President’s Proposal: School Rankings for Financial Aid

By Sarah Stanley-Ayre

The cost of tuition has grown by 250 percent over the past thirty years. The average student borrower currently graduates with more than $26,000 in debt.

According to statistics collected by the MCTC Office of Strategy, Planning and Accountability, in the Fall of 2011, 58 percent of MCTC students qualified as low-income. According to the office’s most recent data of student progress and success rates, of the total students graduating who were available for employment and not continuing studies, 88 percent were employed after graduation.

On Aug 22, 2013, President Obama announced a proposal to rate colleges and link these ratings to financial aid in hopes of making colleges more affordable while holding them accountable. If Obama’s plan can win Congressional approval, financial aid will be based upon a college rating system.

The ratings would consider various measures such as graduation rates, debt and earning of graduates, and the percentage of lower-income students enrolled. Students at higher-rated colleges would receive larger federal grants and more affordable loans.

Jessica Shryack, director of the MCTC Office of Strategy, Planning and Accountability, views the intent of Obama’s plan as positive, yet sees some flaws in the design.

“The problem I see with these measures is they don’t tell parents and students about other factors that relate to a student’s experience in college- like the culture of the college, opportunities for involvement in student life, instructor accessibility, etc.,” Shryack said.

MCTC’s graduation rate and tuition costs are comparable to those of other metro area colleges, such as Century College and Normandale Community College. However, because of MCTC’s location in downtown Minneapolis, the school itself offers a unique student experience.

Obama has also proposed that colleges experiment with different, more cost-effective approaches to offering a degree. His suggestions include three-year degree programs, “massive open online courses,” and competency-based degrees that base college credits on how much students know rather than the amount of hours they spend in classrooms.

MCTC is striving to boost student success through faculty-led improvements, such as the new Statway math and accelerated English, “where we see students succeeding in developmental English at much higher rates- about 25 percentage points above students not in the accelerated course,” said Shryack.

There is currently a staff-led initiative to update the student orientation process in order to encourage new students to form closer connections to MCTC and increase their sense of belonging in the MCTC community.

“Our office has the responsibility to analyze data on how well these initiates are working so we can see if the efforts are paying off for our students,” said Shryack.

IMG_6135MCTC would most likely be directly affected should Obama’s proposal become a reality. The Office of Strategy, Planning and Accountability is engaged in an aggressive campaign to double MCTC’s graduation rates by the year 2015, as well as to improve the graduation rates of students of color.

Currently, the majority of the $150 billion in annual student aid distributed by the federal government is based on the size of a college’s enrollment. This academic year, interest rates on student loans are set at 3.86 percent for undergraduate Stafford loans, 5.4 percent for graduate Stafford loans and 6.4 percent for PLUS loans.

Obama’s plan would potentially become active in 2018.

Photos by Teri Walker

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