That may sound good on the stump, especially considering the crowd. But like so many populist proposals, it is more a means of taking advantage of an “anger point” than addressing the cost of higher education for students and struggling families.
It is doubtful that such a plan would make it through Congress. Republicans called it “interesting” and said it “deserved a careful review,” but added that they felt regulations on federal aid should be reviewed, as well. Democrats felt the president’s plan would start people talking about the problem, but in Washington, we all know where talking leads.
What is troubling about the president’s threat is not the amount of money a college might lose if it raises tuition — the plan would apply to only a small part of what colleges get from Washington — but that it implies colleges are raising tuition because they want to.
Using the state of Alabama as an example, tuition increases have hurt students and their families. And there is no doubt that this increased cost of college has limited the educational and ultimately the lifetime opportunities of a significant segment of the state’s population.
However, these increases came only after state support for higher education had been reduced and deep cuts had been made in institutional programs. For Obama to suggest that this is something colleges did to pad their budgets is to ignore what is really at issue here.
To propose cuts that would further hurt institutions, students and families that are already hurting is not the proper course of action.
This idea needs to be put on the shelf.