New commission to identify ways to make college more affordable

A new commission launched by the Southern Regional Education Board is seeking to find ways to improve college affordability and graduation rates.

The Commission on College Affordability in the South will study tuition, state appropriations and financial aid – the main sources of funding for postsecondary education. The Commission was created in response to states’ concerns.

“States need more citizens with postsecondary training to grow their economies,” said Beth Day, communications director for Atlanta-based SREB. “When college is less affordable, fewer students have the opportunity.”

Cheryl Blanco, SREB’s vice president for postsecondary education, said the Commission’s focus on college accessibility also is connected to the desire to see more adults graduate.

“For us to reach 60 percent of adults with some form of degree or certificate, it’s clearly going to take a lot of change,” Blanco said. “We think affordability is a good way to tackle a number of the issues that we have to engage.”

The Commission has members from all 16 SREB states and is chaired by Glen D. Johnson, the chancellor of the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education.

Leaders of colleges, universities and higher education systems will come together with state legislators and other policymakers to discuss priorities, share what works and what doesn’t, and make recommendations to the Board, Day said. Georgia State Rep. Terry England and Georgia State Sen. Jack Hill are among members of the Commission.

The Commission began meeting in October and will continue to meet in 2015, looking at questions such as:

• How do they set tuition rates?

• How much state funding goes to the public colleges and universities?

• What are the states’ policies for funding and awarding financial aid to students?

“The Commission will look at how to coordinate policies among these factors with the goal of making college more affordable for families,” Day said.

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