On the President’s plan…

September 12th, 2013
2021 Michele Siqueiros 250x250(1)
Michele Siqueiros

September 12, 2013 | Written by: Michele Siqueiros, Executive Director, The Campaign for College Opportunity

President Obama recently unveiled his proposal to make higher education more affordable and accessible across the nation. I applaud the President because college opportunity and affordability deserve the national spotlight. Barriers to college access and success stifle the country’s economic growth while widening the gap between the rich and poor.

The President’s plan is rooted in an investment in our people and their ability to reach their college dreams. It’s a smart investment because investing in our younger generations is key to long-term competitiveness and prosperity. Our future depends on the increased mobility for low income and underrepresented students, especially Latinos who make up a growing proportion of our own state’s population. Unfortunately, too few students are achieving their academic objectives in a reasonable time frame if at all.

The President’s plan revolves around three ambitious objectives: transforming the way higher education is financed by linking federal aid to college and student performance; promoting innovation and competition by using technology and focusing on learning outcomes; and increasing options for student loan repayment. And, while President Obama’s postsecondary education blueprint has many details that remain to be worked out I offer a few suggestions.

Too often, we only focus on holding students accountable. If students don’t do what is expected and get failing grades, they don’t pass courses. Colleges should also live up to our collective expectations. Colleges must be committed to student learning and improving student success. That’s why I support transparency and agree that a college’s performance is important to measure – students and families deserve access to good information about college completion, time to completion, the quality of their degree/certificate, and the real cost of their education. A rating system should also be sure to include indicators that reward colleges for improving student outcomes, and for serving and awarding degrees and certificates to underrepresented students, including those who are low income and/or students of color.

There are few things more heartbreaking than a capable student who should go to college, but decides he or she simply can’t afford it. This is against our core values as Americans. So efforts to control the rising cost of college and student debt are necessary. Greater information and access for students to all their eligible college aid through the state and the federal government must be expanded. And greater awareness about access to federal student loans with low interest rates and income based repayment options for those loans has to be a top priority. The more information students have about their ability to pay for college now and in the future, the better. But along with more access and information to aid, there must also be a focus on keeping the cost of college attainable, and stopping the rollercoaster ride of tuition and fee increases our students have been riding over the past five years.

As the President and his team begin to seek stakeholder feedback let’s make sure that students, families, faculty and college leaders have a voice. Equally important is for civil rights, business, and community leaders to be a part of the national dialogue.

And yet, while the federal government plays an important role in higher education, especially through the billions in grants to colleges and students across the country, it will continue to be our own state leadership that can make an even bigger impact on the challenges we face.

Sandy Baum and Michael McPherson pose a good reality check on the President’s proposal. Do you agree? What would you tell the President? And how should we press forward in California on some of these issues?

About the Author:

Michele Siqueiros is the Executive Director of the Campaign for College Opportunity.

To read her complete bio, click here. Follow her on Twitter @MSCollegeOpp