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  • Will measures outlined in the State of Union address be implemented or not?
  • Posted By:
  • Karen W.
  • Posted On:
  • 25-Feb-2013
  • On many aspects, our President and Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio disagree. Both of them however agree on one important aspect namely the method by which Washington works out and identifies colleges eligible for the $175 billion yearly federal grants spent on student tax breaks, loans and grants.

    There has been intense political pressure on our higher education to brace for inevitable major changes and to slow down the tuition increase pace. This consensus is another indication of the building pressure.

    Right from Margaret Spelling, education secretary during George W. Bush’s period, there has been a push for transparency and accountability. President Obama continues to preach the virtues of accountability.

    In his recent State of Union address, our president has put forth White House’s views on college eligibility. In the eight-page elaboration, there is an appeal to the Congress to consider aspects such as student outcomes, affordability and value during the process of identifying universities and colleges that will benefit from the federal student aid.

    The document also suggests doing this through incorporation of affordability and value measures into the current accreditation system or by the establishment of an alternate system. All this while, President Obama has been suggesting linking of performance measurement to federal aid eligibility. This seems to be a wholesale change which immediately caught the attention of colleges.

    Responding to the State of Union address, Mr. Rubio commented that non-traditional students rely on certain programs and it is important for student aid not to discriminate against these programs. He was referring to degree programs that give students credit for work experience and to the online courses.

    As of now it seems our administration does not have a clear plan regarding accreditation changes in place. If we remember right, there were a few legislative proposals by our president last year to put certain strings on college aid which did not have any effect. This year too, there may not be any action on the above-mentioned proposal by the Congress.

    Accreditation system in place since the 19th century to keep a check on college operations and quality of education is clearly under threat. Certain for-profit schools abused this system by enrolling students who did not complete courses they joined with the help of federal guaranteed loans. According to the nonpartisan New America Foundation education policy director Kevin Carey, almost every negative event happens in an accredited institution.

    This is predominantly because there was inefficient policing of the system by our Education Department and accreditors did not have the necessary skills to evaluate national online programs and were too slow to pull up any school that did not meet standards.

    Recently, a plethora of prestigious universities in our country have started offering online courses and this is another major threat to accreditation. Our President and Mr. Rubio are worried that innovation could be stifled and competition from efficient form of teaching could be prevented by the old system.

    There is a distinct wariness among the university establishments. While some of them challenge changes that are anything more than modest and some others keep insisting that there is no way to measure what they do. Most of them are convinced that Washington may actually want a say in college curriculum apart from accountability.


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