In an announcement strategically timed to the beginning of the school year, President Obama last Thursday introduced new proposals to try to reduce college costs for students and families. The President’s desire to make higher education more accessible and affordable is a concern that colleges, as well as students and their families, share.
One aspect of the plan would involve rating colleges on how well they control costs, based on such criteria as tuition, the number of low-income students enrolled and how well graduates do in the job market. Under the plan, federal financial aid would be tied to how well colleges rate.
I am concerned about the viability and accuracy of Obama’s proposed method for curbing college costs. It is important for students and families to obtain financial and academic information about colleges to make the best choices, but that information already is available online for anyone to access. In addition, there are many variables in a student’s college decision-making process that the president’s proposal does not address, including whether certain majors are available at specific schools. It would be unfortunate to reduce the college choice decision to a limited set of criteria.
Consider also that the average tuition cost of a college is not necessarily what students and families end up paying. The vast majority of Philadelphia University students receive institutional, state and federal aid, which significantly decrease their tuition costs.
It is every college’s responsibility to ensure students will receive a good return on investment in their education, but they should not be saddled with a ranking number that seeks to wholly define them.
Please read my commentary in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer addressing this issue: The value of an education.