Lower education costs key in report

Caroline Lautenbacher

The U.S. Department of Education is making its goal to improve the accessibility, affordability and accountability of higher education for students, according to a study from the Commission on the Future of Higher Education.

Released yesterday, the report, “A Test of Leadership: Charting the Future of U.S. Higher Education,” found that for low-income and minority students, access is limited due to inadequate funds or the lack of academic preparation.

“The importance of evaluations going on is the role higher education should be playing,” said David Creamer, vice president for administration. “Expectations keep increasing.”

The commission was created by Margaret Spellings, U.S. secretary of education, with the desire to strengthen higher education. Composed of public officials, researchers and leaders, the commission has been holding public meetings and hearings for all who want to want to be involved in a national dialogue, according to the report.

The report concluded that academic preparation needs to be improved and more financial aid needs to be made available. Financial aid is necessary to enable students to afford the price of a higher education, according to the report.

“As tuition becomes more expensive, access to participate in higher education is limited,” Creamer said. “State support for students has declined in this decade, but at the same time, more students are enrolling.”

While more students have been enrolling, funds have been decreasing.

“We get the same amount of funding as in 1998,” Creamer said. “And approximately 12 percent more students are enrolled now than then.”

The commission’s final report came to the conclusion that while American universities and colleges do have much to be proud of, they are still lacking in a diverse student population that is not prepared for a competitive global economy.

“Other countries are passing us by at a time when education is more important to our collective prosperity than ever,” according to the report.

Some main points addressed in the report are the need to simplify financial aid and for colleges and universities to constantly embrace innovations and improvements on their campuses.

Spellings announced what she plans to do with the report yesterday at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., said Samara Yudof, deputy press secretary for the U.S. Department of Education.

“We need to pinpoint issues that need addressed,” Creamer said, “so that access remains available to anyone (who is) academically prepared and desires to participate in a higher education.”

Contact student affairs reporter Caroline Lautenbacher at [email protected].