President Obama’s recent speech outlining his plan to make higher education more affordable had as its centerpiece the intent to hold institutions receiving federal funding more accountable for how well they’re serving their students. To this end, federal aid would be connected to how hard schools are working to control/lower their operating costs, as well as to their performance (student success/graduation rates). A rating system would also be established tying student aid to value (these ratings would be made public before the 2015 academic year). And colleges and universities would be rewarded for embracing technology as a way to gain efficiencies and transparency.
Congressional approval is required to turn Obama’s proposal into actionable legislation. But if it does pass—and there’s a growing and pervasive public sentiment that higher education needs to make some radical changes in how it conducts business—colleges and universities will face greater scrutiny than ever before. Much of this attention will be directed at student financial aid departments, compelling these departments to become more efficient, accountable, and transparent in their operations.