Obama shifts higher ed policy

President Obama’s higher education plan represents a policy shift away from low-income students and toward the middle class, writes Inside Higher Ed.

“They’re sending a strong signal about where the second Obama administration, if we have one, is likely to go,” said Kevin Carey, policy director at Education Sector, a think tank. “They’re not going to just keep putting millions of dollars into the Pell Grant Program and letting the chips fall where they may.”

Expanding Pell Grants would do more to make college accessible, said Sara Goldrick-Rab, an associate professor of higher education policy at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

“I don’t have high hopes for [the new plan] being very effective in helping him achieve what I thought his goal was, which is getting more students from low-income families to be college graduates,” Goldrick-Rab said, describing the plan as “a little all over the place.”

“This is going to cause problems for the institutions that have the least resources to begin with.”

Judging whether a college provides “good value” is complex, writes Robert Sternberg, provost of Oklahoma State, in an open letter to the president.

Open-admissions colleges with many disadvantaged students won’t have the same graduation rates as elite institutions, he writes. “Over-focusing on completion can lead one to disregard the important issue of whether the education being completed is of the best quality our institutions of higher learning can provide.”

In addition, job preparation isn’t the only mission of colleges, Sternberg writes.

Rising tuition isn’t the biggest scandal in higher education, writes Jonathan Zimmerman, an NYU education and history professor, in the Los Angeles Times. It’s college’s failure to figure out whether students are learning. “Millions of American students and their families are mortgaging their futures to pay for a college education. We owe them an honest account of what they’re getting in return: not just what it costs, or where it will take them, but what it means.”


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