Recently, President Barack Obama visited Binghamton University for a “town hall” discussion. The main focus of his short initial speech was to talk about his new reform plan for colleges. The stated goal of the reform plan is to make higher education more affordable for students by “jump-starting competition” between schools.
Portions of it actually sounded alright to me. He talked about making the cap on student loan payments 10 percent of incomes available to more students which is something I certainly could go in for.
The new federal rating system for colleges around the county was announced the day before the president’s appearance in Binghamton, and he boiled it down by calling it more bang for a student’s buck. I am not so certain on how the plan will actually work out; I am concerned the initiative sounds too much like the Race to the Top Fund from the United States Department of Education. The Race to the Top is the incentive program which has spurred the recent statewide educational reforms which have burdened teachers with cumbersome and time consuming evaluations, taking away from class room preparation and focusing the goal of the public education system on score sheets as opposed to actual education.
In a press release from the White House, the goals of the president’s new plan to make colleges more affordable are lined out in a series of bullet points.
One of the points includes using a new rating system to link finical aid to college success. To me this is completely reminiscent of Race to the Top and I am skeptical that there will not be more harm done than good by refocusing college educations on producing high stats to gain money, instead of actually teaching kids something. Another bullet point which makes me more than slightly nervous? The one indicating that students receiving finical aid will themselves be held more accountable to finish their degree in a timely manner. Now, if that means students receiving taxpayer money are encouraged to complete their degrees on time, I suppose I can not really argue. I do feel college is a unique experience for everyone and a time in which people can take things a little easy if they want while trying to figure out what to do with the rest of their lives. However, holding students who are receiving aid more accountable sort of sounds like the loan shark is going to be sending henchmen to make sure the money is being used properly. Students are already held accountable for paying back their loans, what difference is this added measure actually going to make other than laying on more pressure. I guess I can’t really complain about that too much, though, if we are talking about taxpayer money being squandered by some kid who isn’t even going to class. Still, where does accountability end and overbearing begin.
It does not seem as though Obama’s education reform announcement right before his appearance in Binghamton was a coincidence. Consistently, Binghamton University has been ranked among the best buys in the nation for the quality of education students can receive when compared to the amount of tuition paid. And I think that is something which the school has simply achieved on its own, though without being put under the gun by the federal government. The academic quality of the school is something which has evolved naturally while at the same time tuition prices have been kept down by the fact that the school is part of the SUNY system. I recently heard that BU was actually trying to break away from said SUNY system and become a private school. This would only allow administrators to jack up the tuition price and is something which would have a more profound impact on students ... much more than a new federal scoring system.
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