The president is using the federal government’s increased control over student loans to push for greater federal control over college admissions, graduation rates and tuition costs.
President Barack Obama is expected to tout the increased federal role, which is to include a federal rating system of colleges, during his two-day tour of colleges and schools in Pennsylvania and New York.
The tour will resuscitate some themes he announced in 2011 and 2012, and it is likely to get much favorable publicity from established media outlets. It may boost his outreach to the increasingly worried and debt-laden middle-class voters, including young voters, whose support for Obama has dropped sharply since 2008 and last November.
The tour is part of Obama’s “Foundation for the Middle Class” series of poll-boosting speeches.
GOP leaders are already deriding the tour. ”More campaigning isn’t going to change the fact that the Obama presidency and Democratic policies have made life harder for young Americans,” said Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee said in a Wednesday statement.
“You can be sure that the president will really take every single opportunity he can to do what he does best, which is talk and talk and talk, just like he’s done for the last 4 1/2 years,” Priebus said.
Since 2008, college costs have grown by 27 percent, while more young people are staying in college because they can’t get decent jobs. Costs grew by 31 percent from 2003 to 2008. Roughly 42 percent of enrolled students don’t get degrees within six years.
Moreover, graduates’ ability to pay their average debt of $26,000 — and cumulatively, more than $1 trillion — is also curbed by Obama’s economy. For example, college graduates now comprise 19 percent of hourly workers, up from 13 percent in 2002, according to a March report in The Wall Street Journal.
Much of the package proposed by the president is designed to pressure colleges to help low-performing students minimize debt as they get through college.
“To encourage colleges to enroll and graduate low- and moderate-income students, the President will propose legislation to give colleges a bonus based upon the number of Pell students they graduate,” says the White House statement.
The statement says Obama is committed to preserving the quality of education, even as he pressures colleges to help lower-performing students. ”The federal government can act as a catalyst for innovation, spurring innovation in a way that drives down costs while preserving quality,” says the statement.
But Obama’s proposed system by 2018 will grade public and private colleges for enrolling “disadvantaged” students, and for graduating students faster at reduced costs.