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Weekly Address: President Obama – Making Higher Education More Affordable

From the White House – Weekly Address

In his weekly address, President Obama notes that while college education has never been more important, it has also never been more expensive, which is why he proposed major new reforms this week to make college more affordable for middle class families and those fighting to get into the middle class.

Transcript: Making Higher Education More Affordable for the Middle Class

Hi, everybody.  Over the past month, I’ve been visiting towns across America, talking about what our country needs to do to secure a better bargain for the middle class.

This week, I met with high school and college students in New York and Pennsylvania to discuss the surest path to the middle class – some form of higher education.

But at a moment when a higher education has never been more important, it’s also never been more expensive.  That’s why, over the past four years, we’ve helped make college more affordable for millions of students and families with grants and loans that go farther from before.

But students and families and taxpayers cannot just keep subsidizing college costs that keep going up and up.  Not when the average student now graduates more than $26,000 in debt.

We cannot price the middle class out of a college education.  That’s why I proposed major new reforms to make college more affordable and make it easier for folks to pay for their education.

First, we’re going to start rating colleges based on opportunity – are they helping students from all kinds of backgrounds succeed, and on outcomes – their value to students and parents.  In time, we’ll use those ratings to make sure that the colleges that keep their tuition down are the ones that will see their taxpayer funding go up.

Second, we’re going to jumpstart competition between colleges over innovations that help more students graduate in less time, at less cost, while maintaining quality.  A number of schools are already testing new approaches, like putting more courses online or basing course credit on competence, not just hours spent in the classroom.

And third, we’re going to help more students responsibly manage their debt, by making more of them eligible for a loan repayment program called Pay-As-You-Earn, which caps your loan payments at 10 percent of what you make.  And we’ll reach out directly to students to make sure they know that this program exists.

These reforms won’t be popular with everybody.  But the path we’re on now is unsustainable for our students and our economy.

Higher education shouldn’t be a luxury, or a roll of the dice; it’s an economic imperative that every family in America should be able to afford.

Thanks, and have a great weekend.

Bolding added.


Editor’s Note: The President’s Weekly Address diary is also the weekend open news thread. Feel free to leave links to other news items in the comment threads.


  1. The President’s Plan to Make College More Affordable: A Better Bargain for the Middle Class

    A higher education is the single most important investment students can make in their own futures. At the same time, it has never been more expensive. That’s why since taking office, President Obama has made historic investments in college affordability, increasing the maximum Pell Grant award for working and middle class families by more than $900, creating the American Opportunity Tax Credit, and enacting effective student loan reforms eliminating bank subsidies and making college more affordable.  

    However, despite these measures, college tuition keeps rising. The average tuition at a public four-year college has increased by more than 250 percent over the past three decades, while incomes for typical families grew by only 16 percent, according to College Board and Census data.  Declining state funding has forced students to shoulder a bigger proportion of college costs; tuition has almost doubled as a share of public college revenues over the past 25 years from 25 percent to 47 percent.  While a college education remains a worthwhile investment overall, the average borrower now graduates with over $26,000 in debt. Only 58 percent of full-time students who began college in 2004 earned a four-year degree within six years. Loan default rates are rising, and too many young adults are burdened with debt as they seek to start a family, buy a home, launch a business, or save for retirement.

  2. jlms qkw

    to run against affordable higher education?  

    ’cause they have to be against whatever he is for?  

  3. bubbanomics

    losing the states (gov Walker eg) is killing us. The federal gov’t can do little to help in terms of substance.  Loaning money to kids that the state tax payers are unwilling to pony up is putting the burden on the wrong group. The bully pulpit is the only weapon the administration really has.  I do hope this week’s action is the start of a sustained effort on that front.

    The two drivers of this problem are the limited resources states are contributing and the runaway cost structure at universities.  When you look at private colleges and universities, you see the latter pretty seriously.  A year of tuition at Brown when i was in grad school there 25 yrs ago was 12k. Now it’s over 50k.  When you look at median income, that’s gone from 25% of income to 100% of income.

    The issue is this: where is all the money going?  Not to the faculty… faculty salaries have grown some (especially in comparison to middle class income), but not a factor of 4 in 25 years.  The pressure at universities to run research operations at the expense of undergraduate education has been growing since the cold war and continues unabated in the STEM fields, the social sciences, and even humanities and arts. Administrative staff sizes have ballooned as well.  Like the health insurance business, there is a lot that can be cut in college costs.

    Going to massive online courses is really not the solution.  That will work for highly self-motivated, mentally and emotionally mature learners, but not the typical college student, whose time management skills are marginal at best.  Finding ways to cut costs at colleges and universities needs to come first, coupled with finding ways to get more state budget money into them.

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