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Obama offers financial incentive to colleges that lower student tuition


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.


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.


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.”


  1. Anonymous Feb 6, 2012

    Every qualified California student must
    get a place in public University of California (UC). That’s a desirable goal
    for UC. However, UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert J. Birgeneau displaces Californians
    qualified for education at Cal.
    with foreigners paying $50,600 tuition.

    Paying more is not a
    better education. UC tuition increases exceed the national average rate of
    increase. Birgeneau has doubled instate tuition/fees. Birgeneau jeopardizes
    access to Cal
    by making it the most expensive public university.

    President Mark Yudof uses tuition increases to pay for faculty &
    administrator salary increases. Payoffs like these point to higher operating
    costs and still higher tuition and taxes.
    Instate tuition consumes 14% of Cal. Median Family Income. President Yudof is
    hijacking our families’ and kids’ futures: student debt.

    I agree that Yudof and Birgeneau
    should consider the students’ welfare & put it high on their values. Deeds
    unfortunately do not bear out the students’ welfare values of Birgeneau, Regent
    Chairwoman Lansing and President Yudof.

    We must act. Birgeneau’s
    campus police deployed violent baton jabs on students protesting Birgeneau’s tuition
    increases. The sky will not fall when Chancellor Robert J Birgeneau ($450,000
    salary) ‘honorably’ retires.

    Opinions to UC Board of Regents,
    email    marsha.kelman@ucop.edu


  2. Dblaser Feb 6, 2012

    I agree with some of the other commenters that the best way for the government to handle higher education is by stepping away from it. The free market naturally lowers prices through competition (think textbook rentals) so we need to just let the free market do its thing.

  3. Vlad Feb 6, 2012


    The only way to reduce the “cost” of Higher Education is the free market. If students were free to choose an instution based on quality of product divided by “cost”, better institutions would improve and become cheaper, worse institutions would improve, or die.

    Obama’s plan is to “enslave” institutions and students by artificially lowering “price.”

    Empowering government to direct resources, disempowers the citizen.

    Has Higher Education eliminated “critical thinking” by its students?

    “Useful Idiots”


  4. Anonymous Feb 5, 2012

    It would go a long way toward helping State Universities and Community Colleges allow more students to attend if we quit throwing taxpayer monies hand over fist to the fraud-infested, substandard educating for-profit colleges. If Obama took the over 1 billion dollars in Federal funding (and I am not counting the several billion in veteran GI Bill funding that was wasted at these rip-off schools) that went to those crooks and allotted it to low cost community colleges, many more low-income, disabled and non-traditional students could afford to go to college.

    1. Matador Feb 5, 2012

      Completely agree with you, no one ever mentions for profit schools like Phoenix and Devry and all the money they receive. Money that should go to state Universities, if anyone should be blamed it should be the many for profit schools that charge in many cases more than private Universities and give you an A.A. you can get at a JC or some phony degree.

  5. Anonymous Feb 5, 2012

    Here’s a better idea for the government: get out of higher education. They’ve destroyed the quality of education in this country through constricting measures, caused tuition to skyrocket thanks to their subsidies, dumbed down what students take out of classes, demanding we have more graduates to the point that too many people have degrees which have become common as dirt, and have stifled innovation and creativity all in the name of making workers rather than thinkers.

    Everything these morons touch falls apart and this “solution” of theirs is only go to make things worse not better. Colleges are dying and all they’re doing is injecting more poison.

  6. Chad Aaron Leach Feb 5, 2012

    Wow, so colleges must lower their prices in order to get paid by the government, im sorry but that made me lol. All your doing is transfering the extra cost to education to the taxpayer rather than the student, the only way that colleges will lower their prices and not have someone else pay for them is to stop guarenteing student loans most of which are either squandered or used on a liberal arts degree. Allow the market along with the laws of supply and demand to play themselfs out and the cost of education will plummit while the standard of ecuation improves.

    1. Matador Feb 5, 2012

      In California taxpayers pay 12 percent to UC and CSU systems combined, that is 12 cents of every dollar which is almost the same as prisons at 11 percent. You should not feel as if students owe you their life Instead you should focus your energy on something else, mmm perhaps prisons? Just a thought.

      1. Why the comparison of higher education and prisons?  Government’s main priority is to keep the public safe, not to give money to adults for thier educations.

        1. Matador Feb 5, 2012

          Why would you complain about 12 % going to Higher education and not about 11 % for prisons? why not ask why inmates really need all the money, they can easily cut back on number of meals a day, access to cable tv, etc…so government can protect us from harm but not educate our society? by not educating you’re dooming the future of your state. People complain about the gap between the wealthy and middle class not to mention poor, but at the same time these same people advocate for Education to those that can afford it, and ‘survival of the fittest’ BS used by the high class to justify their status. That is why I compared the two.

          1. Vlad Feb 6, 2012

            By subsidizing Education, students have no appreciation of value for the “cost” of a degree. As such, they are disincentivized to strive to learn. CSUN has a 50% graduation rate, after 6 years. PATHETIC. If students were required to pay the “fully loaded Tuition cost”, this rate would be closer to 75-80%.

            Subsidies, if offered, should be EARNED. Substandard students (and professors, and K-12 teachers) has deteriorated for the past couple decades.

            Socialized Education has disincentivized both the top and bottom students. A college diploma has become meaningless.

            “Useful Idiots”

          2. RemainAnonymous Feb 6, 2012

            It’s the way people are raised in the U.S. that leads them to little appreciation for a degree, there shouldn’t be a cost to get young people going in the world. It’s in the governments interest that young people like us get a good education to keep pushing the U.S. forward.

            If the subsidy wasn’t there, there would be far less students receiving a higher education and working dead-end minimum-wage jobs.

          3. People will find a way to get educated even without taking money away from others to pay for it.

        2. RemainAnonymous Feb 6, 2012

          It shouldn’t cost the Government of California $50,000 a year to house an inmate in a State prison. 


          Low-income family’s are surviving on less money then that.

          1. I agree; but you can blame the federal government and judges, the prison-guards’ union, and state legislators for the outrageous costs.  Prisons should be spartan with bare-bones necessities and no more.

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