President Barack Obama is calling on governors across the nation to increase funding for higher education and decrease federal funding for universities whose tuitions he argues are too high.
In his remarks to the National Governors Association Monday, Obama issued a challenge to governors to invest more in education.
“Nothing more clearly signals what you value as a state than the decisions you make about where to invest,” Obama said in his prepared remarks. “Budgets are about choices. So today I’m calling on all of you: Invest more in education.”
The Obama administration also released its “Education Blueprint: An Economy Built to Last,” which said the administration plans to create a competitive fund for states that maintain adequate funding for higher education and make other reforms.
The blueprint also said the federal government would “reward” universities that offer low tuition costs and quality education, as well as enrolling and graduating high numbers of Pell Grant students.
“That means colleges and universities are going to have to help to make their tuition more affordable,” Obama said in his remarks. “And I’ve put them on notice – if they are not taking some concrete steps to prevent tuition from going up, then federal funding from taxpayers is going to go down.”
Former chancellor and University of Wisconsin professor John Wiley, an expert in higher education administration and policy, said cuts to higher education are the main reason behind tuition increases.
There are five major agencies in Wisconsin’s discretionary budget, and only the UW System has an outside source of funding in the state, according to Wiley.
Wiley also said he approved of Obama’s plan to create a competitive fund to increase state funding for higher education. He said it should encourage state governments to keep an eye on tuition costs.
David Giroux, UW System spokesperson, said the cost of an education in the UW System has remained the same over the past 30 years and has only increased with the rate of inflation.
However, he said during those years state funding has been cut and, to fill the gap between state funding and the cost of education, the UW System has had to increase tuition.
“We’re not just talking about Wisconsin but every state,” Giroux said. “This has been a long-term trend for the past two to three decades.”
Wiley added Obama’s plan to use federal money as a way of rewarding and punishing schools that keep tuition low would help UW since it has the second lowest tuition rate in the Big Ten.
“Even though tuition is higher than it should be, we stand to gain from the policy,” Wiley said.
However, Giroux said the Obama administration has not released the details of the plan and that while the proposals match UW System schools well, it would be difficult to tell if the plan will help UW System schools or not.