President Barack Obama is unveiling a sweeping plan for rating colleges based in part on affordability, with the goal of eventually linking those ratings to federal financial aid awards.
The new rating system, which the president wants implemented before the 2015 school year, would evaluate colleges on a series of measures, including average tuition and student loan debt, graduation rates, and the average earning of graduates. Obama is also seeking legislation to link the new rating system to the way federal financial aid is awarded, with students attending highly ranked schools receiving larger grants and more affordable student loans.
Obama is unveiling the proposals Thursday as he opens a two-day bus tour through New York and Pennsylvania. The tour underscores the White House's desire to stay focused on domestic issues, even as foreign policy crises in Egypt and Syria vie for his attention.
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Throughout the summer, the White House has been seeking to keep the president's public agenda centered on middle-class economic issues as a way to rally support for his positions ahead of looming fiscal battles with congressional Republicans. And Obama, in an email to supporters this week, said a big part of middle-class security includes fundamentally rethinking how to pay for higher education.
"Just tinkering around the edges won't be enough," Obama said. "We've got to shake up the current system."