Obama Puts Federal Weight Behind Calls for College Affordability

In the first State of the Union address of his second term, President Obama asked Congress on Tuesday night to limit looming cuts in education and research, and called on lawmakers to link some federal student aid to college “affordability and value.”

For the second year in a row, Mr. Obama used the speech to take colleges to task over rising tuition, warning that “taxpayers can’t keep subsidizing higher and higher and higher costs for higher education.”

“Colleges must do their part to keep costs down, and it’s our job to make sure that they do,” he said, urging Congress “to change the Higher Education Act so that affordability and value are included in determining which colleges receive certain types of federal aid.”

He also said his administration would release on Wednesday “a new ‘College Scorecard’ that parents and students can use to compare schools based on a simple criterion—where you can get the most bang for your educational buck.”

The scorecard, which the president proposed last year, is an online tool designed to make it easier for students to compare colleges, by providing at-a-glance information about universities, including their costs, completion rates, and average student-loan debt.

Mr. Obama delivered Tuesday’s speech just weeks before deep cuts in discretionary spending are scheduled to take effect through a process known as “sequestration.” Unless Congress acts to avert the cuts by March 1, spending on defense and nondefense programs will be cut by 5 percent across the board.

In recent weeks, some Congressional Republicans have suggested limiting the defense cuts in favor of steeper cuts in other programs. Mr. Obama rejected that idea, saying, “We won’t grow the middle class simply by shifting the cost of health care or college onto families that are already struggling, or by forcing communities to lay off more teachers, cops, and firefighters.”

He also called for continued spending on research. “Now is not the time to gut these job-creating investments in science and innovation,” he said. “Now is the time to reach a level of research and development not seen since the height of the Space Race.” <Read more.>

Via Kelly Field, The Chronicle of Higher Ed.