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White House Reassures Colleges They Will Be Consulted

LRAP In The News January 31, 2012

Just four days after President Obama made an impassioned speech warning colleges that they may risk losing federal funds if they do not keep tuition costs under control, a top White House official reassured a group of presidents and representatives from independent colleges that the administration will consult them while developing the proposed policy.

At the annual meeting of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities on Tuesday, Zakiya Smith, senior White House education adviser, said in a panel discussion that the president’s proposal to link federal aid to college affordability was kept vague on purpose.

“The more and more we thought about it, we said it would be better to outline what our principles are and then engage in a dialogue with the entire higher-education community,” Ms. Smith said. “We want to have an honest and open dialogue, and that’s part of the reason I accepted this invitation, knowing that a couple days before we would have announced this plan.”

The plan, outlined by President Obama last Friday at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, would award campus-based federal aid—Perkins Loans, Work-Study and Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants—to institutions based on whether they hold down net tuition, provide “good value,” and serve low-income students. It would also provide $1-billion to states that contain tuition and improve outcomes. Some college officials have expressed concern over the details of the plan, speculating that it may hinder their institutions’ freedom when setting tuition prices.

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