Obama Bests Rubio on Higher-Ed Reform

In his response to the President’s State of the Union
address, Marco Rubio once again displayed his worrisome approach to higher ed
policy. Though he rightfully lamented both tuition cost growth and the
government’s bias against non-traditional institutions, his proposals did not
address the heart of the matter. He suggested expanding federal student aid for
students enrolled in “online courses, or degree programs that give you
credit for work experience.” However, doing so would not have any effect
on lowering tuition costs–quite
the opposite
. His second suggestion, to give students more information
about the costs of loans, will likewise have little effect on tuition. Students
will continue to shoulder massive amounts of debt so long as the federal
government offers it cheaply. Rubio has yet to acknowledge this point; his
approach to higher-ed reform will be lacking until he does.

Curiously, President Obama showed a greater awareness of
the federal government’s role in creating bad incentives for students and
colleges. He urged Congress to revise the Higher Education Act — the program
that authorizes federal college loans — so that Washington considers
“affordability and value” when deciding to which colleges it should
dispense aid. Though he suggested that only “certain types” of
federal aid programs would incorporate a cost-value assessment, he correctly
framed the problem of increasing college tuition as one of “taxpayers…subsidizing
higher and higher costs for higher education.” Why can’t Rubio?


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