Biden, in a swing state, addresses student anxiety over college costs (+video)
Vice President Biden sought Friday to remind Pennsylvania high-schoolers of the value of higher eduction – and how the Obama administration is trying to control college costs. The state's Class of 2010 owes an average of $28,599 per graduate – the fifth highest debt level in the US.
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The administration hopes to have such conversations, as well, with governors and state legislators, who have a major role in overseeing state budgets and public universities, says a Department of Education spokesman.Skip to next paragraph
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For their part, institutions of higher education “have taken an increasing proportion of their tuition revenue and repurposed it for financial aid ... [and they are] stepping into the breach here in ways that are smart, that are novel, and that are improving productivity,” says Molly Corbett Broad, president of the American Council on Education in Washington.
She offers as an example the University of Wisconsin system, with more than 25 campuses, which has lost about $500 million in state funds over the past five years. At the same time, she says, it has added 12,000 students. Tuition has jumped about 5.5 percent for several years running, but the system has also increased financial aid from about $6 million to $20 million in the past four years.
Studies are also under way to see if using online education at the college level can provide equal or better-quality learning experience for less cost, Ms. Broad says.
But while technology can help, its role will be very different in education than in other sectors of the economy such as manufacturing, so online learning shouldn’t be seen as a panacea, says Ms. Baum.
As an election year gets under way, it’s perhaps no coincidence that Biden’s talks are taking place in swing states.
In response to Biden’s visit, Republican National Committee spokesman Ryan Tronovitch said in a statement, “Vice President Biden can try to spin President Obama’s record of broken promises and failed policies all he wants, but with every visit to Pennsylvania, they remind voters how much worse off they are.”
Biden kept his comments nonpartisan, personal, and inspirational, and complimented a local Republican congressman in attendance.
He recalled his own father’s sadness at being turned down for a loan to help the young Biden attend the University of Delaware. And as a parent himself, he said, he was able to help pay for his three children’s college educations in part by borrowing against his home equity. Because of the recession, he explained to the students, most families don’t have enough value in their homes to do that now.
Among young adults of all political stripes, 68 percent say college affordability should be Congress’s top priority, according to a Demos and Young Invincibles poll this fall.
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