DOUG ROSS: Expect some schooling on college affordability

2013-08-23T00:00:00Z DOUG ROSS: Expect some schooling on college affordabilityBy Doug Ross doug.ross@nwi.com, (219) 548-4360 or (219) 933-3357 nwitimes.com

President Barack Obama and I talked about higher education Thursday -- not to each other, mind you, but at the same time.

Obama talked about college affordability, the start of a long conversation. I talked about the merits of living on campus versus commuting from home.

The president's latest crusade is to bring to higher education the same kind of accountability already brought to K-12 schools.

The White House issued a fact sheet Thursday that should interest all Hoosiers.

The average cost for in-state undergraduate students living on campus at public colleges and universities was $20,736 in Indiana, the report said.

Exacerbating the problem is declining state funding for universities. Even if the actual dollar amount doesn't decline, the proportion of state support to total college costs has dropped sharply, from 47 percent 25 years ago to 25 percent today.

Obama's plan calls for boosting state support. Some colleges have responded by freezing tuition and cutting costs, including faculty positions.

Indiana has already begun one of Obama's higher education initiatives, to tie college funding to performance. Higher-performing institutions would be rewarded financially. That adds to to the pressure on college administrators to control costs while increasing results, as measured by the graduation rate, net student costs, employment upon graduation and more.

That brings us back to helping students decide where they want to attend school. Providing good tools for evaluating schools will make students better consumers.

That includes deciding whether to attend a commuter campus like Indiana University Northwest and Ivy Tech Community College or a school with dormitories, like Purdue University Calumet.

A residential college offers a way to learn independence. Yes, living on campus rather than with your parents (commuting) is more expensive, but you tend to learn more about life when you're away from home.

That's something future college students will need to consider as they try to decide not just what they want to be when they grow up, but also how to achieve that goal.

If Obama gets his way, decisions like this will be easier to make. Degree completion means a higher salary and a lower unemployment rate, which means a higher lifetime earning potential. Get in and get out. Attend school full time and start earning more.

Also, Obama wants to expand a program that caps student debt repayment at 10 percent of a college graduate's income, providing more time to repay a loan. That would help.

So let Obama work on making college affordable while you focus on getting your money's worth.

Editorial Page Editor Doug Ross can be reached at (219) 548-4360 or (219) 933-3357 or Doug.Ross@nwi.com. Follow him at www.facebook.com/doug.ross1 and on Twitter @nwi_DougRoss. The opinions are the writer's.

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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