President Barack Obama loves to attack Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney over not having a plan to make college more affordable for Americans.
But you know what they say about people in glass houses . . .
Obama administration official Arne Duncan failed to specifically outline how or when President Barack Obama would help reduce the cost of college for America’s youth if reelected yet again on Tuesday, saying that decreasing higher education costs was a “shared responsibility” of the federal government, states and universities, all of which he said need to make reforms.
Duncan told attendees at a National Press Club luncheon in D.C. that the U.S. federal government needed to invest m0re heavily in higher education and “talk about Pell Grants,” but said “we [the federal government] can’t do it by ourselves.”
“States have to invest,” he said, explaining that he has told the National Governors Association that cutting funds to higher education is “the wrong thing to do.”
However, he immediately added that “universities themselves have to do a much better job of keeping down tuition and building a culture that is not just about access, but about completion.”
He renewed calls for a “Race to the Top” for higher education to “incentivize” colleges to reduce costs and referenced the administration’s “Know Before You Owe” financial aid shopping sheet, which will put more information in the hands of students about what financial aid options are available to them and how much debt they should plan to accumulate over the course of their college education.
What Duncan did not address, though, was what this so-called Race to the Top program would look like or when college seekers should anticipate legislation on this issue.
In response to a question on when Americans could expect to see the results of the Obama administration’s education reforms (which Duncan said at one point the administration was “doubling down on” because they were working) Duncan opted only to say that the Obama administration would like to see the U.S. leading the world in college graduates by 2020.
President Obama first proposed the idea of a “Race to the Top” program for colleges at an address to the University of Michigan in January. According to a vague press release sent out by the White House at the time, the program would “create incentives for states and colleges to keep costs under control through a $1 billion investment” that would be rewarded to schools based on “affordability and improved outcomes.” Colleges and universities would also be asked “to do more to contain their tuition and make it easier for students to earn a college degree.”
The program has never taken fruition, however, and Duncan gave no hint of when it might appear in tangible form Tuesday, saying generally that Congress has “no appetite for education reforms.” (Ironically he later derided “blame” game politics.)
He did make sure to point out that Romney running mate Paul Ryan’s budget would cut Pell Grant funding for college students after being asked why Obama would be better for America’s education system than Romney. Duncan replied that the Obama administration thinks of education as an “investment,” while Republicans think of it as an “expense.”
Romney, however, has said he would not cut Pell Grant funding, rather he would instead increase it with the rate of inflation, making Duncan’s only example of how Republicans would be bad for education irrelevant.
Even if Obama were elected to a second term and his administration were to present a detailed “Race to the Top: College Affordability and Completion,” where would Congress obtain the money to fund this $1billon venture? And shouldn’t lawmakers be telling universities they’ll cut their federal funding if they don’t reduce costs, not offer to further subsidize them?
Realistically, such a plan would shift the burden onto taxpayers to fund this $1 billion initiative at a time when our nation is already $16 trillion in debt.
These are issues that would undoubtedly need to be addressed should the Obama administration ever move forward on this initiative.