Presidents and College Costs

Having mentioned in passing in the last post the president’s remarks on student loan interest rates in Chapel Hill today, I’d urge you to read Daniel Luzer’s post at College Guide about the broader issue of what presidents can and cannot actually do about college costs.

He notes the obvious federal role in helping students pay for higher costs, and also Obama’s veiled threats (particularly in the State of the Union Address) to act against colleges that are excessively boosting tuitions. But the real problem is in state legislatures, which are cutting support for public institutions and forcing them to rely more on student and family resources:

About 80 percent of American college students attend public colleges. State support for public colleges and universities has fallen by about 26 percent per full-time student. That’s the real problem here. There’s not much the federal government can do to get state funding back up.

Well, there was this idea of providing states with general and specific fiscal support from the federal government through “stimulus” legislation, but that was so 2009.

In a separate post, Daniel reports that Mitt Romney has split with congressional Republicans (who are sort of up in the air on the subject) and is agreeing with Obama’s demand that Congress extend the student loan interest rate cut enacted in 2007, which is due to expire at the end of the year. Romney will not, however, back away from the student aid cuts included in the sainted Paul Ryan’s budget, and is on record expressing less than great concern about how students pay for college.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.