President Obama's acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention touched on education Thursday night and touted his efforts to increase Pell Grants for low-income students. He also unveiled a new goal for addressing the rising cost of college.
"Help give 2 million workers the chance to learn skills at their community college that will lead directly to a job. Help us work with colleges and universities to cut in half the growth of tuition costs over the next 10 years. We can meet that goal together. You can choose that future for America."
Obama also made sure to take a swipe at Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and his advice on affording higher education.
"If you can't afford to start a business or go to college, take my opponent's advice and 'borrow money from your parents,'" Obama said. "You know what? That's not who we are. That's not what this country's about."
Certainly there are stark differences in how the two parties are approaching the student debt crisis, as shown in their national party platforms. Republicans call for an end to government student loans, Democrats have touted their 2010 reform package increasing federal financial aid.
However, when it comes to the president's plan to bring college tuition down, it isn't clear how he plans to accomplish it.
Experts attribute skyrocketing tuition to a dramatic budget cuts from the state legislatures. It happened under Democrats as well as Republicans over the past 30 years, in conservative and liberal states.
Tuition has grown nearly five times faster than inflation since 1985, and about twice as much as health care costs, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, commonly referred to as the stimulus, helped replenish state coffers during the Great Recession, but this trend of gutting public higher education started in the 1980's.
There are misplaced priorities among public universities as well. For example, college presidents and administrators continue to get six-figure raises, even as students get hit with double-digit tuition hikes. Not to mention lavish rec centers and major athletic programs which operate in the red.
The president has called for a Race to the Top-styled program to reward colleges which keep their costs down, but without Congressional action, that plan has gone no where. Obama sought to withhold federal money from colleges who fail to remain affordable, but higher ed leaders and Republicans spoke out against it. Although, Republicans proposed a very similar idea in 2003.
Obama has also pushed to continue increasing the Pell Grant to help low-income students attend college, but that too was stopped by a Congressional stalemate.
Still, the progress Obama has made most significantly with the 2010 Student Aid and Financial Responsibility Act, was highlighted by Bill Clinton Wednesday as something "every voter needs to know about."
Earlier on HuffPost:
Rein In Costs
President Obama's FY 2013 budget <a href="http://www.businessweek.com/ap/financialnews/D9SSL9BO1.htm" target="_hplink">would create</a> a $1 billion "Race to the Top" fund for colleges. In addition, Obama is seeking a $55 million to fund the "First in the World" program for colleges that "encourage productivity and efficiency." Obama is also proposing to <a href="http://today.seattletimes.com/2012/02/uws-young-praises-obamas-higher-ed-budget-initiatives/" target="_hplink">increase federally funded research</a> at universities in certain areas. The National Institutes of Health would see no funding increase, for instance, but new <a href="http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2012/02/13/some-details-proposed-obama-budget-higher-ed-2013#ixzz1mJ04pvbi" target="_hplink">policies would increase</a> the money available for grants by 7 percent. Other <a href="http://chronicle.com/article/Table-Details-of-Obamas/130771/" target="_hplink">research areas</a> would see between 1 percent and as much as a 110 percent increase in funding grant spending.
Obama's budget offers an <a href="http://chronicle.com/blogs/innovations/obamas-higher-education-agenda/31515" target="_hplink">$8 billion proposal</a> to encourage colleges and businesses to work together to train 2 million workers in high-growth industries. Obama would include <a href="http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2012/02/13/some-details-proposed-obama-budget-higher-ed-2013#ixzz1mJ04pvbi" target="_hplink">financial incentives</a> to ensure that students find permanent jobs. <a href="http://insidehighered.com" target="_hplink">Inside Higher Ed</a> reports the money would also support paid internships for low-income college students.
Some of the president's budget initiatives would <a href="http://www.businessweek.com/news/2012-02-14/obama-proposes-2-5-increase-in-spending-on-education.html" target="_hplink">shut out for-profit</a> colleges. Obama would enact <a href="http://chronicle.com/blogs/innovations/obamas-higher-education-agenda/31515" target="_hplink">stricter rules on for-profit colleges</a>. For-profits <a href="http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2012/02/13/some-details-proposed-obama-budget-higher-ed-2013" target="_hplink">would not be eligible</a> for money from the "Race to the Top" or "First in the World" programs, nor would they get any research grants. During <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/20/for-profit-college-mitt-romney-obama_n_1217169.html" target="_hplink">Obama's tenure</a>, for-profits have increasingly come under scrutiny by the administration and been subject to investigations by Congress.
The maximum Pell grant award would be bumped up by a hair to $5,635, an increase of $85. Pell grants have not been adjusted to the cost of college over the <a href="http://www.demos.org/data-byte/maximum-pell-grant-percentage-college-costs" target="_hplink">past 30 years, but were <a href="http://thehill.com/homenews/house/174253-house-conservatives-angry-over-pell-grant-funding-in-boehner-debt-bill" target="_hplink">spared during 2011 budget negotiations</a>.
Other Financial Aid
Obama's budget would increase spending on the federal work study program <a href="http://chronicle.com/article/Table-Details-of-Obamas/130771/" target="_hplink">by 15 percent</a>. The president is also calling for suspending a student loan interest rate <a href="http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2012/02/13/some-details-proposed-obama-budget-higher-ed-2013#ixzz1mJ04pvbi" target="_hplink">scheduled to double</a> this summer. Inside Higher Ed <a href="http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2012/01/30/obama-higher-education-plan-signals-policy-shift" target="_hplink">reports</a> the funding formula for the Perkins federal student loan program would be "revamped" to push colleges to keep net tuition low and provide "good value." That value would be based on the ability of graduating students to get jobs and pay off their loans, as well as a school serving a higher proportion of low-income students. Obama is also requesting a 390 percent increase in teacher education assistance, upping the allocation from $41 to $201 million. This is particularly tailored <a href="http://chronicle.com/blogs/innovations/obamas-higher-education-agenda/31515" target="_hplink">to train more</a> science and math teachers.