President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan met privately with a group of college presidents Monday to discuss ways to address the soaring cost of college education.
The private meeting was part of a push by elected officials to get colleges thinking seriously about ways they can improve the value and quality of education. The discussion comes as the national Occupy protests have raised concerns over student debt, and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York announced that the total number of outstanding student loans was $845 billion — nearly $300 billion higher than the bank previously announced.
Rebecca Guterman, a sophomore at the University of Chicago, said that she felt the cost of college was too high.
“I don’t know exact statistics, but I’ve always had the impression that the cost of college goes up much more quickly than cost of living in general,” Guterman wrote in an e-mail. “When education is something that ideally should be as affordable as possible for as many people as possible.”
Crystal Tsoi, a senior at the University of Chicago, agreed that the price of attending college was too high, but that the University college aid took all relevant factors into consideration when calculating financial aid packages. This year, Tsoi said, she only has to pay one-third of the tuition she paid in previous years because one of her siblings started attending college.
Last week, in a speech at the Federal Student Aid conference in Las Vegas, Duncan said that colleges should “think more creatively—and with much greater urgency” about the price of college. According to an Inside Higher-Ed article, colleges have increased tuition while reducing the amount of money going directly toward direct student instruction.
Tsoi said she thought schools should spend less money on administrative and construction, and instead allocate more funds to student services.
“I can understand maintaining a nice quad for the students and visitors,” she said in an email. “But the utility students get from a re-tiled quadrangle is much smaller than investing funds toward bolstering student life activities.”
Guterman said that she was bothered by how little she knew about how her tuition was spent non-academically.
“For me, since I live in a dorm that I feel is kind of falling apart…it has elevator outages and water pressure issues multiple times per quarter…I don’t understand what I’m paying for and where all my money goes,” she said.
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