Public colleges across the country might have to begin accommodating feasible tuition prices for students – if they want to receive federal funds.
President Barack Obama announced a plan last Friday that would possibly lower tuition fees at public universities and colleges, lower student debt and promote higher education in the United States.
As part his State of the Union address agenda, Obama visited the University of Michigan where he called out to public universities and state governments to cooperate in such a manner where students are able to afford a college education.
“We’re telling the states ‘if you can find new ways to bring down the cost of college and make it easier for more students to grad, we will help you do it,’” said Obama in an Associated Press video.
Obama plans to add federal money for Pell Grants, accommodate more college tax credits and create a “Race to the Top” for competition within states and colleges, which would grant federal funds to states that lower tuition costs and provide a quality higher education.
Although many higher education supporters may be pleased by the proposed reforms, the chances of Obama’s plan to carry out this year are faint.
“It is highly unlikely that anything proposed by a democrat-sitting president will be embraced by a republican lay congress in an election year,” said Dr. Boris Ricks, CSUN political-science professor.
Part of Obama’s blueprint is to help colleges that are producing an effort to make education affordable for their students by increasing federal funds. Those universities and colleges that are not meeting affordability requirements would be penalized by lessening their federal aid.
“States also need to do their part, by making higher education a higher priority in their budgets. And colleges and universities have to do their part by working to keep costs down,” said Obama in his State of the Union speech.
Vice President Joe Biden said Secretary of Education Arne Duncan would set up “a fair formula” on how to judge tuition on college campuses, the formula is still in development.
According to College Board, in 2011-12, 44 percent of undergraduate college students attended universities with tuition fees of about $9,000 per year.
Biden said tuition has gone up 300 percent over the past three years in the U.S.
At CSUN, tuition has increased increased 43 percent since the 2007-08 school year as reported in a September Sundial article.
“Relative to everything going up, CSUN is still an extremely affordable university campus. And our student fees a quite a bit less than other parallel universities,” said Cynthia Rawitch, vice provost at CSUN.
Parallel universities are public state universities such as Arizona State, Colorado State University or Michigan State University.
The price for attending Colorado State University, Fort Collins, without room and board and extra expenses, is $8,040 for the 2011-2012 school year.
“In terms of somewhere else you might go (CSUN) a very good value,” Rawitch said. “In terms of how much it’s costing, it’s considerably more painful now than it was five years ago, eight years ago.”
Some students, like Hubert Cheo, finance junior, who came to CSUN before shopping around in the east coast, feel like CSUN is affordable to most students.
Cheo pays about $8,000 a semester since he is an international student from China. He said that out-of-state tuition at other universities runs up to $20,000.
However, not all students feel CSUN’s tuition fees are a bargain.
Steve Gill, 22, political-science senior and student activist said he knows many people that cannot afford to attend CSUN, even though its price is not exorbitant. He credits financial aid for having the opportunity to attend college.
BENEFIT OR HURT CSUN?
Rawitch said she is unsure of how Obama’s proposal will affect CSUN until the plan goes into affect, if it does.
“It’s hard to know how the impact at Northridge will be. I don’t think he will cut federal funding to a campus like Northridge,” Rawitch said. “I don’t think that’s the target population he was talking about.”
However, Rawitch said the administration is doing things to lower costs for students, such as having more textbooks available to rent and increasing online courses to lessen commute for students.
Obama’s plan would also require a “College Scorecard” (that outlines the college’s price, career options and educational goals), update the “Financial Aid Shopping Sheet” (a template to compare college financial aid packages) and begin collecting earnings and employment information (for post-graduation reference for incoming students) – all which CSUN already has.
STATE GOVERNMENTS AND COLLEGES
Biden said states have to begin to balance their budgets appropriately.
“One of the things we want to do is incentivize (states) not to cut as much,” Biden said in a conference call to discuss the president’s proposals.
Ricks said it’s hard to say exactly how state governments will react if in fact these new policies will take place.
“I think each state will respond in a different fashion,” Ricks said. “States like to often times look at education, in some respects, and when it’s time to tighten the budget, education is first to be cut and the last to receive additional funding.”
Ricks said the reforms might change how state legislatures deal with funding if the federal government impedes upon states’ allocations for higher education.
“Personally, (I think) education should be free, we need a well-educated populace,” Gill said. “Lets make education as accessible as possible.”