Obama's College Plan Is Smart, but Maybe Doomed

Congress would have to go along with ranking system: Jordan Weissmann

By John Johnson,  Newser Staff

Posted Aug 23, 2013 12:33 PM CDT

(Newser) – President Obama's plan to ease the student debt problem is "simple, powerful, and long overdue," writes Jordan Weissmann at the Atlantic. It's also probably doomed. As he spelled out yesterday, Obama wants to help students figure out which schools give them the best value, factoring in things like tuition and employment after graduation. Schools with higher rankings would see more federal aid, which would theoretically spur reform and thus lower costs. "On a broad philosophical level, the proposal would fundamentally rewire the relationship between the federal government and the world of higher education, by introducing at least somewhat meaningful accountability measures for the first time across all sectors of the industry, from the Ivy League, to the University of Phoenix," writes Weissmann.

The catch? The Department of Education can come up with any ranking it wants, but tying the results to federal aid needs the approval of Congress, and Republicans already seem skeptical. Marco Rubio, for instance, called such a plan a "slippery slope" that would give "Washington bureaucrats" too much sway over the private sector. The plan is an "important first step," writes Weissmann, "but it's not clear when, or if, it will lead anywhere." At Business Insider, Josh Barro is more enthusiastic. "In the case of higher education, the constituency getting its ox gored by cost control will be college professors and administrators, hardly a fixture of Republican fundraisers or Tea Party town halls," he writes. "That bodes well for bipartisan compromise on this issue." Click for Barro's full column, or Weissmann's full column.

President Obama speaks about affordable college education at Henninger High School Thursday in Syracuse.
President Obama speaks about affordable college education at Henninger High School Thursday in Syracuse.   (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
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