Obama pitches plan to tie federal student aid to college ratings
BUFFALO (United States/New York) (AFP) - (AFP) - US President Barack Obama put the plight of debt-laden US students at the center of coming battles with Republicans on Thursday and his own effort to champion the middle class. Duration: 00:48
The Democratic president, who has spent much of the summer promoting new ideas to rev up the economy, unveiled his proposals at the start of a campaign-like bus tour through New York and Pennsylvania.
Obama would then push Congress to tie federal student aid to these ratings by 2018, creating an incentive for schools to keep their costs in check.
The plan also aims to ease the pain of federal student loan debt by limiting payments on the loans to 10 percent of borrowers' monthly income.
Major parts of the plan require congressional approval, which may prove difficult. Universities, many of which are already facing a cash crunch, are expected to push back against a ratings system that may be more difficult to influence than private-sector rankings.
"I want to look out for the students who these institutions exist to serve," Obama said during a speech to high school students in Syracuse, New York.
After first landing in the state and greeting Governor Andrew Cuomo - a potential Democratic candidate for president in 2016 - Obama boarded a big black bus that appeared to be the same one that took him through political swing states last year during his re-election battle against Republican Mitt Romney.
The campaign atmosphere is part of a White House strategy to generate attention for the president's proposals and gear up for a fall fight with congressional Republicans over the budget, debt ceiling and implementation of the president's signature healthcare reform, known as Obamacare.
Obama began his first set of remarks at The State University of New York at Buffalo with an attack on Republicans for continuing their quest to repeal the health law. Republican lawmakers are considering using an forthcoming showdown over the U.S. borrowing limit as leverage to delay the law's implementation.
But his main focus was education. Obama wants to bring down tuition costs at U.S. colleges and universities, which have skyrocketed, forcing students and families to take on more debt to afford a college degree.
"At a time when a higher education has never been more important or more expensive, too many students are facing a choice that they should never have to make," he said in Buffalo.
"Either they say no to college, and pay the price for not getting a degree ... or you do what it takes to go to college, but then you run the risk that you won't be able to pay it off because you've got so much debt," Obama said.
The average annual cost of in-state tuition and fees for 2013 at four-year public universities is $8,655, up 4.8 percent from 2012, according to a survey from the College Board released this month.
Private colleges and universities are vastly more expensive.
The federal government provides more than $150 billion in student financial aid each year, and typically that aid has been based on enrollment figures, not the value of the education.
John Kline, the Republican chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Education and the Workforce, expressed reservations about Obama's plan.
"I remain concerned that imposing an arbitrary college ranking system could curtail the very innovation we hope to encourage - and even lead to federal price controls," he said in a statement.