The President’s College Affordability Plan: What Does this Mean for Students?

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On August 22nd, President Obama released a proposal to address college affordability. His plan aims to balance college access and affordability while increasing accountability so that college remains achievable for all Americans, especially those of middle and lower socioeconomic status. In order to achieve this goal, the President’s plan would pursue three primary objectives: performance, innovation and competition, and college affordability. Here are some more details:

Performance
The proposal would create a national rating system by 2015 to rank colleges and universities based on affordability, access and outcomes. Factors such as completion rates within 6 years, average student debt, employment rates/salary post-graduation and level of help given to educate underserved populations would be used, among others, to provide students and families with value based information when selecting colleges. The President proposes tying these rankings to federal financial aid allocations by 2018. The goal is to transform aid from a system based on enrollment to one grounded in performance.

Innovation and Competition
Innovation is key to improving performance, a fact that the President’s plan recognizes. Online learning, accelerated degree programs and the like are just a few examples of innovations that decrease the cost of college while increasing degree completion rates. New funds and a proposal to lift regulatory barriers to innovation will help higher education institutions develop new models or launch those already proven to be successful.

College Affordability
President Obama proposes an income-driven student loan repayment plan for federal loans, which would allow borrowers to “pay as you earn” and would cap student loan payments at 10% of their income. Pay as you earn would adjust payments as monthly incomes and family sizes change. In addition, the Department of Education will contact borrowers who have fallen behind in loan repayments, have high student debt or whose loans are in deferment/forbearance due to unemployment to make them aware of their repayment options and offer enrollment in Pay As you Earn.

The President has promised to solicit input from students, families, colleges and universities in the upcoming months on his plan. What do you think? What are the challenges you face in accessing and paying for college? Will the President’s plan help you? Blog on this by sending your thoughts to Julie Bolduc.

Click here to find further information about the President’s plan. Take some time to look deeper into this issue with Wheelock’s President Jackie Jenkins-Scott.

About the author:
Julie Bolduc is a graduate student at Boston College Graduate School of Social Work. She previously served as a Massachusetts state lobbyist at Charles Group Consulting, representing nonprofit organizations, associations and groups whose public policy and budget priorities serve the public good. As the Director of Grassroots Advocacy for Horizons for Homeless Children, Julie developed and launched “the Campaign for Young Homeless Children” in 2011. She began her career as an associate at the Dewey Square Group’s Washington DC and Boston offices, managing grassroots campaigns.

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