President Obama called for education reform at the college level Thursday, saying it's time to make the best schools available to the best students regardless of family income.
"A higher education is the single best investment you can make in your future," President Obama said in a speech at the University of Buffalo during a two-day bus tour.
"Our economy can't afford the trillion dollars in outstanding student loan debt, much of which may not get repaid because students don't have the capacity to pay it," The President continued. "We can't price the middle class, and everyone working to get into the middle class, out of a college education."
President Obama proposed a new plan to rate colleges based on a variety of factors, including the affordability of tuition and the average income students make after graduation.
The rating system would be implemented by the U.S. Department of Education. The President also suggested a "pay as you earn" repayment system for graduates attempting to pay back student loans.
"We're gonna make sure students getting federal financial aid complete their courses before receiving grants for the next semester," added President Obama. "We need to make sure if you're getting financial aid, you're doing your part to make progress toward a degree.
As new Wake Forest University freshman moved in to their dorms Thursday, Alex Lyons said picking a school with a high-ranking is very important. "Also, it's not necessarily the actual number is important, whether it's 23, 34, or 45. I think the overall prestige of the university says it more than the actual ranking."
Esther Altamura was helping her Wake Forest University freshman son move in. Three of her four kids are in college, she said. "I did the math a long time ago to figure out what it would cost."
"I don't think [college] is optional anymore, and I think it is separating the haves and the have-nots," she pointed out. "It's too far out of reach for a lot of people. We're fortunate. We worked a lot and we saved, but as a teacher I see a lot of families that should go, are able to go, but financially it's separating them. It's not right.
Opponents have expressed concerns that a federal rating system could impede innovation and competition at the college level.