The Norman Transcript

Editorials

August 29, 2013

Politics, govt. dominate college affordability talks

NORMAN — The debate over President Obama’s proposal to tie future federal financial aid for colleges and universities to a broad new government rating system is instructive — but not of how to make a college education more affordable or what’s best for students.

Instead, it tells us more than we want to know about the dysfunction that is the federal government, the sorry state of our oh-so-partisan politics and the higher education industry. None of it is good.

Obama’s stated goal, to keep down college costs, is worthy. But the way his proposal would go about that is classic federal government: give points for not just affordability but a host of other “goals” that may reward schools for things that aren’t necessarily part of the equation — average student loan debt, graduation rates and the average earnings of graduates.

The words were barely out of Obama’s mouth when Republicans weighed in. Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, the top Republican on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said Obama wanted to take “a good idea for one state and (force) all 6,000 institutions of higher education to do the exact same thing ...”

The proposal does no such thing, but the claim laid the foundation for a bigger stretch: That Obama wants to turn “Washington into a sort of national school board”

For colleges and universities, the proposal could mean millions of federal aid dollars — an issue much too important to actually take a stand. Molly Corbett Broad, president of the American Council on Education, a lobbyist for colleges and universities in Washington, commented but said absolutely nothing.

“This is extraordinarily complicated stuff, and it’s not clear we have the complete data or accurate data,” she said. What’s higher ed without data? An Obama proposal that has gotten little notice probably should get more: Create a $1 billion college “Race to the Top” competition to reward states for significant policy changes while containing tuition costs.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the people not heard from were students. And it shouldn’t be surprising that discussion of the affordability crisis that threatens higher ed got drowned in politics and babble.

— The Record-Eagle, Traverse City, Mich.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Editorials
  • Marijuana a gateway for new OK voters

    A poll this past year showed significant Oklahoma support for legalizing the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. The poll showed that more than 71 percent of those surveyed thought medical marijuana was appropriate for patients who ...

    July 31, 2014

  • America paying the piper

    Every third American you pass on the street has debts that have been turned over to a collection agency whose 140,000 workers are keeping the phones ringing....

    July 31, 2014

  • State is No. 2 in barbecue

    Americans love the marriage of smoke, fire and meat, but geography plays a part in how strong the passion is. Estately Blog has created a map charting which states are home to the most barbecue enthusiasts. Oklahoma comes in at No. 2 in ...

    July 30, 2014

  • Keep guns off campus

    Some Oklahoma lawmakers just won’t let the issue of allowing handguns on campus to go away. A joint legislative study will take a look at campuses around the nation to see if there is a way to accommodate faculty, staff and students who ...

    July 30, 2014

  • Improving children’s lives

    Social service organizations that have long-term debt for their headquarters and operating needs often spend much of their fundraising efforts meeting those obligations....

    July 29, 2014

  • State, local jobmarkets look up

    A tight labor market is often a big problem for economic development professionals. They need to be able to promise companies that there are willing workers in the community’s labor pool....

    July 26, 2014

  • Be careful out in the heat

    This week’s triple-digit temperatures are contributing to heat-related illnesses. The state health department’s Injury Prevention Service reminds Oklahomans of the symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke....

    July 25, 2014

  • Get smart on crime

    It’s no secret that prison guards have become the frontline mental health case workers in Oklahoma prisons. Accessing mental health services outside of prison is tough but even harder behind the walls....

    July 25, 2014

  • Quite the resilient bunch

    The people of Moore are a resilient bunch. They’ve bounced back from tornadoes before, but the current renaissance may be the quickest yet. FEMA officials said it would take two years to see some sense of normalcy. That’s hardly the case....

    July 24, 2014

  • A fresh start for VA

    All of us have high hopes for the confirmation and success of Veterans Affairs Secretary nominee Robert McDonald. If confirmed — and most believe he’s a shoe-in — McDonald will take over a paralyzed system of health care that is not ...

    July 24, 2014