Obama Calls for Affordable College Tuition

President: Congress, states, higher learning institutions and students all must be held accountable.

by Lesley Kennedy • MORE.com Reporter

You want to send your children to the colleges of their choice, but the debt a higher education incurs today not only is worrisome, but can be downright crippling.

It’s high time everyone do their part when it comes to getting these costs under control, the Obama administration says. In a speech at the University of Michigan today, President Barack Obama said the unemployment rate for Americans with a college degree or more is about half the national average, but with ever-rising college tuition hikes, he acknowledged a post-high school education isn't something everyone can afford.

"I don’t want to be in a country where we only are looking at success for a small group of people," Obama said in his speech. "We want a country where everybody has a chance. … I want this to be a big, bold, generous country where everybody gets a fair shot, everybody is doing their fair share, everybody is playing by the same set of rules."

So, with, Obama said, graduates who took out loans leaving college owing $24,000, on average, in 2010, and student loan debt surpassing credit card debt for the first time, the president’s administration is calling on Congress, states, higher education institutions and the families of students to work together to make college affordable.

During a White House conference call, Domestic Policy Council Director Cecilia Munoz said Obama also called for a  compressive plan to tackle the rising cost of college during his recent State of the Union address.

“In the kind of economy we’re dealing with now, you can’t really afford for a college education to be a privilege and an unattainable privilege for some,” she said. “It has to be available to everyone. So, to reach a national goal of leading the world with the highest tier of college graduates by 2020, we have to make college more affordable. The president believes very strongly that we have a shared responsibility to confront this particular challenge head-on. It’s a make-or-break moment for the middle class and for those who are trying to reach the middle class.”

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said during the call that a college education is more essential than ever before, but it‘s also more expensive than ever before.

“Preventing college costs from spiraling out of control is a shared responsibility,” he said. “… Everyone has to come to the table. No one gets a pass in this effort. States can’t keep cutting higher education budgets and expecting  institutions to make up the differences by raising tuition each year. In the last year alone, over 40 states did cut their higher education spending. And we know that these state budget cuts have been perhaps the largest driver of tuition increases at public colleges over the past decade."

Duncan added that colleges and universities need to have a much greater urgency and use more creativity in making higher education affordable, while families of students need to be empowered to make informed decisions about where to go to college based on both value and affordability.

“What’s at stake here is really the very survival of the basic American premise that if you work hard, you should be able to do well enough to raise your family, own a home, count on a first-class education for your children and put enough money away for retirement,” Munoz said.

For more information on Obama's proposals, click here.

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First Published January 27, 2012

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