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  • AHA Roundtable on President Obama’s College Affordability Plan Added July 23, 2014

    Last week, President Obama offered a proposal to help make higher education more affordable, specifically addressing the increases in tuition costs and reliance on student loans. In town hall-style meetings in Buffalo, Syracuse, and Binghamton, New York, Obama argued that the problem of paying for college can be addressed through a combination of publishing performance measures, advancing innovation on campuses and competition between institutions, and providing more options for holders of st...

  • Quality of Education: High Schools, MOOCs, and Mentors Added July 23, 2014

    On August 22, 2013, President Barack Obama outlined many of the problems that plague higher education, particularly increasing tuition rates and rising student debt. He proposed to increase access while promoting accountability and expanding reporting on student outcomes. While the ideas seem noble, they will sacrifice the quality of education by creating more administrative bloat to capture data, further adding to students’ debt and limiting their intellectual and employment opportunitie...

  • Real Value in Higher Education Added July 23, 2014

    Bravo, President Barack Obama. Thank you for changing the conversation about the priorities for higher education in the United States. Your speeches last Thursday emphasized the importance of access, affordability, quality, and the road to successfully earning a degree. For too long, the public dialogue about going to college has focused on prestige, which too often translated to mean that degrees with the most “value” were those from the nation’s most expensive schools. Even ...

  • What Obama Should Have Said: An Alternate Text Added July 23, 2014

    At the University of Michigan, the nearly unremitting decline in the share of the state appropriation in the university’s general fund revenue began in the late 1980s. Already by the early 1990s tuition was providing more revenue than the state appropriation and today the share of the appropriation is 17 percent. In 1960 it was 80 percent. In current dollars the 2102 state appropriation was at the level of 1991; in real dollars, 1964. In Michigan, state higher education expenditure is &...

  • From Crisis to Crisis: Costs Only Part of the Problem Added July 23, 2014

    I listened intently to President Obama’s speech in Buffalo last week. The president’s assessment of the state of higher education and his proposals for addressing its failings directly shape my work as a policymaker at a state higher education agency. The president believes we face “a crisis in terms of college affordability and student debt.” His solution is to hold institutions and students accountable by using federal financial aid as an incentive for performance and ...

  • Doing Something—But What? Added July 23, 2014

    President Obama’s approach to college affordability is not new. In fact, it seems to come from a 1988 episode of the BBC comedy Yes, Minister: “We must do something. This is something. Therefore, we must do it.” It may be doable, since it targets groups that are not politically powerful. But it avoids the real financial issues, and it will exacerbate an equally serious problem: the declining quality of the higher education that many students receive. The affordability of any...

  • A Narrow Proposal at a Time of Crisis Added July 23, 2014

    President Barack Obama, in his speech at the State University of New York at Buffalo on August 22, promised to “fundamentally rethink and reshape the higher education system.” His plan to assure access, affordability, and accountability has three main strategic goals: rate colleges on the basis of student outcomes, encourage competition between colleges to use innovations to increase affordability, and make student debt manageable. As to the substance of the president’s prop...

  • Can We Cut Our Way to Quality? Added July 23, 2014

    As American colleges and universities open another academic year, President Obama has given a major address on higher education. The president’s college affordability plan addresses the important issue of student indebtedness and its impact on the crisis of the American middle class. It would be hard to overstate the gravity of this problem: college students and graduates now carry over $1 trillion of student loan debt, more than any other form of indebtedness except mortgage interest. Co...

  • A Triple "A" Threat: Accountability, Assessment, Accreditation Added July 23, 2014

    At the 122nd annual meeting of the American Historical Association held in Washington, D.C., in January 2008, I chaired a fascinating panel on higher education policy. Participating on the panel were arguably three of the best informed educational leaders in the country: Carol Geary Schneider, president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, an organization with 1,100 institutional members devoted to advancing and strengthening undergraduate liberal education; David Ward, pre...

  • Awards, Prizes, and Honors Conferred at the 128th Annual Meeting Added July 23, 2014

    Awards for Publications Herbert Baxter Adams Prize Steven A. Barnes , George Mason University, for Death and Redemption: The Gulag and the Shaping of Soviet Society (Princeton University Press, 2011). Using an array of previously unstudied archival and published sources from central and regional collections, Barnes offers a provocative reconceptualization of the Soviet Gulag, which demonstrates convincingly that it needs to be understood as a transformative space, where both individual ...