Higher education change is becoming more of a national priority. Education policy analysts express concern that the system is broken and needs strong reforms to move forward. College affordability and cost are two key discussion issues that need to be addressed.
On Tuesday, President Barack Obama's administration will move one step closer to increasing transparency and awareness about cost and financial aid in higher education institutions across the country. Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will meet with leaders from ten colleges and universities, each of which will “commit to providing key financial information to all of their incoming students starting next year.”
The move comes after states across the country saw drops in financial support for higher education institutions. In July 2011, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s funding from the state was reduced by 17.9%, or more than $100 million. This cut came after other education spending cuts to the UNC system in previous years. Colleges and universities, like UNC Chapel Hill, have not only cut programming and academic budgets, but have also increased tuition to mitigate the blows from state budget cuts.
So today’s commitment by UNC Chapel Hill and nine other institutions, including Syracuse University, University of Texas System (9 universities), State University System of New York (64 colleges, universities, and community colleges), and the University System of Maryland (12 universities), is welcome progress by higher education policy analysts.
Higher education is a long-term investment. Students and their families need to be able to make the best decision about where to enroll and the amount of financial investment that will be required. The ten institutions committing to the cost and financial aid pledge will provide critical information for incoming students – yearly cost of enrollment, financial aid options, net costs after accounting for scholarships, and student loan repayment results.
The Obama administration and these higher education institutions have shown small steps towards a greater commitment to college affordability and transparency. Following today’s announcement, other institutions should join the effort and pledge to make similar commitments that will provide increased transparency and accessibility to important financial data for incoming students.