- Texas man arrested for powder-letter hoax
- Islamic State opens ‘marriage bureau’ for single jihadists
- Drone almost blocks California firefighting planes
- Tornado rips off roofs, downs trees near Boston
- GOP: Environmental rules keeping agents from accessing border
- John Kerry: Millions displaced by religious fighting in 2013
- Federal appeals court rules against Virginia’s gay marriage ban
- White House says Russia ‘losing’ war in Ukraine
- Hamas turns to North Korea for weapons deal, Iran for money
- Syrian casualties surge as jihadis consolidate
Colleges assured tuition cap will fail
Question of the Day
President Obama's plan to withhold some financial aid from universities that "jack up" tuition rates each year is being panned across the higher education spectrum, and House Republicans appear poised to kill it before it ever gets off the ground.
The proposal, first mentioned in last week's State of the Union address, would set a cap on tuition growth each year, and institutions that exceed that threshold would be denied federal dollars for work-study programs and additional money for loans and grants aimed at the neediest students.
Colleges that stay within the administration's tuition parameters, which have yet to be firmly established, could get bigger payouts from the federal government.
University presidents, worried that their tuition rates will soon be set by the White House, were reassured Tuesday that the plan is likely going nowhere this year.
"Anything he proposes needs to be approved by the Congress. I don't see that taking place," Rep. Harold Rogers, Kentucky Republican and chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, told college leaders gathered in Washington for the annual conference of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities.
Mr. Obama "threatened to reduce federal aid to colleges and universities unless they reduced or kept their tuitions in tow. That's not the job of the president of the United States," Mr. Rogers said. "What you charge for tuition is your business. That's going to vary for a variety of reasons. I respect and the federal government ought to respect your sovereignty in that area. It's your decision."
Mr. Rogers' remarks were met with raucous applause from the crowd, comprised of the heads of private institutions including small religious schools and larger, better-known colleges such as Wake Forest, Rice and New York University.
Many university officials outlined their own plans to lower costs, developed and implemented long before Mr. Obama's speech. William Peace University, a small North Carolina liberal arts school, plans to drop tuition by 7.5 percent in the fall, saving the average student about $2,000 per year. Hardin-Simmons University, a private Baptist school in Texas, guarantees students that their tuition rates won't increase for their entire college careers.
"We want to play ball. We want to cooperate," said Philip W. Eaton, president of Seattle Pacific University. "But at the same time, [the administration's proposal] is a crosswind that we just don't need right now."
Mr. Eaton suggested that Mr. Obama is seeking to paint major colleges and universities as greedy and set himself up as a savior by forcing them to keep tuition rates low.
"It's an exceedingly populist message. Politically, it plays very well," he said. "It's quite clear to me that he doesn't understand our business."
David Trickett, president and CEO of Colorado's Iliff School of Theology, said the plan looks like a piece of the administration's "agenda" to acquire greater control over American higher education.
Other college presidents called it an attempt to institute "price controls" and voiced concerns that, if the proposal is adopted, Mr. Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan may seek even greater authority over the sector.
Faced with a growing backlash, the White House is now casting its plan as a discussion starter, not a list of demands.
Zakiya Smith, senior adviser for education with the White House Domestic Policy Council, told the NAICU conference that the administration is open to adjustments.
"We don't yet have all the details. We didn't come up with a bill that has every specific detail laid down from beginning to end," she said. "We thought the best thing to do would be to lay out a blueprint, lay out principles, and then get feedback on how best to make it into something concrete."
While many universities have publicly bashed the plan, others have remained silent.
Mr. Obama's alma mater, Columbia University, had no comment when contacted Tuesday by The Washington Times. A spokesman for Harvard University, where Mr. Obama attended law school, did not respond to a request for comment.
To the relief of most in the higher-education community, the administration's proposal, in its current form, does not touch the popular Pell Grant program, which doles out about $35 billion per year to low-income students with a maximum yearly award of $5,550.
Pell spending, awarded on the basis of financial need, has more than doubled since Mr. Obama took office.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Ben Wolfgang covers the White House for The Washington Times.
Before joining the Times in March 2011, Ben spent four years as a political reporter at the Republican-Herald in Pottsville, Pa.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Libya now nation at risk with weak U.S. influence; embassy closes as chaos grows
- White House adviser on 2016: Rand Paul more viable than Ted Cruz
- White House readies for House GOP impeachment push: 'Foolish' to ignore
- Obama takes aim at 'corporate deserters'
- Michelle Obama says money in politics is bad, asks donors for 'big, fat check'
Latest Blog Entries
TWT Video Picks
By Richard Rahn
Treaty would let tyrants peer into Americans' financial information
- D.C. seeks to stay judge's order allowing gun owners to carry in public
- Illegal immigrants demand representation in White House meetings
- Hillary Clinton: Forget Obama, George W. Bush made her 'proud to be an American'
- Babson College, BYU win top spots in Money magazine's college rankings
- Iraqi Christians rally at White House: 'Obama, Obama, where are you?'
- Tennessee Gov. Haslam slams White House for secret dump of illegals in his state
- Romney would win popular vote in rematch against Obama: CNN poll
- White House defends Kerry failure to broker Middle East cease-fire
- D.C. plans to seek stay of order striking down ban on handguns in public
- Islamic State opens 'marriage bureau' for single jihadists
Obama's biggest White House 'fails'
Celebrities turned politicians
Athletes turned actors
20 gadgets that changed the world
Fighting in Iraq