The White House issued a news release today entitled:“Fact Sheet on the President’s Plan to Make College More Affordable: A Better Bargain for the Middle Class.”

I encourage you to take the time to read the article at the link above.

Regardless of your politics, the issue of rising college costs and low graduation rates coupled with high debt should be a major concern for us all. President Obama’s proposal addresses some of these concerns and exhibits innovative leadership in an area which is complicated and caught in a quagmire of bureacracy . . . depending, of course, on what these proposals will actually look like once implemented.

Some of the highlights from my perspective:

Paying for Performance

  • If the new college rating is actually balanced and takes into account the demographic of today’s college student (which IPEDS does not) then this would be great benefit to students. I’m not as hopeful that the DOE can pull off a balanced and fair metric.
  • Tying state and federal funds to performance should be interesting to say the least as gauging performance has always been a challenge for academia. I can see this being resisted by many four year public universities some of whose faculty have not had to face the challenge of relevance for their entire career.
  • I truly like the part about holding students and colleges receiving student aid responsible for making progress toward a degree. Honestly this is the way the funding should have been setup in the beginning and most of the real problem (which is focused on blaming some schools for abuse) is because the system wasn’t setup correctly in the first place. This has the potential to fix it, although there will be a lot of individuals who have been “playing” the system who will be disappointed that they will actually have to make progress on a degree to keep getting the funding. Who knows, they might eve graduate.

Promoting Innovation and Competition

  • I think this area is a little scarier. According to the news release there will be some money available to community colleges and “approved” universities to explore innovation. This, in concept is a good thing, however, I can see some pot-holes in the road ahead as the implementation of almost all innovation in higher education finds significant barriers in faculty acceptance and administration budgeting. Also a consideration is the small school who is comfortable doing things as they’ve always done them now being confronted with the challenge to change and change radically. This will, I believe, catch many unaware and could result in some serious competition leading to closing schools (maybe a good thing??? I don’t know, we’ll see).

Ensuring that Student Debt Remains Affordable

  • I applaud the initiatives in this area as I know many personally who are carrying significant debt and I think this will help.

Altogether, I am hopeful that these initiatives will make a difference, but I can also see some difficult days ahead as colleges and universities try to get a handle on what this new future will look like once the dust has settled.