February 2nd, 2012
In his State of the Union address, President Obama outlined a series of policy proposals on college affordability. These proposals would: (1) re-focus campus-based aid (SEOG, Work-Study, and Perkins Loans) resources on institutions that contain net tuition, provide good quality and value, and serve the greatest number of low-income students; (2) create a $1 billion competitive program modeled on K-12’s Race to the Top fund that would provide resources to states that maintain funding for public higher education and make reforms in the areas of affordability and improving outcomes; (3) create a $55 million competitive grant program for institutions to test strategies to improve attainment and student outcomes; and (4) create a national “Scorecard” whereby all degree-granting institutions would provide data on costs, graduation rates and potential earnings. At this point the proposals are only described in broad, general language, and they will be difficult to advance in the current legislative environment. Nonetheless, they are indicative of themes that will recur from now through the next reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, scheduled for 2014. On a related front, the president also proposed making permanent the American Opportunity Tax Credit, doubling the size of the Work-Study program, and delaying a scheduled increase in subsidized Stafford student loan interest rates.