Pennsylvania public colleges react to Obama ‘value plan’

Barack Obama

President Obama puts his hand to his heart during the Pledge of Allegiance at the 102nd Abraham Lincoln Association banquet in Springfield, Ill., in 2009. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

President Obama is on the road promising to reward colleges that keep costs down.

As the president speaks in Scranton today, what do the leaders of Pennsylvania’s higher education institutions think of his plan?


Don Francis spoke to us while on his way Friday to hear President Obama speak at Lackawanna College in Scranton. Francis, president of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania, likes that a spotlight is being trained on college affordability.

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He has some reservations about the proposal to link aid from Washington to new rankings of college’s value for the dollar.

“When you do rankings, it can, depending on how you set up, what you do, it can sometimes be at cross purposes with what your intentions are,” he said.

Francis said colleges that enroll more low-income students suffer in rankings based on things such as graduation rates.

Karen Ball, with the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, said some state dollars already are distributed based on performance.

“Our universities are used to being measured by standards,” she said. “So we don’t know the details of the president’s plan, but it’s something we’ve had in place for over a decade.

Ball said Pennsylvania universities also meet current Department of Education standards for affordability, improving graduation rates, and student loan default rates.

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