President Barack Obama announced plans Thursday to launch a new government rating system students and parents could use to pick a school that offers the best value.
Eventually, Obama administration officials hope to use the federal financial aid system to reward students who enroll in schools that offer greater value for their student aid dollars.
Speaking at the University at Buffalo, Obama said the nation is facing “a crisis in terms of college affordability and student debt.” The rising cost of college has placed higher education out of reach for many Americans, closing off the country's best avenue into the middle class.
Middle-class students are being forced to choose between not going to college and facing a mountain of student loan debt after graduation, Obama said during the speech in New York, which was streamed online.
“Reversing this trend should be, must be, Washington's highest priority,” he said. “It's my highest priority.”
Oklahoma's college and university students carry relatively low student debt loads at graduation, according to a recent report from the nonprofit Institute for College Access and Success. According to the report, Oklahoma's 2011 college graduates left school with $20,897 in student debt on average, placing the state in eighth place on the report's low-debt states list.
Obama said he would direct U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan to meet with college and university officials to discuss details for the new ranking system. By 2018, administration officials hope to give larger Pell Grant awards and more affordable student loans to students who attend schools that perform well in the rating system.
Although Department of Education officials can create and implement the proposed rating system without legislative approval, Obama said the federal financial aid changes will require congressional action.
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