When we last checked on this promise, tuition and fees were increasing at a steady rate, but the Obama administration was taking steps toward lowering that rate. We rated the promise In the Works.
During Obama's re-election campaign, he said he would cut the growth of tuition and fees over the next ten years. As of 2013, the average rate of increase at public 4-year schools was 5.2 percent. In the five academic years since then, the average rate of increase has gone down to 1.85 percent, less than half of what it was in 2013, according to the College Board.
At public 2-year schools, the rate has also decreased. The average rate of increase has gone from 3.9 percent in 2012 to 2.27 percent in 2016. There has been no change in the rate of increase at private schools, and the average remains at 2.5 percent.
As we noted in our last update, however, these numbers represent the ticket prices of higher education, not what students are actually paying. After factoring in financial aid, the net prices differ dramatically.
In 2013, Politifact looked at the average rate of increase of net tuition prices over the last 20 years. At that point, tuition at public 4-year schools was 2.3 percent. In the four years since the 2011-2012 academic year, net tuition has increased by 3.1 percent.
At private schools, the net tuition increase is currently 2.5 percent from 2012. In the 20 years prior, the rate of increase was 1.6 percent.
There is little the Obama administration can do to influence these increases. Public institutions are regulated by the states, and the amount of funding they receive is largely reliant on the state of the economy, according to Sandy Baum, author of the annual College Board Tuition Report. He has even less influence over private institutions, which are virtually unregulated.
Obama laid out the steps his administration planned on taking to help lower the rate of tuition increase in a speech at the State University of New York Buffalo.
One of these steps was to reward colleges that performed well, through an incentives program. The president requested a $1 billion budget for this program, and received it. The Race to the Top: College Affordability and Completion challenge is now in progress. It also created a college scorecard, a long term goal of the administration.
Obama also said he would tie financial aid to college performance. There is no evidence that this has occurred, but the Higher Education Act is once again up for reauthorization.
The Financial Aid Simplification and Transparency Act was also introduced last year and has yet to be voted on. The FAST Act would simplify the criteria for receiving federal financial aid.
When taking into consideration the policies put in place, steps have been made toward tying aid to college success. The remaining changes are reliant on Congress. Based on the actual numbers, however, there is evidence that the tuition rate increase has gone down at public institutions, particularly at 4-year schools. We therefore rate this promise as a Compromise.