate and gain more financial aid for their performance.

“It is time to stop subsidizing schools that are not producing good results, and reward schools that deliver for American students and our future,” Obama said.

According to whitehouse.gov, the plan to give schools financial aid based on performance will “empower students to compare measures like average tuition, loan debt, and graduation rates.”

Obama’s plan includes challenging schools to propose more learning opportunities to students, especially within newer technological measures. The plan to cut cost while maintaining high quality learning also includes colleges awarding credits based on what students learn in class rather than just seat time.

“As we’re expecting more from our schools that get funding from taxpayers, we’re going to have to expect more from students who get subsidies and grants from taxpayers,” Obama said. “We’re going to make sure students who receive federal financial aid complete their courses before receiving grants for the next semester.”

Obama said that he wants the colleges to create new ways for students to succeed in today’s society and economy. He wants students to be able to gain a high quality education without having to go broke over it. Many schools are currently beginning to develop new ways of keeping tuition down while maintaining the necessary education needed to succeed after graduation.

“It’s time for more colleges to step up with even better ways to do it,” Obama said. “We’re going to provide additional assistance to states and universities that are coming up with good ideas.”

The last step in Obama’s plan for a more affordable college includes student loan debts to be paid back at a rate of 10 percent of their monthly income, also known as “Pay-As-You-Earn.” It also includes making sure those who are having difficulties in paying back what they borrowed have options that will help them repay their debt.

According to whitehouse.gov, “only 2.5 million of 37 million federal student loan borrowers are benefitting from repayment plans tied to their income.” Through the Pay-As-You-Earn plan, students will have less of a burden and an easier way to make payments. Although the program helps some students with post-college income payments, many current and former students don’t know it exists or are not eligible to participate.

“As we work to bring down costs for current and future students, we’ve got to offer students who already have debt the chance to actually repay it,” Obama said. “Government shouldn’t see student loans as a way to make money; it should be a way to help students.”

Lauren Coppola can be reached by email at [email protected] or on twitter @LCoppola92.

Sara Ali can be reached by email at [email protected].