Access to college has been the driving force in federal higher education policy for decades. But the Obama administration is pushing a fundamental agenda shift that aggressively brings a new question into the debate: What are people getting for their money?
Students with loans are graduating on average with more than $25,000 in debt. The federal government pours $140 billion annually into federal grants and loans. Unemployment remains high, yet there are projected shortages in many industries with some high-tech companies already complaining about a lack of highly trained workers.
Meanwhile, literacy among college students has declined in the last decade, according to a commission convened during the George W. Bush administration that said American higher education has become "increasingly risk-averse, at times self-satisfied, and unduly expensive." About 40 percent of college students at four-year schools aren't graduating, and in two-year programs, only about 40 percent of students graduate or transfer, according to the policy and analysis group College Measures.