Obama’s tuition plan could help Castleton

With the Republican primaries well underway for the 2012 presidential election, many are reflecting on the progress President Barack Obama has made during his first term in the Oval Office. Since being sworn in, unemployment rates have decreased and the financial burden Americans have carried on their shoulders is being relieved. He withdrew troops from a nearly decade long war in Iraq and organized the fall of Osama Bin Laden. But with large numbers of college students voting for “change” in the last election, what has Obama done to help our generation?

Not much, until now.

On Jan. 24, Obama promised a University of Michigan audience that he would work with states, Congress and colleges to keep the cost of higher education affordable. His plan includes removing private middlemen from student loan processing and capping loan repayments at 10 percent of a graduate’s monthly income. During the speech, he called on Congress to prevent interest rates on student loans from doubling in July and to offer more work study opportunities.

The most important part of the plan? If colleges fail to keep the cost of tuition down, they risk reductions in financial assistance. Obama and his wife, Michelle, both relied on financial aid and student loans to finance their education, which is partially why he believes “we’ve got to have an economy in which every American has access to a world class education.” This is good news for Castleton State College students, but how realistic is it?

First, Obama would need approval from Congress. Enough said. Second, college presidents like Al Bowman at Illinois State University, called the plan “fuzzy math” and they say they are already frustrated with state budget cuts, according to an interview with USA Today. Bowman believes that cutting costs would mean hiring more part-time, adjunct professors and teaching large lectures, which is not great for student.

Where does this leave Castleton?

In 2001, state funding covered more than 20 percent of tuition costs. In 2011, that number was a mere 9 percent, according to president David Wolk. Some students will be leaving the college more than $60,000 in debt. Greater state funding, along with lower tuition would help reduce this number.

The average in-state tuition for public four-year colleges rose 8.3 percent in 2011, according to The College Board Web site. This puts tuition, along with room and board at more than $17,000. At Castleton, that average is $18, 114 for a new, in-state student including tuition, room and board and fees. With this new tuition plan, Obama may allow Castleton to continue being “the small school with a big heart” without the need for a bigger wallet.

– Elicia Mailhiot

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