Cutting college costs: five questions about Obama’s proposal (+video)

President Obama unveiled a plan Aug. 22 to make college more affordable. “We can’t price the middle class and everybody working to get into the middle class out of a college education,” he said, noting that the average student who borrows graduates about $26,000 in debt. Here’s a look at the plan and affordability efforts.

REUTERS/Jason Reed
U.S. President Barack Obama (C) meets with college students, their parents and educators as they discuss the cost of education in Rochester, New York, last week. Obama's new plan aims to make college more affordable.

1. What did Mr. Obama propose?

AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin
In this file photo, President Barack Obama speaks at Henninger High School in Syracuse, N.Y. Obama is pitching an overhaul of federal student aid that would link dollars to the Education Department’s ratings of colleges and universities.

A new college rating system would help measure value – based on such factors as affordability, graduation rates, alumni employment, and how much colleges are assisting disadvantaged students.

The Department of Education will hold forums and set up the system within two years. By 2018, the president would like federal college aid to be tied to the rating system, but that, along with much of the plan, would require approval from Congress, which many see as unlikely.

To encourage state reforms and better state funding for higher education, Obama proposed a $1 billion Race to the Top grant competition for states. To promote innovation to drive down costs – such as the use of massive open online courses (MOOCs) – he proposed a $260 million grant program. And to make student debt manageable, Obama wants to make all college borrowers eligible for “Pay as You Earn,” capping repayment of federal loans at 10 percent of monthly income.

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