Alcorn president not sold on Obama's higher ed plan - - The News for South Mississippi

Alcorn president not sold on Obama's higher ed plan

JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

President Barack Obama has announced a new higher education plan that he says will reduce costs. While the issue of college affordability is at the top of every educators mind, some are concerned that the plan may cause more harm than good.

"Just out of the sky. We have these new agendas to be added to an already full legislative calendar," explained Alcorn State University President Dr. M. Christopher Brown II.

Brown isn't sold on Obama's proposal.

"One of the things that I have noticed is that this administration tends to rush through education policy," Brown said.

Obama's plan includes a new ranking system for colleges based on financial value. It will also tie academic progress to the distribution of student aid.

"We need to make sure if you're getting financial aid, you're doing your part to make progress toward a degree," said President Obama during his two-day tour.

Under the rating systems, schools with high graduation rates and low time to degrees would be eligible to distribute the most aid. But Alcorn's president contends that historically black colleges and universities frequently have students that are working full time or taking classes while raising a family.

"And so there's a longer time to degree and in fact those institutional performance states may look lower. But those are actually places where we should be investing money so we can help those families make it to the college competition line," described Brown.

Recent changes to Pell Grant regulations prevented Alcorn State University from awarding as many loans last year.

"So now add to this already curious policy pattern another wave of redistribution of federal aid. I don't know what the impact will be for small and comprehensive universities across the nation," Brown said.

Dr. Hank M. Bounds is the Commissioner of Higher Education. He released the following statement in response to the proposal.

"Mississippi Public Universities provide a great value and return on investment for our students and our state," said Dr. Hank M. Bounds, Commissioner of Higher Education. "I am confident that they will do well if the proposed rating system is put into place. The new allocation model approved by the Board of Trustees in April is a performance-based model that already drives improvement in student retention and graduation rates. Mississippi has the lowest per capita income in the country, so our universities understand the issues of accessibility and affordability and work hard every day to open doors of opportunity to all of our students."

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