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White House Unveils Plan for College Affordability

President Obama kicked off a two-day bus tour with talks about how to make college more affordable. "We can't price the middle class — and people working to get into the middle class — out of a college education," he told an audience at The State University of New York in Buffalo Wednesday.

(Photo Credit: Chuck Kennedy / Official White House Photo)

The speech came while Obama explained what he calls an ambitious new agenda to make college more affordable and encourage upward mobility.

The president suggests creating a rating system to track how much effort colleges put in to keep down costs. Federal aid would get divvied up according to those frugality ratings, rewarding the money-savers with more government help. The plan would require a go-ahead from Congress. 

College is the best investment a person can make in their future, Obama told students. But debt and soaring tuition costs have prevented people from making that investment. The White House plan seeks to incentivize colleges to make education more accessible and to reward them for real-world results, including graduate earnings.

PayScale has been tracking and publishing college graduate earnings since 2008 with the College Salary Report, which ranks more than 1,000 US colleges and universities based on median alumni salaries. The report also tracks median starting and mid-career salary data for different majors. (The 2014 College Salary Report is due to be released Sept. 12, 2013.)

In addition, PayScale also ranks ROI (return on investment) for colleges and universities with the College ROI Rankings Report. This report, which takes into account tuition costs and 30-year earnings for graduates, was recently written about by former Secretary of Education William Bennett.

The White House plan touts a couple other goals, too. One: To help students manage loan debts by spreading out aid over the course of a semester instead of all at once at the start. And two: To prompt colleges to innovate and compete for pupils and rewarding them with cash based on the number of Pell Grant scholars who graduate.

To tackle the burgeoning $1 trillion national student loan debt, the president's plan would cap loan repayment at 10 percent of a borrower's income level. Whether or not he gains congressional approval for all of the above remains to be seen. 

The public is certainly getting fed up over blown-up tuition costs. The average cost to attend a four-year college jumped more than 250 percent since the 1980s while family incomes ticked up just 16 percent, according to USA Today.

Listen to Obama's speech right here. And take the PayScale Survey to find out how your salary compares to your peers.

To chime in about the plan, ask questions via Twitter at #WHChat, follow the Q&A through @WHLive and @Katie44 Twitter accounts. Or watch the session at WhiteHouse.gov and Storify.com/WhiteHouse.

Tell Us What You Think

What do you think of Obama's college affordability plan? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

More from PayScale

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Obama Administration Focuses on College Tuition ROI

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