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Regional Roundup: College Affordability Bus Tour

Read press coverage of President Obama's ambitious agenda to tackle rising college costs, make college more affordable, and improve value for students and families

President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the University at Buffalo, the State University of New York

President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the University at Buffalo, the State University of New York, during the college affordability bus tour in Buffalo, N.Y., Aug. 22, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Yesterday, as part of his plan to deliver a better bargain for the middle class, President Obama kicked off a two-day bus tour across New York and Pennsylvania in which he announced an ambitious agenda to tackle rising college costs, make college more affordable, and improve value for students and families.

In his first stop at the University at Buffalo, the President laid out the three key steps that we need to take to ensure that college remains affordable and a viable ladder of economic opportunity for the middle class and those working to get there. First, connect financial aid to school performance, second support academic innovation and finally, keep the cost of higher education within the reach of all young Americans.

Here is a small sample of the coverage that the President’s plan has received across the country:

AL – The Birmingham News (Underwood): New Obama college affordability plan would tie federal aid to the school’s educational value -- A new plan being proposed by President Barack Obama Thursday would rate the educational value of colleges and tie their value to federal aid offered to students, essentially paying colleges for better performance, the White House revealed Thursday. The plan would address rising college tuition costs have increased over 250 percent in the past three decades. Under the proposal, borrowers would be allowed to cap their student loan payments at 10 percent of their monthly income. The college rating system would tie aid to the college’s affordability, the number of students on Pell grants, and the college’s ability to produce outcomes, such as graduates with degrees, earnings of graduates, and other factors. LINK

CO- The Denver Post (Anthony Cotton) Local educators may play role in implementing Obama’s college plan- Colleges and universities in Colorado might already be ahead of the game when it comes to the plan proposed Thursday by President Barack Obama that aims to make college education more affordable by tying federal financial aid to new college ratings. LINK

CT – The Connecticut Mirror (Thomas): College too expensive? Obama proposes solution -- As the cost to attend college continues to spiral upward, President Barack Obama will announce Thursday a proposal to tie federal financial aid to a new college rating system and to limit how much students will need to pay each month for their student loans.   Obama, who will make the announcement at a college in Buffalo, N.Y., will need Congressional approval for both initiatives, White House officials said during a conference call with reporters Thursday. LINK

FL – Orlando Sentinel (Postal): President Obama proposes rating colleges on costs, outcomes -- President Barack Obama announced plans today for a new college rating system that could help students and their families better control rising tuition costs. The ratings aim to help American families determine which schools provide the "best value" and eventually could be tied to student financial aid offers. The proposed rating system, which the president wants in place by the 2015 school year, is part of an effort to make college more affordable and to "fundamentally rethink about how higher education is paid for in this country," the president said in an email posted on the White House website. "We've got to shake up the current system." The rating system would judge colleges and universities based on their affordability, on the access they provide to disadvantaged students and their academic outcomes, such as graduation rates and their graduates' job earnings, the White House said. LINK

LA – The Times-Picayune (Alpert): President Obama: escalating college tuition increases 'not sustainable' -- Warning that many young people are being priced out of college while others are going heavily in debt to afford tuition, President Barack Obama Thursday proposed linking some federal aid to schools that keep costs affordable and maintain solid graduation rates. He also said states need to reverse the recent trend of reducing allocations to state colleges. In the past five years, state funding for higher education in Louisiana has been cut by nearly $700 million. Seventy percent of funding now comes from tuition and fees. LINK

MA – The Boston Globe (Jan): Obama targets high cost of college -- President Obama unveiled a plan Thursday to rein in exploding college costs, drawing skepticism from some New England college presidents concerned about tying federal funding to a new performance rating system. Under Obama’s plan, the federal government would develop a report card by 2015 for all public and private colleges that would measure tuition increases, graduation rates, student debt, and even graduates’ earnings to help students pick schools that offer the best value. The White House hopes that by 2018, two years after Obama’s term ends, Congress will pass legislation that would link the ratings to how much schools will receive in federal financial aid — the controversial sticking point for some lawmakers and college leaders. “Colleges that keep their tuition down and are providing high-quality education are the ones that are going to see their taxpayer funding go up. It is time to stop subsidizing schools that are not producing good results,” Obama said in a speech at the State University of New York Buffalo. LINK

ME – The Portland Press Herald (Miller, Bouchard): Obama's college-aid plan plays well in Maine -- College administrators, students and lawmakers in Maine had largely positive reviews Thursday for a series of proposals by President Obama that essentially would grade the nation's colleges on their affordability. The president's plan would, for the first time, rate colleges on criteria such as tuition and student debt, and eventually tie federal aid to schools based on how they measure up. "I think that is a good way to hold colleges accountable for the services they provide and for how affordable they are," said Jimmy Jung, vice president for enrollment management at the University of Maine. LINK

NY – The Buffalo News (Vogel, Zremski): Obama stresses higher education as ‘pathway to middle class’ -- President Obama told an energetic crowd inside the University at Buffalo’s Alumni Arena this morning that he chose to speak in Buffalo about his goals for higher education because the university is doing “great work.” “I wanted to start here at the University at Buffalo,” Obama said, at the beginning of his remarks on the topic of higher education. Obama unveiled a set of proposals that he said would improve the ways that colleges work and make college education more affordable for families – and the process easier to understand. “Higher education cannot be a luxury,” Obama told the audience in Amherst. “It’s an economic imperative.”LINK

NY – The Journal News (Spector) Barack Obama tours upstate, offers higher-ed reforms to reduce loan burden -- President Barack Obama continues his two-day bus tour across upstate New York Friday after spending Thursday promoting new higher-education reforms. He spoke in Buffalo, ate lunch in Rochester with college students and visited a birthplace of women’s rights in Seneca Falls. He will hold a town-hall style discussion Friday at Binghamton University about college affordability. The visit is his longest in upstate New York during his presidency. Obama said he wanted to visit upstate to tout its wealth of colleges and address the cost of public and private schools. He proposed measures to boost accountability at colleges and lessen the burden of loans on graduating students. New York students leave college with an average of nearly $26,000 in loans, he said in Buffalo. LINK

NY – The Niagara Gazette (Gulley): Obama seeks 'better bargain' for college -- President Barack Obama on Thursday became the first sitting president since Millard Fillmore in 1853 to speak at the University at Buffalo, as he outlined a sweeping overhaul of the nation’s higher education system aimed at delivering “a better bargain” for the middle class. “We can’t price the middle class and everybody trying to get into the middle class out of a higher education,” he said, adding that keeping soaring tuition costs in check is an “economic imperative” that, if not addressed, could “stifle economic mobility for generations.” LINK

NY – The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle (Tumulty, Goodman): Obama's college proposal received warmly by local educators -- Local educators Thursday generally praised President Barack Obama’s blueprint for making college more affordable, saying it builds on some of the innovations undertaken by the State University of New York to increase access to higher education. The president unveiled the proposal at the State University at Buffalo Thursday and will field questions about it Friday at a town hall-style setting at SUNY Binghamton. He is making a two-day bus tour of upstate New York and Pennsylvania that’s timed to coincide with college students returning to campuses for the academic year. Obama credited scholarships and loans for helping him and first lady Michelle Obama graduate from college and law school. But he said they did it “with a mountain of debt” that they didn’t finish paying off until he was in his 40s, just before he ran for the U.S. Senate. LINK

OH – Cleveland Plain Dealer (Farkas): Obama to propose a rating system for colleges, which could determine federal financial aid awards -- President Barack Obama is expected to unveil today a new plan to rate colleges based in part on affordability and the ratings may determine federal financial aid awards, according to the Associated Press. The new rating system, which could be impletemented by 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. The president will explain the proposals during a two-day bus tour through New York and Pennsylvania. LINK

OR – The Statesman Journal (Hoffman): Oregon leaders enthusiastic about Obama's higher ed plan -- President Barack Obama’s plan to improve access to higher education is closely in line with the state’s efforts, state officials said Thursday. Obama announced his plan Thursday morning. It is designed to make it easier for students to pay off debt, make college available for more people and push colleges to offer better value for the high tuition they charge. Oregon college graduates leave school with an average of $25,497 in debt, a vestige from rising education costs that have reached nearly $21,000 annually for an in-state undergraduate who lives on campus. “We are very aligned with (his plan),” said Hilda Rosselli, deputy director of college and career readiness for the Oregon Education Investment Board. “I felt sometimes like I was reading the notes from what we’ve been working on.” LINK

PA – Allentown Morning Call (Itkowitz): WH outlines higher ed plan Obama will push in Scranton -- When President Obama arrives in Scranton Friday evening he'll make his fourth sales pitch in two days for a proposal to evaluate colleges using a new rating system that will factor cost and graduation rate intended to hold schools accountable for their overall performance. The new ratings system, which Obama wants made public before the 2015 school year, would eventually tie financial aid to college's scores. Students choosing high performing schools would be eligible for more aid. Additionally, the White House will ask states to fund public colleges based on performance, and link aid to earning a degree as an incentive for students to finish school, the White House announced Thursday. LINK

PA – The Philadelphia Inquirer (Snyder): Obama seeks to control college costs -- To address the soaring cost of higher education, President Obama pledged Thursday to develop a college rating system that would tie federal financial aid to performance in areas such as tuition, graduation rates, percentage of low-income students, and debt load of graduates. Students attending better-performing colleges would receive larger federal Pell grants and more affordable student loans - a proposal that would require congressional approval. The nation awards more than $150 billion annually in student financial aid. "Not enough colleges have been working to figure out how do we control costs," Obama said Thursday morning at the University at Buffalo, the first stop on a two-day bus tour in New York state and Pennsylvania. LINK

PA – The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Mauriello): Obama plans shake-up in higher education system --  Promising to "shake up the current system," President Barack Obama on Thursday began a two-day push for an ambitious plan to direct a greater portion of federal aid to students attending the most efficient and affordable schools that produce graduates who end up in good-paying jobs. In upstate New York, on the first leg of a bus tour that will bring him to Scranton, Pa., today, Mr. Obama called for a new system to evaluate colleges on graduation rates, average salary of graduates, tuition and average student loan debt. And he wants Congress to direct a larger portion of federal aid to students attending schools with good ratings. Colleges that keep costs low are the ones that will get more federal aid, he said. "I've got confidence that our country's colleges and universities will step up to the plate if they're given the right incentives. They, too, should want to do the right thing for students," Mr. Obama told a crowd of 1,300 Thursday evening at Henninger High School in Syracuse. LINK