By Brian Tumulty, Gannett Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama decided to launch his updated college affordability agenda at the University at Buffalo and Binghamton University of because of innovations made by the State University of New York system, a White House official said today.
"Unlike some institutions that try to judge their quality by the number of students that they exclude, SUNY is stepping up and trying to meet the demand for higher education in New York and has plans to expand by 100,000 students over the next couple of years,'' James Kvaal, deputy director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, told reporters in a conference call.
Kvaal said SUNY is "looking at some of the innovative practices that we believe more colleges and universities should emulate.''
Among them: Allowing students to gain four-year college credits while attending high school and community college, and helping students earn their degrees more quickly, and expanding online courses.
Obama is proposing a three-part agenda that includes rating colleges based on performance prior to the 2015-2016 academic year, linking federal aid to performance by colleges, and ensuring students can repay their loans.
"Taxpayers shouldn't be paying to send students to schools where they aren't graduating,'' he said.
In addition, federal aid should go to schools that are keeping costs down, he said.
Obama opened his speech at the Buffalo campus today by thanking students for taking time out from moving their futons, mini fridges and other belongings into their dorm rooms.
He noted that tuition at public colleges has increased 250 percent over the last three decades while the average family income has increased only 16 percent.
"Most students are probably not paying the sticker price,'' but students and parents are paying more at some point, Obama said.
Obama said he and first lady Michelle Obama graduated from college and law school "with a mountain of debt'' that he didn't finish paying off until he was in his 40s, just before he ran for the U.S. Senate.