College Leaders Meet With Obama to Discuss Costs and Productivity

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

In a private meeting on Monday, President Obama and his secretary of education, Arne Duncan, conferred with a dozen college presidents, mostly from public institutions, and leaders of two nonprofit education organizations, about how to curb the rising cost of college and improve graduation rates.

“It was an unusually interesting meeting, and not your usual list of college presidents,” said Jane Wellman, founder and director of the nonprofit Delta Project, which studies college costs. “These were all people who had led institutions that had done something about reducing spending or improving student learning.

“There was good discussion on how we drive down tuition, and what the right role is for the federal government,” she said.

The Obama administration’s first salvo at college costs came last Tuesday, in a speech by Mr. Duncan in Las Vegas, in which the secretary prodded college officials to tackle the issue with greater creativity and urgency. In recent months, the cost of higher education has become a central issue of the Occupy movement, and one that arouses bipartisan concern.

Also last week, Representative Virginia Foxx, a Republican from North Carolina who is chairwoman of a higher education subcommittee, held her own hearings on college costs.

At Monday’s meeting, Mr. Obama spent about an hour with the educators, and Mr. Duncan remained after he left.

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