President Barack Obama speaks at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor to outline his concerns about rising tuition costs and lay out possible solutions down the road. The President said higher ed. must be available to all[/media-credit]

President Obama released his blueprint for higher education reform Friday which hopes to address the rising costs of tuition across the nation.

Obama laid out his new higher education agenda in a speech at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

“Higher education is not a luxury. It’s an economic imperative that every family in America should be able to afford,” Obama said. “An economy built to last demands we keep doing everything we can to bring down the cost of college.”

In a conference call to the press, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan further explained the proposals released Friday.

Obama will extend the “Race to The Top” program that is currently in use for K-12 schools to higher education institutions. The program would reward state governments that make college affordable. He is also creating a First in the World competition that would invest $55 million in individual colleges for projects that encourage productivity and quality of education.

Duncan said Obama seeks to ensure students have the proper information when deciding on a college. The Financial Aid Shopping Sheet will make for easier comparisons between colleges of financial aid packages.

Furthermore, the new College Scorecard will help students select a college that is best fit for their goals. It will be aided by the newly required employment information of graduates from colleges. Both the scorecard and the Financial Aid Shopping Sheet can be found on whitehouse.gov.

Obama will ask Congress to prevent the doubling of interest rates this summer on subsidized Stafford student loans that will affect 7.4 million students and save the average student more than a thousand dollars, Duncan said. He will ask them to double the number of work-study jobs on campuses across the nation.

Obama is also seeking a permanent expansion of his American Opportunity Tax Credit, whose expiration this year would affect nine million students. The final part of Obama’s blueprint would reform student aid to move aid away from institutions that do not meet affordability and value standards and reward the institutions that do both.

Molly Broad, the president of the American Council on Education, which represents the presidents of higher education institutions, said she generally supported Obama’s plan but had some reservations.

“President Obama has put forward a thoughtful and important proposal to help students and families finance higher education,” Broad said in a statement. “Our central concern with the proposal is the likelihood that it will move decision-making in higher education from college campuses to Washington, D.C.”

Adam Gamoran, a University of Wisconsin sociology and education policy professor and director of the Wisconsin Center for Education Research, said Obama’s blueprint is pushing in the right direction, but raised several concerns.

Obama said in his speech that the main cause of rising tuition at public universities has been state budget cuts. However, Gamoran is concerned that the blueprint, especially its final part, actually ignores that cause.

“Punishing colleges for raising tuition doesn’t take into account the reason colleges are raising tuition: state budget deficits,” Gamoran said. “In Wisconsin, the decline of state support has been the driving factor behind increases in tuition. Declining dollars by state tax revenues have been replaced by tuition dollars.”