Making College Affordable for Every American

I’m thrilled today that President Obama is moving forward with an ambitious new plan to make college more affordable for every American. We know that higher education is more important than ever, but we also know it’s never been more expensive. We have heard from students and families across the country who are worried about affording college, and we believe that higher education cannot be a luxury that only advantages the wealthy.

Cost of College GraphicsCollege must remain an accessible and affordable opportunity that provides a good value for all Americans. We want college to be a secure investment for every student from every background who is willing to work hard, an investment that prepares our nation’s students for a good job and a bright future.

We believe the cost of college is a shared responsibility among the federal government, states, colleges and universities, and our students and families. Since 2009, the Obama Administration and Congress have worked together to make historic investments in higher education. We  raised the maximum Pell Grant grant award by more than $900, created the American Opportunity Tax Credit, now offer additional loan repayment programs that help students manage their debt, and enacted landmark federal student aid reforms that eliminated wasteful bank subsidies and increased by more than 50 percent the number of students attending college from low-income families.

There are remarkable examples of states and institutions across our nation who have taken innovative steps to help American families afford college. New York has committed to restraining tuition growth in its public community colleges and universities over five years, and the University of Maryland system, which operates an Effectiveness and Efficiency Initiative, has saved more than $356 million and helped stabilize tuition for four straight academic years.

But we need to see more innovation and initiative to ensure that college remains a good value for students and families, and that’s what the President’s announcement today is all about. Earlier today at the University at Buffalo, the President laid out a plan with three concise steps to make college affordable. The steps are outlined in this White House fact sheet, and include:

  • Linking federal financial aid to college performance, so colleges must demonstrate they provide good value for the investment students make in higher education
  • Sparking innovation and competition by shining a spotlight on college performance, highlighting colleges where innovations are enabling students to achieve good results, and offering colleges regulatory flexibility to innovate
  • And – because we know that too many students are struggling to repay their debt today – President Obama is committed to ensuring that students who need it can have access to the ‘Pay As You Earn’ plan that caps federal student loan payments at 10 percent of discretionary income, so students can better manage their debt

We need more colleges and universities to keep college affordable while delivering a high quality education, not only for students who are first in line, but for all, especially students who are first in their families to enter college, students from disadvantaged circumstances, students with disabilities and veterans who chose service before completing their education. We need states to increase higher education funding, with proven strategies for student access and success. And we need to make sure that our annual investment of over $150 billion in federal student aid is achieving all that it can to ensure the economic and social prosperity of our nation.

The Obama Administration is going to continue to do everything we can to make college more affordable, and ensure students and families get as much value possible from their investment of effort, time and money in higher education. We’re looking forward to seeing states and institutions do their part, as well.

Additional reading: President Obama Explains His Plan to Combat Rising College Costs.

Martha Kanter is the U.S. Under Secretary of Education 


  1. Tying student performance to institutional federal aid of any kind, including student eligibility for college grants and loans, is a recipe for further dumbing down of the curriculum, and for its attendant “social promotion and graduation.”
    Most colleges need federal support to survive, especially those that predominantly serve students from disadvantaged backgrounds. And for many schools, it would be less painless to change an underperforming student’s grade from “D” to “C” than to give up federal funds.
    I hate to say it, but it’s true. And it’s a predictable result from plans to tie institutional eligibility for federal aid to student performance. The result will be an increase in college credentials, and a decrease in the skills and knowledge those credentials purport to represent.

    • I totally agree. I was so thrilled when my daughter graduated out of the public school system. If I could have predicted what would have happened with the test-happy minions I would have started her in private school. please leave our colleges and universities alone or they will no loner be places of “higher learning ‘

  2. Ohhh great. Another reason for colleges to raise the tuition. The more government interferes the higher the price will be. Maybe Obama and his advisers should take those loans and grants themselves and take some economy classes.

  3. President O’bama, THANK YOU! Our students are struggling daily to afford the needed education at Clinton College, in Rock Hill, SC. Financial Aid has been $5,200 per year, our cost is 12,000 per year (which is 5o-60% lower than the average residential college cost). Many students must take out loans to compensate the cost. By the time students have completed their junior year in college, all Financial Aid has been depleted! May God continue to Bless you and your Administration for being concern with students and the future of America!

    Janis S. Pendleton, V.P for Academic Affairs/Dean of Clinton College

    P.S. Would love to have First Lady Michelle to speak to our students during Graduation at her earliest convenience during any 1st Saturaday in May.

    • With a graduation rate of 65%, I suppose you would be one of the colleges that would benefit. Historically, most colleges that serve a low income population have poor graduation rates. So while you might benefit, Obama’s proposal would hurt the vast majority of low income students trying to scrape by. Fayetteville State University, an HBCU, has a graduation rate of 36%. Lincoln University, 38%. Winston-Salem, 45%. Delaware State 37%. Obama’s proposal is going to punish schools who admit higher risk students and dissuade them from giving desperately needy students the chance to succeed in higher education. It will encourage schools to only admit students who they are sure will be 100% successful in a college environment, ripping away opportunity for many poor and minority students.

      Part of the reason that all their financial aid is depleted by the time they hit their junior year is because of Obama’s policies regarding student aid. Obama is the one who signed into law the bill reducing Pell from 18 to 12 semester. Obama is the one who ended the subsidized loan program for graduates with the promise of increasing Pell, and then increased it by a whopping $95 per year for full time enrollment. Obama is the one who ended Year Round Pell after just 2 years. ACG and SMART Grants went unfunded under Obama.

      Obama has done absolutely nothing to help students. Pay As You Earn is just Income Based Repayment with a new name. His plan mirrors the IBR regulations that would have gone into affect in Jan 2014 anyways. His loan plan from this year was just a rip off from the Republican plan of last year, except last year he was against it. After all, it was an election year. Better to just cancel subsidies for grace period subsidized loans originated between July 2012-June 2014 and extend the interest rate another year to look good at the polls.

      Sorry Janis. With all due respect for your position, your loyalty is misplaced.

  4. Yeah, thanks a lot President Obama.

    While you go out like you’re campaigning (someone has informed you that you can’t run again, right?) and pretend that you are championing college affordability, those of us who have been paying attention know that YOU are the one responsible for cutting the Pell Grant from 18 to 12 semesters of eligibility, cancelling the subsidized loan program for graduates, ending lender choice, ending the year round Pell program after only 2 years, and temporarily ending grace period subsidies for undergraduate student subsidized loans from July 2012-June 2014.

    You pretend that you created the Pay As You Earn program, but some of us are aware that you only renamed Income Based Repayment, a program that was part of the CCRA signed into law by President Bush in 2007, and moved the regulations that were slated to take effect in July 2014 (changing the payments from 15% of discretionary net worth to 10%, and repayment term from 25 to 20 years) to July 2012. Public service loan forgiveness, the TEACH Grant, the ACG and SMART Grant programs (which remain unfunded since 2011/12… no room in your budget I guess), yearly Pell increases through 2011/12, and yearly loan interest rate decreases through 2011/12 were all part of the 2007 legislation that you had absolutely nothing to do with.

    The only reason Pell spending doubled during your administration is because so many people lost their jobs in the awful economy that you are presiding over that they went back to school for additional skills and have much lower incomes due to job loss. The per student amount did not change until this year, and then you increased it by a whooping $95 per student.

    Now, you want to punish STUDENTS by taking away aid that they can receive and raising their interest rates for attending schools that enroll the type of students who may not be as successful as ivy league students. Who do you think this will hurt the most? Typically, schools that serve low income students, minorities, and the underprivileged are the ones with low graduation rates. Either you did not do the research, or you think the American college student is so glaringly dumb that they will back anything you say without putting forth critical analysis. Is your vendetta against for-profit institutions so fierce that you are willing to sacrifice low income students struggling to get by in order to take them out? I guess so. While I agree that they are a problem in how many of them do business, the end does not justify the means in this case. You will only hurt the very people you claim to protect. A claim which, based on the previous statements in my post, the evidence does not seem to support.

    You even started a website where you would answer one student financial aid question per day for a week, then jaunted off to Africa and left it to Joe Biden. Seriously? You couldn’t find 5 minutes during your day and an internet connection to keep your promise for even a week. That is just sad.


    Someone who actually does love America and believes in the education of our college students, instead of just paying lip service to it.

    • College means spit if the private sector cannot hire them.

      Also, let me translate this–> “Linking federal financial aid to college performance, so colleges must demonstrate they provide good value for the investment students make in higher education.”

      More government control of what is taught. You liberals are already destroying the nation; we do not need you to make it worse. To be honest, I say we get rid of all the government agencies and get back to basics.

  5. It is always of concern any time there talk about college educational expenses. Speaking from one of experience, I have my last child to be attending college and returning for her second year. I am grateful that we have made it this far. It has not been easy trying to afford the expenses. Unlike many, we do not have any scholarships and the TOPS was only for a 2 year college. My daughter fits into a unique class. I am a single parent for over 19 years and my income from nursing does not allow for any type of assistance. That leaves only loans. Not good. I would like for her to be able to work after college and not be weighed down by loan repayments. I am also nearing 54 and currently struggling with loans of my own.

    I would like to see a possible restructure for students to maintain child support if they are in college and continue their education. My daughter’s stopped right after graduation from high school. It would have been helful if she could have maintained
    that amount which was not that much but helpful. It could have helped with cost of education.

    I see education assistance being similar to having medical insurance. As we all know some have it and some don’t. These fall into different categories. Some due not being able to afford insurance and others because they are self employed and has no insurance but able to pay out of pocket. I have personally witnessed different Self pay patients with families that can’t pay medical cost but they can afford 200-300 thousand dollar homes and drive luxury vehicles. This tells me that their priority is
    not of medical expenses. There is something wrong with this picture.

    Education is similar, some can afford it due to their families financial status but do not have to pay for it because of scholarships and GPA. Ironically, my daughter’s GPA was 4.0 but she could not obtain the score on the ACT. WOW! I do believe that
    her possibilities for becoming a great contributor to society in the field of her choice
    is no less than the individual that score 32 on the ACT. My point is that I feel that
    every one should have a chance to afford education regardless of their circumstances. And just maybe, we should look at affordability of medical and education from a personal standpoint.

    Any assistance would be greatly appreciated. In conclusion, I have learned that those
    who owe loans such as myself for education, are facing major problems because
    the options for repayment may not fit your circumstances. Additionally, those that
    are pursuing collections are making mega bucks doing so at our expense. Please
    tell me what school they attended to obtain these jobs so I might can consider changing fields.

    Thanks President Obama for all your concerns.

  6. The cost of education would go down if the government wasn’t backing these over priced tuitions with tax-payer money.

  7. I love President Obama’s charge for making college more affordable for every American; however, it still worries me that more colleges and universities do not offer true assistance for students who really want to attend college that are from single parent homes and from disadvantaged circumstances; where like in my case, the grandparents are supporting the grandchildren living in separate single parents homes. My granddaughter is bright, well rounded and dreams of college, yet no one can afford to send her. It breaks my heart.

    • Treena, what’s worse is that most people don’t understand how this proposed program would actually REDUCE the number of students who would qualify to attend college.

      For one, because payment plans would be capped at 10% of monthly income, lending institutions (i.e. banks) will look for students/ individuals with higher incomes who can repay their loan sooner rather than later.

      For example, on a $1,000 loan, would you rather loan money to someone who could ONLY pay you $10/ month or $100/ month? Obviously, the banks want more, not less. And, NO, Mr. Obama CAN’T force them to loan you money!

      Second, if the Dept. of Education doesn’t consider your school “valuable” — based on their metrics, NOT yours — it will award you LESS aid for attending that school. Effectively, the federal government is literally “picking ‘winners’ and ‘losers'” in the marketplace.

      The effect of this will be scores of students flooding those “valuable” schools in order to get the most financial. But, obvious, seating is limited and most will have to be turned away. This is will likely result in a situation much like “corporate welfare,” where “valuable” schools are awarded more aid while continuing to raise the cost of inflation.

      What does that spell for community colleges and trade schools? Mr. Obama is content will straining state budgets to subsidize what the federal government is taxing Americans for already.

      [Note: That’s the problem with Obamacare — there’s NO price controls! There’s absolutely no provision that would keep pharmaceutical companies from raising the costs of their medications; in fact, the guaranteed payment by tax-payers ENCOURAGES drug companies to raise their prices!]

      At this point, it should be noted that the defense budget has only grown, and is larger than the budgets of the next 27 nations on that list COMBINED! Why is funding education in America a problem?

      Perhaps it might have something to do with unjustifiably irresponsible and disproportionate budgets!

    • There are many disadvantaged who have gathered the strength and conviction to work their own way through college. I am not one of them, but I have managed to acquire a trade with which I make a living. I have never expected anything to be given to me.

  8. It is time that a president takes conscience of higher education and do something for the youth, which is the future of each country. Congratulations President Obama

  9. The federal does not create money. It collects it due to the fact that it collects taxes. The federal government has no business in trying to educate anyone. Get out of the way and this will help in reducing the cost of an education. Plus, does everyone in college need to be there-no.

    • The most important and strongest pillar that ensures the survival of our Democracy(capitalized for emphasis) is a well-informed and educated citizenry. A failure to provide education at a reasonable cost for all who wish to access higher education, is a potential threat to our Democracy.

      Yes, the money the federal government spends is the people’s money. The money should be spent on the people. And, you better be reminded, we pay it back. Would you rather have a literate citizenry that can compete with the rest of the world, or one that cannot compete. We LOVE AMERICA!

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