Obama unveils major HE policy changes

US president Barack Obama has said that taxpayers “cannot continue to subsidise higher and higher and higher costs of higher education” in his annual State of the Union Address, and published proposals that would require colleges to meet performance thresholds to qualify for federal funding.

February 13, 2013

“Colleges must do their part to keep their costs down, and it’s our job to make sure they do,” he said in the speech, delivered yesterday. “Tonight, I ask Congress to change the Higher Education Act, so that affordability and value are included in determining which colleges receive certain types of federal aid.”

A policy document released following the address gives more detail on the president’s plans, and proposes changes to the way in which institutions are accredited, and allocated federal funding.

It states that Mr Obama will call on Congress “to consider value, affordability, and student outcomes in making determinations about which colleges and universities receive access to federal student aid”.

This might involve amending the current system by “incorporating measures of value and affordability”, or could mean that a new “alternative system of accreditation” is created to “provide pathways for higher education models and colleges to receive federal student aid based on performance and results”.

These changes, if introduced, would mean accreditors would be required to ensure that the cost and value of an institution’s higher education have more influence over how financial aid is allocated.

Mr Obama also confirmed that details of a new “College Scorecard” would be unveiled later today, allowing parents and students to compare institutions based on “a simple criteria: where you can get the most bang for your educational buck”.

“Today, skyrocketing costs price way too many young people out of a higher education, or saddle them with unsustainable debt,” Mr Obama said.

chris.parr@tsleducation.com

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