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The Daily Tar Heel
View from the Hill

What Obama's higher education plan means for UNC

This is the first post on a brand new blog designed to supply UNC-Chapel Hill students with the political news most pertinent to them.

On Thursday, President Barack Obama unveiled a plan to reduce higher education costs. As part of his recent “A Better Bargain for the Middle Class” speech series, Obama laid out his vision in a speech at Syracuse University.

One hallmark of the plan released by the White House is for the U.S. Department of Education to create a new ratings system for universities.

The ratings will be based on access to education, exemplified by students on Pell Grants; cost, including average tuition scholarships and debt from student loans; and outcomes including graduation rates, transfer rates, earnings of graduates and the number of advanced degrees.

The Administration plans to base financial aid on this new rating system, with higher-rated colleges receiving more federal money.

So how does UNC-CH measure up to these standards?

  • According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 20 percent of UNC-CH students receive Pell Grants, with an average amount of $4,211 and the university receiving $3,335,344.
  • The average UNC-CH student who graduated in 2011 has $15,472 dollars in student loan debt, which is lower than the average of 24,301.
  • Similarly, 77 percent of students at UNC graduated within four years, with an average salary of $42,800.
  • UNC-CH has seen its tuition steadily increase over the years, and the recently-passed state budget will see tuition go up by 12.3 percent for out-of-state students.

The Administration also proposed offering $1 billion for states to compete to lower education cost and focus on graduation rates instead of enrollment rates and tying financial aid to academic performance.

Another proposal includes encouraging the use of hybrid and online platforms like MOOCs, which UNC started this year with four courses through Coursera.

The changes come in the wake of the UNC system seeing a cut of $65 million, with UNC-CH having a 5.5 percent cut of $28 million. Thomas Ross, president of the UNC system, has proposed a freeze in tuition for in-state students next year.

But the criteria proposed by the Obama have yet to be released and will not be implemented until 2015, making it difficult to determine how UNC-CH would fall in the rating system.

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