Californians will get the first chance to comment on President Obama's proposals to make college more affordable during a public forum this week at Cal State Dominguez Hills, officials said.
The Wednesday event is the first in a series of four public sessions held around the country — and the only one in California — to gather input on the president's recently announced agenda to develop a college ratings system to help students select schools with the best bang for their buck.
"Higher education is still the best ticket to upward mobility in America," Obama said in August during a kickoff campaign at the University of Buffalo. "If we don't do something about keeping it within reach, it will create problems for economic mobility for generations to come."
The ratings score card would be developed for the 2015 school year using such measures as the percentage of low-income students receiving federal Pell grants, average tuition and student debt, graduation and transfer rates, and graduate incomes.
Other proposals would award more financial aid to students at higher-rated colleges and provide incentives for new cost-saving approaches such as three-year bachelor's degrees and online programs.
The ratings system has elicited concern among some higher education experts who question the reliability of graduation rates and other data that would be used.
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan acknowledged the difficult road ahead during a news briefing Wednesday.
"We know there is no silver bullet or easy solution," Duncan said. "But we can't let the challenges facing higher education become a discussion-ending excuse."
The Cal State Dominguez Hills event is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Loker Student Union Ballroom. Walk-in registration will be on a first-come, first-served basis but officials suggested those wishing to participate register ahead of time by sending an email to email@example.com with the subject "Open Forum Registration."
There will be no charge for parking.
"This is an important issue for higher education and the communities we serve, and a unique opportunity to be involved in the process to advance critical higher education policy that will impact every student and educator in the country," Cal State Dominguez Hills President Willie J. Hagan said in a statement.