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.

1 of 5

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.