Recently, US President Obama has been busy visiting colleges to garner support for a proposal that would rate schools before allocating student aid from the government.

The plan is an attempt to make college more affordable, and though it has its supporters, it has also drawn some criticism.

The Plan’s Details

According to Obama, one way to cut down on college costs is to offer more student aid to colleges with track records of impressive student outcomes. Specifically, the rating system will consider:

  • Tuition costs,
  • Average student loan debt,
  • Graduation rates, and
  • Average earnings of graduates.

If a college ranks well in all of these areas, its students would qualify for more affordable loans and larger Pell Grants.

Currently, student aid is offered based on the financial need of students at each school. Obama has asserted that this practice is supporting schools that are not doing the greatest job of educating students, since many of them are not considered high earners once they graduate.

He believes this plan would change that, requiring schools to improve these stats to continue appealing to students who need financial aid. The proposal would also penalize schools with high dropout rates while rewarding the colleges with the highest rates of graduates who received grants.

Concerns About the Plan

While many people agree that something needs to be done to make college more affordable, some worry about how effective this plan would be. The main concern is that it would encourage colleges to be more selective than ever, accepting only students who could improve their ratings based on this plan.

In addition, there could be a problem with the plan taking into account the earnings of graduates from each college. This is largely because it is difficult to accurately gather these statistics, especially since the current data is only from those who received student aid.

Also, a student’s earnings after college are not always a measure of success. Some colleges specialize in offering degrees in teaching, social work and other low-income careers. Penalizing these schools for educating future teachers and social workers would not be the right move.

A Step in the Right Direction

Even opponents of the plan have admitted it’s a good start, since something needs to be done about the costs of college.

In fact, even if Obama does not receive Congressional support to tie student aid to this ranking system, many claim that students could still benefit from seeing a list of colleges that are affordable, accessible and able to provide good outcomes for graduates.

Plus, Obama’s proposal addresses the problem of high dropout rates at some schools. Under the plan, financial aid for college would only continue to be given to students who have completed a specific amount of credits on time.

Many agree that this kind of encouragement to graduate is a good idea, though it remains to be seen if any portion of Obama’s plan will be put into action.

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