Niagara Gazette

Local News

August 21, 2013

NU group among those taking in Obama's speech at UB

(Continued)

Niagara Gazette —

As part of his “Better Bargain,” Obama is calling for the doubling of investments in Pell grants, expanding education tax credits, keeping student loan interest rates down and reforming student aid to promote affordability and value, among other initiatives. 

“Over the past four and a half years, we’ve worked to put college in reach for more students and their families through tax credits, improving access to financial aid and new options that make it easier to repay those loans,” Obama said. “But if we’re going to keep the doors of higher education open to everyone who works for it, we need to do more - much more.” 

Kevin Hearn, Niagara University’s vice president for student affairs and the interim dean for enrollment management, will also be making the trip to Buffalo today and said he’s really interested in hearing what Obama has to say about affordability of higher education, a topic he struggles with in his day-to-day responsibilities.

One area he said universities can really make progress in is graduating students on time. Typically reported based on six-year enrollment figures, graduation rates at Niagara are focused on four-year completions.

It’s subtle, he said, but a difference of two years tuition for students, especially those taking advantage of loans, could make a major difference in affording school long after finishing.

Another issue Hearn sees as a root cause of increasing education costs goes on behind the scenes of college expenses. While many colleges aren’t increasing their stated tuition at an extreme rate, he said, what’s happening around the country is the extra fees and service charges are really rocketing up. Textbooks also factor in, he said.

These are all issues NU is actively striving to combat, he said.

“We’ve been talking with our faculty about ways to keep the costs of books down,” he said. “We’re looking at every aspect of our operation to make sure these numbers are real. Our reason for existence is to build an informed and educated populace. That’s why we’re here.”

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