By Frannie Carr
Feb. 6, 2012
BOSTON — As college becomes more and more a necessity for economic success in adulthood — it's also getting more and more expensive. In his State of the Union address last month, and in campaign stops since, President Barack Obama has been urging U.S. colleges and universities to stop raising tuition so much faster than the rate of inflation.
"Higher ed is not a luxury," he said. "It’s an economic imperative that every family should be able to afford."
On Feb. 6, Sen. John Kerry joined forces with U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan to host a town hall–style meeting at Emerson College with students and the heads of local universities.
Kerry hoped the college presidents would give him better ideas about how to keep costs down.
If America wants to be competitive on a global scale, we have to do a better job of keeping costs down, Kerry told WGBH News.
"The world has changed dramatically and we have not. We have not done what we need to do to key up. We were number one in the world a few years ago in the number of citizens completing college. Now we rank 16th," he said.
Obama has proposed tying colleges’ eligibility for certain federal aid programs to their affordability. Most Republicans promote a more limited role for the government in monitoring college expenses.
Kerry thought the GOP view was short-sighted and that you have to invest to see results.
"The other party — and I don’t mean to make this partisan — has been disinvesting, moving away from any of the kind of public investments. They’ve had huge cuts in these kinds of things in the past year. Which I think is like cutting off your nose to spite your face," he said. "It’s really self-destructive to be minimizing our investment in long-term things that make us more competitive and create more jobs."
Estimates show students graduating this year will have about $27,000 in college debt.
Hear more about Kerry's ideas.