President Obama's post-secondary education financial aid plan would help schools like Hiram College, which locks tuition beginning with each student's freshman year, and hurt schools like YSU, which has frequent tuition increases and low retention rates.
While we like Obama's proposal to link financial aid with tuition, we hope he adjusts it to also include fees, room and board.
Obama's higher education plan is similar to Ohio's primary education policy that rewards school districts that achieve and penalizes those that fail. More specifically, Obama wants to supply more federal aid to colleges that keep their tuition under control and reduce it for those that don't.
''We're putting colleges on notice,'' Obama said at a recent speech at the University of Michigan. ''You can't assume that you'll just jack up tuition every single year. If you can't stop tuition from going up, then the funding you get from taxpayers each year will go down.''
Federal aid for Pell Grants, Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, Work Study and other programs are given directly to the institutions, including private ones, which then dole them out to the students who qualify. The president wants his administration to redistribute this aid based on a college's performance, including graduation and retention rates.
According to reports, YSU graduates about 35 percent of its students and only about 15 percent of its minority students. The school raised tuition in each of the last two years.
In contrast, Hiram has a policy that locks tuition for four years at the price it was when each student began classes as a freshman. The beauty of this plan is that, unlike most colleges and universities, students and their families know how much they must pay every year.
Obama's plan faces vetting and even opposition. Some in academia expressed concern that the plan could unintentionally hurt needy students. Others fear such a plan would create uniformity among higher education institutions, thus limiting options for students.
But we like Kent State University at Geauga Dean David Mohan's response to the Plain Dealer. ''There needs to be a point where higher education has to be held accountable for its expenditures," Mohan said. ''To constantly ask for money without showing a high level of accountability for the money you already have is not right. The burden on the student has been so great that we must take a careful look at how we conduct ourselves to maximize every dollar we currently receive.
''The answer is not always more money. The answer is enrollment growth through quality programs and good word-of-mouth. You just have to be extremely careful at how many people you bring on to your staff.''
Where Obama's plan might fall short is that it's too similar to plans under past Ohio governors Bob Taft and Ted Strickland. They pushed tuition freezes and tuition caps on Ohio's public universities in exchange for more state funding. But the schools offset their tuition freezes and limits on their increases by jacking up fees, room and board and in some cases creating new fees.
Obama should make sure that the federal government does not reward colleges that keep tuition stable while burdening students with other costs.