Rising College Costs Pose Test for Obama on Education Policies

Ann McClure's picture

In campaign stops across college campuses, and again in the debate on Tuesday, President Obama has promoted his efforts to make college more affordable. His record, more activist than any recent predecessor’s, includes greatly expanding the federal government’s role in granting college loans, increasing aid to community colleges, and even taking steps to try to stem soaring tuition.

Though none of the questions in the presidential debate were on college affordability, Mr. Obama pivoted to that topic on his own. In answering a question about gender equity, he said, “We’ve expanded Pell Grants for millions of people, including millions of young women.”

But while many education experts laud his efforts, analysts of varying political stripes have also questioned how much impact some of the president’s policies will have, noting that the prices charged by colleges, and student borrowing, continue to climb.

“I think the president deserves a lot of credit for putting emphasis on things that weren’t being talked about much — raising educational attainment, expanding community college, cost containment,” said Derek Bok, the former Harvard president who has written extensively on the problems and future of higher education. “But I think the jury’s out on whether it’s effective.”

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