Biden has given similar talks in Ohio and Florida recently, part of the Obama administration’s efforts to address growing anxiety about the price of college and to highlight steps it has taken to boost federal grants and make loans easier to pay off.
With growth in tuition costs far outpacing income and other consumer price increases, surveys show college affordability is a great source of concern for many American families.
Only 22 percent believe most people can afford to pay for college, down from 39 percent in 1985, according to a survey last spring by the Pew Research Center in Washington. Only 5 percent say the higher education system is providing excellent value for the money.
Yet college officials, the Obama administration, and many families still view college as an essential investment in both individuals’ and the nation’s future. Ninety-four percent of parents expect their children to go to college, the Pew survey found.
While Biden and other federal officials can use the bully pulpit to push for solutions to the cost problem, “the biggest problem right now is state budgets and increasing tuition at public universities as a result, and the federal government has very limited influence over that,” says Sandy Baum, a senior fellow at George Washington University School of Education.
Ultimately, the biggest help, she says, would be an improved economy so that families have jobs and so that revenues start flowing again into state coffers.
But she and others give the Obama administration credit for steps it has taken. Among them, according to the US Department of Education: