Rising college costs was on the agenda this week, when President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan met with college leaders at the White House. Most were chancellors of large state university systems, but Thomas Snyder of Ivy Tech Community College was invited along with the presidents of the three nonprofits, the all-online Western Governors University, Carnegie Mellon and Berea College.
New financial aid policies to encourage completion were discussed, said Jamie P. Merisotis, president of the Lumina Foundation, who also testified before Rep. Virginia Foxx’s committee on streamlining college costs.
. . . there seemed to be some consensus at the White House meeting that the federal government should develop policies on financial aid, its biggest tool, to spur a higher graduation rates, whether by limiting the number of semesters for which students could receive aid, requiring them to attend full-time, or doling out aid bit by bit to discourage students from dropping out mid-semester, or other approaches.
Requiring full-time attendance to qualify for Pell Grants would have a huge impact on community college students.
College leaders also talked about the importance of linking colleges with K-12 education and the potential for technology to cut costs.
“If we’re going to address the 37 million adults with some college and no degree, we can’t just tweak the existing model,” said Robert W. Mendenhall of Western Governors University, an online nonprofit university. “Mostly in higher education, technology is an add-on cost that doesn’t change the model at all. We need to fundamentally change the faculty role, and use technology to do the teaching.”
Larry D. Shinn, the president of Berea College, did not disagree. “We’re structured in a 19th-century model, but I think we all know now that blended learning, combining technology and classroom learning, can let us educate for less cost,” he said. “The question is how we get there from here.”
“Technology can help us educate more students faster and better.”said Jared L. Cohon, the president of Carnegie Mellon, which has developed online classes used at other universities.
Open-access universities and community colleges have the most experience in controlling costs, writes Jonathan Gibralter, president of Frostburg State in Maryland.
President Obama plans to continue to talk about the problem of college affordability, which was spotlighted by the Occupy protests.