President Obama’s proposal to rate America’s colleges is the most important educational policy step taken in a long while. In late August, on a bus tour through New York and Pennsylvania, the President unveiled his plan to rate colleges on access, affordability and student outcomes and to tie federal support for student loans to these metrics.
At a time when America’s viability depends on increasing the number and proportion of citizens with college degrees, we are sabotaging our Nation’s future by allowing college costs to spiral out of control, thereby burdening a generation with onerous debt and blocking others from even entering the college gates.
Over the last five years, tuition at public four-year colleges increased 27 percent beyond inflation, while at private colleges, that increase is 13 percent.
One explanation for rampant tuition increases centers on the economic crash of 2008. Since the bust, colleges have failed to curb spending on bricks and mortar, tenured professors, health care, and technology, while states have passed off increases in higher education spending directly to students and their families.
This helps explain why tuition costs have risen faster than healthcare, energy, and even housing.
Because only the rich can afford today’s college costs, middle and low-income students have been forced to borrow money and absorb massive loan debt. Today, two thirds of those graduating from college are debt ridden, a per student average that’s close to $27,000. Student loan debt in the USA totals a staggering $1.2 trillion.
It’s ironic that as the cost for college grows, the greater the need for higher education. We, as a Nation, need college graduates more today than ever before. A college degree currently has the same value on the job market that a high school diploma had a generation ago. In 10 years, there will be 20 million jobs in the United States that go unfilled because we don’t have enough qualified workers.