In my last post on President Obama’s proposals to help control the growth in college costs, I described how the president hopes to influence institutional behavior. Another key part of his proposals is to try to influence student behavior through the federal financial aid system, known as Title IV aid.
In what is a very brief part of his proposal, but yet may turn out to be one of the most controversial, is this:
Demand Student Responsibility for Academic Performance: To ensure students are making progress toward their degrees, the President will also propose legislation strengthening academic progress requirements of student aid programs, such as requiring students to complete a certain percentage of their classes before receiving continued funding. These changes would encourage students to complete their studies on time, thereby reducing their debt, and will be designed to ensure that disadvantaged students have every opportunity to succeed.
One of my favorite phrases when teaching educational policy is “the devil is in the details” (I once wrote an article that used that phrase as the title – it’s chapter 2 of this report). Politicians and policymakers will often issue grand policy proposals that address issues from an altitude of 35,000 feet, and until the details of the new policy are fleshed out it is difficult to determine what the impact will be at ground level.
This is very much the case with President Obama’s announcement last week of a new set of proposals to address the issue of the rising price of college and how Americans pay for it. As I described in my post last week, the president articulated a series of proposals that are very broad in scope and for the most part will require Congressional action in order to implement them. Thus, it is difficult at this point to determine with any degree of certainty what impact the proposals will have on colleges, universities, and students, but I will do my best to analyze them from the information the White House has provided.
In my last post, I described the challenges in obtaining accurate and comprehensive data on the salaries earned by graduates of individual colleges around the nation. While there is much interest in using data on the earnings of college graduates as a means for ranking colleges, there is no single source of data on all colleges in the country (or even a majority of them) that allows us to compare institutions in this manner. Even if we did have accurate data, is the salary of recent graduates the primary criterion we should use in judging higher education institutions?
The presidential election is less than a month away, and the candidates are gearing up for the final push. As most observers expected, the economy has dominated much of the political discourse. But other topics have crept into the campaigns, including education.
Last week’s first presidential debate focused on domestic policy issues, and moderator Jim Lehrer of PBS opened the session by stating that it would be divided into six segments, with, “three on the economy and one each on health care, the role of government, and governing,” according to Mr. Lehrer (you can read a transcript or watch a video of the debate if you missed it). Lehrer did ask one question about education: “Does the federal government have a responsibility to improve the quality of public education in America?”
Governor Romney’s response to this question was one of the few times where he said that his views were aligned with any policies of the Obama administration, stating that he agreed with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s Race to the Top program. President Obama, not surprisingly, also touted the Race to the Top program, as well as other initiatives his Department of Education and administration had put into place, including steps to try to control the growth in tuition prices across the country.