President Barak Obama recently spoke to a crowd of college students at a Virginia community college last Monday. The President spoke of plans that would “beef up” spending on higher education. The proposed budget would increase the education department budget to $69.8 billion, a 2.5 percent jump. The additional funding is the highest of any domestic department in the federal government.
The plan would focus on new financial incentives for colleges and universities that are able to keep their costs down, and add more funding for research grants. He is also asking for billions of dollars to go toward training programs in community colleges.
Throughout his terms, President Obama has been widely recognized for supporting campaigns to make college more affordable, leading to a stronger middle class.
Well, as a recent college graduate, I would like to dispute this ever-gleaming plan.
A recent alum of Oakland University, I spent four and a half years at OU where I studied journalism. I worked my way through college waiting tables, and with help from family, I was able to pay for the first two and a half years of my education…on my own.
As I am sure all of our readers know (probably all to well) college is expensive. I was lucky enough to attend a commuter college and live at home while I was a student, saving me room and board expenses, a luxury most students don’t have. But after you factor in tuition, books and any other kind of nonsense fee, I am still looking at a massive debt of student loans that begins in about five months.
So, as a student who has experienced college expenses first hand, I can appreciate the strides that President Obama has made towards making college more affordable for the middle class. But does it really?
The proposed plan would focus on financial incentives for colleges and universities, not students. So while schools are awarded fancy financial incentives and building new human health buildings, students are left to deal with the aftermath of a tuition increase. Reportedly public university tuition and fees rose 4.8 percent last year. Higher dorm, cafeteria and book rates as well as other expenses add significantly to the overall increase.
So how are students and their families supposed to go about paying for college? While about two-thirds of full-time students receive grants or federal tax breaks, many are likely to have to foot more of the bill themselves. With the proposed plan, the maximum Pell grant award would be bumped by a hair to $5,635, an increase of $85.
While I am a strong supporter for the emphasis on higher education and its cost that President Obama has done, I believe his proposed policies are set to assist the wrong people and could have a paradoxical effect on driving up college costs. While the government pours more money into higher education, the law of supply and demand would dictate that it leads to price increases.
Something all students and their families should think about.