Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

December 9, 2023

Problems unfixed: Obama’s new education ideas

President Obama has recently devised of a plan in hopes of lowering the costs and raising the quality of higher education. The Obama administration believes it can control the quality of education with a rating system that will grant funding based on graduation rates and other types of criteria. The federal government would allocate federal aid to colleges and universities across the nation, awarding more funding to those that keep tuition and other costs low for students while still holding positive academic standings. His dream is great; however, it’s just that– a dream. Unless his plans change, the new proposal will not solve the issues. As of now, his ideas are very vague and idealistic. They even pose the threat of making things worse. The best way to make it more affordable to earn bachelor’s degrees is to keep the government from creating another absurd ranking system.
Obama stated in his speech that the average cost of tuition has risen 250 percent in the past thirty or so years. Not coincidentally, the government has been involved in the education system in the past thirty years or so. Obama explains multiple times that education is too costly, but he never points out how his proposed plan will cut costs for the students and families.
Federal funding for students is exceedingly available with relatively low interest rates. Americans are being urged to attend college, which makes sense, given that more and more employers require their applicants to have degrees. However, since people are seeing college as more of a necessity rather than an option, colleges can charge as much as they want since they have somewhat of a guarantee that people will enroll at practically any cost. Higher costs are being covered by loans, creating an endless cycle of debt that needs to be stopped. Money is not the only problem for the education system and for Obama’s plan.
There are multiple problems already within the education system that Obama’s proposal does not take into consideration. Take Harvard for example; the institution is not creating better students, but rather nurturing the students for four or more years until they enter the job market. It makes sense: why spend the time and energy educating students who in all likelihood will get great jobs after graduation? They will get great jobs because they went to Harvard, not because of what they learned there. Harvard costs $52,652 for tuition, room and board, and other miscellaneous costs. Money determines who gets into college, not the kind of student who graduates. All schools do this nurturing, but unfortunately for Trump University; they are the institution that got caught. This is a huge problem that Obama cannot solve with his proposal.
Because of the said problems with education, the ranking system would only create more problems. Americans love ranking things, especially ranking things as a method for deciding how much money to give. The proposed rankings would include such metrics as the percentage of students who finish school, grade point averages and the earnings of graduates. Federal aid would flow more easily to schools with higher rankings, especially those that hold down tuition.
But in any marketplace where price is determined by rankings, there is an incentive to tinkering with only the outcomes measured. Want to judge a school by its graduates’ employment rate? You’ll find a school that hires its graduates. People have a way of manipulating outcomes. Schools have had quite a history of doing such, especially when money is rolling around.
If such a ranking system is necessary, schools need to be ranked on the students’ ability to think cognitively: things like critical thinking, problem solving, quantitative reasoning, the ability to critique arguments and the ability to ask the right questions to solve problems. Grade point averages do not typically show these cognitive thinking skills because many students are graded on how well they studied a certain chapter, and grades are especially based mostly on discipline-based information.
I agree with Obama when he says that school is too costly and too mediocre. Higher education should come at a lesser price with a better quality. The two problems: high cost and low quality are huge, and Obama has yet to come up with a plan that would properly remedy these obstacles. Not only does he not address one key problem (the cost), he also creates more holdups while trying to raise the quality of the schooling systems.
A ranking system should not be an option to treat the problems of low quality education. The ranking would create manipulative maneuvers to qualify for more governmental aid. An adequate ranking system does not currently exist that would properly determine the important things, like cognitive thinking, that need to be taken into consideration. In regards of costs, Obama does not explain how his proposed plan will lower prices of higher education only showing how inadequate his proposal truly is.

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Problems unfixed: Obama’s new education ideas