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REVIEW: President Obama Visits Binghamton University and the University at Buffalo

Increasing student access, reducing student debt through college ratings system proposed at the nation’s most comprehensive public university system.

President Barack Obama delivers speech from podium at University at Buffalo arenaOn a historic trip to New York last week that marked the third and fourth SUNY campus visited, President Obama announced an effort he calls “Making College More Affordable” in order to strengthen the middle class. The aim of this approach will be to hold colleges responsible for student performance and tying that, among other metrics, to financial aid distributed to students in the future.

SUNY Chancellor Zimpher was excited, but not surprised, for the two Presidential SUNY stops. “In partnership with Governor Cuomo, we have enacted a series of proactive policies that have positioned SUNY to remain one of the most affordable and quality higher education options in the United States,” she said.

Address to thousands at University at Buffalo

At the University at Buffalo, President Obama spoke to a crowd of more than 7,000 in a speech that has sparked a national debate on college affordability, value, and type. Citing national averages, the President compared the rising cost of tuition — a greater than 100% increase over the past 17 years — to the growth of median U.S. household income, which is 8%.

A reason why President Obama may have chosen the University at Buffalo to address this national hurdle is because the trend in New York has been much brighter. SUNY tuition, which increases in are governed by Rational Tuition, is among the lowest in the nation and is paired with the fourth-shortest time to completion of a four-year program.

President Obama's Plan to Make College More Affordable

Click to enlarge President Obama’s Plan to Make College More Affordable

In order to lessen the burden of the cost of college on Americans, President Obama laid out a three-part plan:

  1. Pay colleges and students for performance.  This may be accomplished by developing a new college ratings system for comparing value among schools and tie aid to it; challenging states to fund public colleges based on performance; and holding students and colleges receiving aid responsible for making progress toward a degree.
  2. Promote innovation that cuts costs and improves quality.  This may be accomplished by challenging colleges to offer a greater range of affordable degree options; encouraging colleges to award credits based on learning; and challenge colleges to implement innovative learning tools.
  3. Help students manage loan debt.  This may be accomplished by allowing all student loan borrowers to cap payments at 10% of their monthly income and making sure the borrowers know that they have options to help repay their debt.

“Chancellor Zimpher and SUNY are leading the way and doing the right thing for students,” lauded President Obama, noting that SUNY’s efforts and success in part inspire the plan.

“President Obama once again chose The State University of New York to highlight what’s working in higher education and outline his vision for the future,” said SUNY Chancellor Zimpher. “His three-part plan to make college more affordable for all Americans, including performance-based funding, increased innovation, and measures to reduce student debt, are cornerstones of the foundation that we are building in New York.”

Town Hall Event at Binghamton University

The following day, President Obama traveled to Binghamton University to participate in a town hall event, where he took questions from community members, students, and faculty on topics ranging from green energy to nurse pay to college tuition.

Watch Video:
horizlineCNN: Controlling the cost of collegeCNN: Controlling the Cost of College
SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher on how to keep college affordable…

In an opening speech, President Obama continued to highlight SUNY’s national lead in affordable higher education.

“Chancellor Zimpher is making sure that hundreds of thousands of SUNY students all across the state are getting a world-class higher education but without some of the debt and financial burden that is stopping too many young people from going to college,” President Obama said.  “I’m excited for the great work that SUNY campuses like Binghamton are doing to keep costs down.”

Among taking important suggestions and fielding questions throughout the town hall, it was President Obama’s off-the-cuff remark that helped illuminate the first-ever Presidential visit to Binghamton University.

This is probably controversial to say, but, what the heck, I’m in my second term, so I can say it. Law schools would probably be wise to think about being two years instead of three years.  The third year, they’d be better off clerking or practicing in a firm even if they weren’t getting paid that much, but that step alone would reduce the costs for the student.

The President and First Lady, who both went to law school, notably finished paying their student loans nine years ago.

Remarking that SUNY is a proud example of the President’s plan in action and committed to helping all realize its effects, Chancellor Zimpher said, “The key to success for the president’s plan will be working with states to ensure that the right data and metrics are used to measure outcomes. SUNY will continue to lead in these areas and have a strong voice as this process moves forward.”

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    Written by Maxwell Morgan

    Maxwell was a Coordinator of Digital Engagement for The State University of New York.

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