Obama’s new plan for higher ed.

Drowning in debt? Don’t fret, Obama has proposed a solution.

During his weekly address on August 24, Obama made education his main focus. 

Obama proposed that in the future, college institutions will be held accountable for their ability to provide students with cheaper alternatives to earning a higher education such as classes offered online and basing class credit on “competence” rather than hours spent in a classroom. He intends to rate colleges based on their ability to keep costs down.

“In time, we’ll use those ratings to make sure that the colleges that keep their tuition down are the ones that will see their taxpayer funding go up,” he said.

He also touched on a program called Pay-As-You-Earn, which would cap student loans payments at 10 percent of what a graduate makes.

“Funding shouldn’t be a luxury, or a roll of the dice,” Obama said. “It’s an economic imperative that every family in America should be able to afford.”

In response to Obama’s education proposals, Joseph Garcia, executive director of the Colorado Department of Higher Education, endorsed the president, stating that Colorado is already in the process of enacting such policies.

“We believe in college performance,” Garcia said. “It’s not enough to simply enroll students; we need to look at graduating them and graduating them in a reasonable amount of time.”

Garcia emphasizes the importance of efficient advising practices that will help students earn a degree in just four years.

“A lot of students now graduate with 135-138 credit hours when they really only need 120,” Garcia said. “We want colleges and universities to provide students with reasonable degree plans.”

Historically, the state used to subsidize higher education, paying for a certain majority of an average student’s tuition. Garcia attended the University of Colorado at Boulder from 1975-1979. In 2010 Colorado ranked No. 50 in terms of state funding per student.

“When I went to college I paid a much lower cost for my education,” Garcia said. “The state picked up two-thirds or three quarters of the cost, but now the ratio is much different.”

While state funding is no longer provided to major universities as it used to be, Colorado still spends approximately $100 million on financial assistance towards students in the form of grants. Furthermore, Colorado’s department of education is cracking down on who receives that funding.

“What we want to do is reward both students and schools that are focused on making progress towards degree completion,” Garcia said. “We don’t want [students] to get a full reward if what they’re doing is dabbling and taking a few courses here and there.”

While education reform has centered around lowering costs and measuring performance, John Straayer, a political science professor for 47 years at CSU, is concerned about the effect it will have on the quality of education and impose on the rights of the teachers to teach.

“I worry that [the proposals] could translate into more interference,” Straayer said. “We are in an era where we quantify everything. If the feds are going to get in the habit of counting the number of students that get jobs and counting how much money they make when they get out of the place and then using those as standards to either reward or not reward institutions, it’s going to change the behaviors and the curriculum.”

Adam Walsh, a sixth year student pursuing his masters in journalism and technical communications, stays hopeful.

“No debt is good debt,” Walsh said. “But I feel that [CSU] is the best of my options.”

To Walsh, the problem is not with the performance, but with the amount of funding.

“I wish that funding was a bigger deal for everybody. I think we are trying to do more with less in the education field. We are trying to teach more students, but budgets are getting cut.”

As tuition hikes continue to loom, officials on both the national and state level are turning their attention to combating the high costs of higher education.

Collegian Reporter Natasha Leadem can be reached at news@collegian.com.