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“When we hear things like a shift in federal aid, it causes our antennas to go straight up,” said Molly Corbett Broad, president of the American Council on Education.“Anything that smacks of price controls is of great concern on many levels, especially at a time when states are cutting their budgets — and if the effect of this is to limit tuition, what else would you call it but price controls? Broad said that she and university presidents across the nation shared the president’s commitment to affordable higher education, but that it was not so easy to keep tuition down at a time when institutions must also absorb state budget cuts, increase enrollment and bolster financial aid for the growing number of families who need it.Elsevier, the global publishing company, is responsible for The Lancet, Cell, and about 2,000 other important journals; the iconic reference work Gray’s Anatomy, along with 20,000 other books—and one fed-up, award-winning mathematician.Timothy Gowers of the University of Cambridge, who won the Fields Medal for his research, has organized a boycott of Elsevier because, he says, its pricing and policies restrict access to work that should be much more easily available.Hal Abelson, a professor of computer science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an open-publishing advocate, signed the pledge and wrote that “With the moves of these megapublishers, we [are] seeing the beginning of monopoly control of the scholarly record.” Benjamin R.Seyfarth, an associate professor in the School of Computing at the University of Southern Mississippi, wrote that “nearly all university research is funded by the public and should be available for free.” The idea has echoed around the academic blogosphere, picking up endorsements.To win money, officials said, states would have to maintain their funding levels for higher education and align their entry and exit standards with secondary education and community colleges to help promote graduation on time.The competition for individual institutions would reward colleges or nonprofit organizations that boost productivity through such approaches as course redesign that exploits new technology; early-college preparation that reduces the need for remedial work; and competency-based approaches to college credit that replace the traditional model of rewarding hours spent in class.

There are occasional defenders in the blog comments, such as this response to the blog Crooked Timber’s rallying cry for the boycott: “As a neuroscientist, Elsevier journals are an important factor in publication choice.

In contrast, the campus-based programs the administration is proposing to change are administered by individual schools, whose financial aid offices have substantial discretion.

About 1,700 colleges and universities now offer Perkins loans, a number that would increase to more than 4,000 in the new proposal.

In Michigan, Obama Calls for Overhaul of Financial Aid By HELENE COOPER, The New York Timmes, January 27, 2012, am As is typically the case when President Obama speaks on a college campus, the event at the University of Michigan was high energy.

Doug Mills/The New York Times As is typically the case when President Obama speaks on a college campus, the event at the University of Michigan was high energy. — President Obama called on Congress to approve a financial-aid overhaul that for the first time would tie federal financing to colleges and universities to the success of these institutions in improving affordability and value for students.

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