The Democrats hope to connect with young Americans by talking about the programs President Obama has enacted to “keep college within reach of every student” in their 2012 party platform, but it is noticeably silent about runaway college tuition costs.
According to American Enterprise Institute scholar Andrew G.Biggs, data from the College Board shows that tuition at public institutions increased by 5.6 percent, and 2.6 percent at private institutions, between 2001 and 2011.
This occured despite the fact that federal spending on Pell Grants, work-study programs and subsidies tripled in the same period.
The Democratic platform sets the goal of the United States having the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020; however, even the liberal Think Progress blog concedes that Bachelor’s Degrees are not worth what they once were.
“Most of the people I interact with who are involved in the university system like to talk about cuts in public funding in this context, and if you look at the public/private gap in tuition increases, that’s clearly part of the problem. But the private non-profit four-year college sector increased prices 4.5 percent,” Think Progress’s Matthew Yglesias wrote in Oct. 2011. “It’s a number that far exceeds the overall level of inflation or income growth in the economy. It’s not because America’s private non-profit four-year colleges got a lot better.”
Despite this fact there is not one line in the document about what Democrats plan on doing to make colleges and universities accountable for their runaway tuition and how to make them more effective.
The Democratic platform talks at length about the doubling of Pell Grants under Obama as well as the American Opportunity Tax Credit, worth up to $10,000 over four years, and the president’s “Pay As You Earn” plan that would allow new borrowers to pay up to 10 percent of what they earn each month.
GOP Vice Presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan warned that in his budget from this year that the Obama strategy is of limited value because “[r]ecent studies have demonstrated that increases in Pell grants appear to be matched nearly one for one by increases in tuition at private universities.”
The Democratic student aid plan doesn’t even begin to address the question of how students who graduate with degrees that do not allow them to get hired amid the current 12.7 percent youth unemployment rate.
“Transparency is important because you have so many young adults in America making the tough decision of whether to go to school or not,” said Paul T. Conway, president of Generation Opportunity. “They deserve to know what the tuition pays for in terms of actual classroom content.
“The other thing they deserve to know is … ‘What are the placement rates for the degrees that they are going to be taking on after graduation and what effort do the universities make to place people into positions that are relevant to the degrees?’”