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Garcia says Obama higher ed plan fine by him

Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia was quick out of the box Thursday morning to praise the goal of President Obama’s higher education affordability plan.

The White House Thursday released a proposal that, among other things, would measure college performance through a ratings system and tie federal student aid to college performance, according to a news release. Obama also discussed the issue in a speech at the University of Buffalo. (See CNN coverage of the president’s speech and details on the plan from Inside Higher Education.)

The lieutenant governor also is executive director of the Department of Higher Education and the Hickenlooper administration’s point person on all things education.

Garcia’s statement said “Colorado already is on its way” toward the president’s goals, adding, “Colorado higher education leaders and state policymakers understand that performance should be measured, and that means how well our public and private institutions are doing in terms of graduation, not just enrollment.”

He specifically cited Obama’s call for awarding financial aid based on student progress toward graduation, noting that the Colorado Commission on Higher Education this year changed the state’s need-based financial aid system to reward students with larger scholarships as they accumulate more credits. (However, the state system provides only about 5 percent of the total financial aid available to students at Colorado colleges. See this EdNews story.)

Colorado has a law on the books that would base a relatively small portion of higher education funding on college and university fulfillment of performance contracts. However, that plan won’t go into effect until certain overall funding benchmarks are met, and the department and commission are still crafting the details of how the plan would work. (See this EdNews story about the state’s higher ed master plan.)