AACC Statement in Response to President Obama's Announcement of Ratings for Higher Education

Aug 22, 2013, 17:05 ET from American Association of Community Colleges

WASHINGTON, Aug. 22, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- On behalf of its more than 1,100 member colleges, American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) President Walter G. Bumphus today emphasized that community colleges are already providing solutions to many of the important challenges raised in President Obama's ambitious "Plan to Make College More Affordable:  A Better Bargain for the Middle Class."  Dr. Bumphus stated that, "On average, community colleges charge just $3,131 for a full-time, full-year student. Community colleges remain committed to providing affordable, relevant, quality education."  Bumphus also noted that community colleges are formally committed to achieving higher graduation rates (although the rates continue to be misrepresented in federal measuring frameworks) and that this commitment has been carried through via AACC's 21st Century Commission on the Future of Community Colleges.

Bumphus added that, "The federal student financial aid programs are a tremendous success.  Millions of students have attended and succeeded at community college because of them.  While federal aid programs should be modified to reflect changes within higher education and the broader society, they are fundamentally sound."  Bumphus added that "First and foremost, community colleges are local entities, albeit serving a broader national purpose.  Federal policy should augment and not supplant state and local policy."  Bumphus commended the Obama Administration for working to reduce costly federal regulatory burdens.

AACC offers the following comments on the Administration's "Better Bargain" plan, with more details expected about the plan soon:

  • Prospective students need far better information about college options. This includes data on the earnings of completers in various programs and fields, which remains unavailable in most cases. AACC strongly supports federal action to remedy this situation.
  • The federal government should not "rate" colleges. Community colleges do not support private entities ranking community colleges, and they oppose the federal government's doing likewise. Furthermore, tying federal student aid to ratings is problematic. Even if equitable ratings could be developed, community college students are often not sufficiently mobile to be able to attend an institution that is not local.
  • A "Pell Bonus" linked to the number of low-income students who graduate college holds promise, but a program of this nature must be carefully structured to ensure that appropriate incentives are provided and that any metrics that are used take into account a range of student and institutional variables.
  • Current standards of satisfactory academic progress are sufficiently robust to encourage students to progress through their studies. Students are now limited to receiving Pell Grants for the equivalent of 12 full-time semesters.
  • Federal encouragement of the use of technology in course design and student services is welcome.
  • Only 17% of all community college students take out federal loans. While "Pay As You Earn" is an important option for many borrowers, most students should endeavor to retire their loans within the standard 10-year repayment period.

SOURCE American Association of Community Colleges