POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS
OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:
President Barack Obama waves to the crowd after arriving at the University of Colorado Denver campus, in Denver, Colo., Oct. 26, 2011. The President delivered remarks on the steps the Administration is taking to increase college affordability by making it easier to manage student loan debt. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Source: WH, 10-26-11
In this globally competitive, knowledge-based economy, higher education has never been more important. Simply put, America cannot lead in the 21st century without the best educated, most competitive workforce in the world. Nations that out-educate us today will out-compete us tomorrow, which is why some form of higher education is an absolute must.
We also know that college costs have never been higher — or more difficult to manage. The Administration has already provided aid to millions of students with historic investments in programs like Pell Grants and the American Opportunity Tax Credit. But we realize that many borrowers are struggling to both pay off their loans and make ends meet every month. And fear of being saddled with debt in the long run may deter many potential students from enrolling in college. They need help now.
That’s why today, President Obama announced new efforts to make college more affordable by helping millions of borrowers better manage their federal student loan debt. We’re taking executive action with two measures that will bring relief to borrowers by lowering their monthly loan payments — at no cost to taxpayers.
First, for some students we are proposing to cap student loan repayment at 10 percent of a borrower’s discretionary income, starting next year. For many who worry about managing their debt while working in lower-paying fields — including teachers, nurses, public defenders, and social workers — this could reduce their payments by hundreds each month.
We also want to provide immediate relief to borrowers already repaying their loans. While the pay-as-you-earn proposal would only apply to some current students and recent graduates, millions more borrowers may already be eligible for our current income-based repayment plan, which caps payments at 15 percent of a borrower’s discretionary income. We know there are folks who are struggling in repayment now — and for them the current Income Based Repayment (IBR) plan may be a great option. To learn more about this plan to see if it makes sense for you, visit www.studentaid.ed.gov/ibr….
President Obama has made historic investments in making college more affordable for millions of students. But many people who took out loans to pay for their education are struggling to make monthly payments on those loans, making our tough economic times a little bit more challenging. We can’t wait to help these people keep up with their student loans.
Today, the Obama Administration announced steps we are taking to help borrowers better manage their student loan debt by moving forward with a new “Pay As You Earn” proposal that will reduce monthly payments for more than 1.6 million people. Starting in 2014, borrowers will be able to reduce their monthly student loan payments from 15 percent to 10 percent of their discretionary income. But President Obama realizes that many students need relief sooner than that. The new “Pay As You Earn” proposal will fast track the initiative to begin next year.
POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES
Remarks by the President on College Affordability
Auraria Events Center
University of Colorado – Denver Campus
10:25 A.M. MDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you! Well, it is great to be back in Colorado. (Applause.) And it is great to be here at CU Denver. (Applause.)
I tend to have some pretty good memories about Denver. (Applause.) We had a little gathering here a few years ago, at Mile High. (Applause.) So coming here gets me fired up. Even when it’s snowing outside, I’m fired up. (Applause.) I don’t know where else you can go sledding in Halloween. (Laughter.) It’s like, what’s up with the snow this soon? I mean, is this actually late? This is late for Denver, huh?
I want to start by thanking Mahala for the wonderful introduction and for sharing her story, which I know resonates with a lot of young people here. I want to thank your outstanding Governor, who’s here — John Hickenlooper is in the house. (Applause.) There he is. The Mayor of Denver, Michael Hancock, is in the house. (Applause.) The Lieutenant Governor, Joe Garcia, is in the house. (Applause.) And one of the finest public servants, somebody you were wise enough to elect and then reelect as United States Senator — Michael Bennet is in the house.
You guys do a good job when it comes to elected officials in Colorado, I just want you to know. (Applause.) You have a good eye for talent.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: We love you!
THE PRESIDENT: I love you back. I do. (Applause.)
Now, I’ve been doing a lot of traveling lately. And the reason I’ve been hitting the road so much is because the folks I’m talking to in cities and small towns and communities all across America, they’re — let’s face it, they’re making a little more sense than the folks back in Washington. (Applause.)
Here in Colorado, you’ve got folks who are spending months — some, years — looking for work. We’ve got families who are making tough sacrifices just to pay the bills, or the mortgage, or college tuition. And Americans know we need to do something about it. (Applause.) And I know this is especially hard for a lot of young people.
You guys came of age at a time of profound change. Globalization and technology have all made the world much more competitive. Although this offers unmatched opportunity — I mean, the way that the world is now linked up and synched up means that you can start a business that’s global from your laptop. But it also means that we are going to have to adapt to these changes.
And for decades, too many of our institutions — from Washington to Wall Street — failed to adapt, or they adapted in ways that didn’t work for ordinary folk — for middle-class families, for those aspiring to get into the middle class. We had an economy that was based more on consuming things and piling up debt than making things and creating value. We had a philosophy that said if we cut taxes for the very wealthiest, and we gut environmental regulations, and we don’t enforce labor regulations, and somehow if we let Wall Street just write the rules, that somehow that was going to lead to prosperity. And instead what it did was culminate in the worst financial crisis and the deepest recession since the Great Depression.
For the last three years, we’ve worked to stabilize the economy, and we’ve made some progress. An economy that was shrinking is now growing, but too slowly. We’ve had private sector job growth, but it’s been offset by layoffs of teachers and police and firefighters, of the public sector. And we’ve still got a long way to go.
And now, as you young people are getting ready to head out into the world, I know you’re hearing stories from friends and classmates and siblings who are struggling to find work, and you’re wondering what’s in store for your future. And I know that can be scary. (Applause.) So the –
AUDIENCE MEMBER: — Mother Earth — backs of our children and our future.
THE PRESIDENT: All right. Thank you, guys. We’re looking at it right now, all right? No decision has been made. And I know your deep concern about it. So we will address it.
So here’s what I also know — and I know that’s true for folks who are concerned about the environment, folks who are concerned about foreign policy, but also folks who are concerned about the economy.
When I look out at all of you, I feel confident because I know that as long as there are young people like you who still have hope and are still inspired by the possibilities of America, then there are going to be better days for this country. (Applause.) I know that we are going to come through this stronger than before.
And when I wake up every single morning, what I’m thinking about is how do we create an America in which you have opportunity, in which anybody can make it if they try, no matter what they look like, no matter where they come from, no matter what race, what creed, what faith. (Applause.) And the very fact — the very fact that you are here, investing in your education, the fact that you’re going to college, the fact that you’re making an investment in your future tells me that you share my faith in America’s future. (Applause.) You inspire me — your hopes and your dreams and your opportunities.
And so the truth is the economic problems we face today didn’t happen overnight, and they won’t be solved overnight. The challenges we face on the environment, or on getting comprehensive immigration reform done — on all these issues we are going to keep on pushing. And it’s going to take time to restore a sense of security for middle-class Americans. It’s going to take time to rebuild an economy that works for everybody — not just those at the top. (Applause.) But there are steps we can take right now to put Americans back to work and give our economy a boost. I know it. You know it. The American people know it.
You’ve got leaders like Michael Bennet and Mark Udall and Diana DeGette that are looking out for you. But the problem is there are some in Washington — (audience interruption) — there are some in Washington who don’t seem to share this same sense of urgency. Last week, for the second time this month, Republicans in the Senate blocked a jobs bill from moving forward.
AUDIENCE: Booo –
THE PRESIDENT: Now, this is a jobs bill that would have meant nearly 400,000 teachers and firefighters and first responders back on the job. (Applause.) It was the kind of proposal that in the past has gotten Democratic and Republican support.
It was paid for by asking those who have done the best in our society, those who have made the most, to just do a little bit more. And it was supported by an overwhelming majority of the American people. But they still said no. And it doesn’t make sense. How can you say no to creating jobs at a time when so many people are looking for work? It doesn’t make any sense.
So the truth is the only way we can attack our economic challenges on the scale that’s necessary — the only way we can put hundreds of thousands of people, millions of people, back to work is if Congress is willing to cooperate with the executive branch and we are able to do some bold action — like passing the jobs bill. That’s what we need. (Applause.)
And that’s why I am going to keep forcing these senators to vote on common-sense, paid-for jobs proposals. And I’m going to need you to help send them the message. You don’t need to tell Michael Bennet — he’s already on the page. (Laughter.) But I’m going to need you guys to be out there calling and tweeting and all the stuff you do. (Laughter.)
But, listen, we’re not going to wait, though. We’re not waiting for Congress. Last month, when I addressed a joint session of Congress about our jobs crisis, I said I intend to do everything in my power right now to act on behalf of the American people — with or without Congress. (Applause.) We can’t wait for Congress to do its job. So where they won’t act, I will. (Applause.)
And that’s why, in recent weeks, we’ve been taking a series of executive actions. We decided we couldn’t stop — we couldn’t just wait for Congress to fix No Child Left Behind. We went ahead and decided, let’s give states the flexibility they need to meet higher standards for our kids and improve our schools. (Applause.)
We said we can’t wait for Congress to help small businesses. We’re going to go ahead and say to the federal government, pay small businesses faster if they’re contractors so they’ve got more money and they can start hiring more people. (Applause.)
We said we’re not going to wait for Congress to fix what’s going on in our health care system. We eliminated regulations that will save hospitals and patients billions of dollars. (Applause.) And yesterday we announced a new initiative to make it easier for veterans to get jobs, putting their skills to work in hospitals and community centers. (Applause.)
On Monday, we announced a new policy that will help families whose home values have fallen, to refinance their mortgages and to save up to thousands of dollars a year.
All these steps aren’t going to take the place of the needed action that Congress has to get going on — they’re still going to have to pass this jobs bill, they’ve got to create jobs, they’ve got to grow the economy — but these executive actions we’re taking can make a difference.
And I’ve told my administration we’re going to look every single day to figure out what we can do without Congress. What can we do without them? (Applause.) Steps that can save you money, and make government more efficient and responsive, and help heal this economy. So we’re going to be announcing these steps on a regular basis. And that’s why I came to Denver today — to do something that will be especially important to all of you here at CU Denver and millions of students — and former students — all across America. (Applause.)
Now, I mentioned that we live in a global economy, where businesses can set up shop anywhere where there’s an Internet connection. So we live in a time when, over the next decade, 60 percent of new jobs will require more than a high school diploma. And other countries are hustling to out-educate us today, so they can out-compete us tomorrow. They want the jobs of the future. I want you to have those jobs. (Applause.) I want America to have those jobs. (Applause.) I want America to have the most highly skilled workers doing the most advanced work. I want us to win the future. (Applause.)
So that means we should be doing everything we can to put a college education within reach for every American. (Applause.) That has never been more important. It’s never been more important, but, let’s face it, it’s also never been more expensive. There was a new report today, tuition gone up again, on average — much faster than inflation; certainly much faster than wages and incomes.
Over the past three decades, the cost of college has nearly tripled. And that is forcing you, forcing students, to take out more loans and rack up more debt. Last year, graduates who took out loans left college owing an average of $24,000. Student loan debt has now surpassed credit card debt, for the first time ever.
Now, living with that kind of debt means making some pretty tough choices when you’re first starting out. It might mean putting off buying a house. It might mean you can’t start a business idea that you’ve got. It may mean that you’ve got to wait longer to start a family, or certainly it means you’re putting off saving for retirement because you’re still paying off your student loans.
And when a big chunk of every paycheck goes towards student loans instead of being spent on other things, that’s not just tough for middle-class families, it’s painful for the economy and it’s harmful to our recovery because that money is not going to help businesses grow.
And let me say this — this is something Michelle and I know about firsthand. I’ve been in your shoes. We did not come from a wealthy family. (Applause.) I was raised mostly by a single mom and my grandparents. And Michelle, she had sort of a “Leave it to Beaver” perfect family, but — (laughter) — she did. They’re wonderful. (Laughter.) But her dad was a blue-collar worker, and her mom stayed at home. But then when she did go to work, she worked as a secretary. So our folks didn’t have a lot of money. We didn’t even own our own home; we rented most of the time that we were growing up.
So by the time we both graduated from law school, we had, between us, about $120,000 worth of debt. We combined and got poorer together. (Laughter.) So we combined our liabilities, not our assets. (Laughter.) So we were paying more for our student loans than we paid on our mortgage each month.
Look, obviously we were lucky to have gotten a great education and we were able to land good jobs with a steady income. But it still took us almost 10 years to finally pay off all our student debt. And that wasn’t easy, especially once we had Malia and Sasha, because now we’re supposed to be saving for their college, but we’re still paying for ours. (Laughter.)
So the idea is, how do we make college more affordable, and how do we make sure you are burdened with less debt? Now, college — keep in mind, college isn’t just one of the best investments you can make in your future. It’s one of the bets investments America can make in our future. (Applause.) So we want you in school. We want you in school. But we shouldn’t saddle you with debt when you’re starting off.
So that’s why, since taking office, we’ve made it a priority to make college more affordable, reduce your student loan debt. Last year we fought to eliminate these taxpayer subsidies that were going to big banks. They were serving as middlemen in the student loan program — some of you may have heard about this. So even though the loans were guaranteed by the federal government, we were still paying banks billions of dollars to be pass-throughs for the student loan program.
And we said, well, that’s not a good idea. (Laughter.) That’s not a good — now, of course, there were some in Washington who opposed me on this — that’s surprising. (Laughter.) I know — shocking. (Laughter.) So you had some Republicans in Congress who fought us tooth and nail to protect the status quo and to keep these tax dollars flowing to the big banks instead of going to middle-class families. One of them said changing it would be “an outrage.” The real outrage was letting banks keep these subsidies while students were working three jobs just to try to get by. That was the outrage. (Applause.) And that’s why we ended the practice once and for all, to put a college education within reach of more Americans.
Then in last year’s State of the Union address, I asked Congress to pass a law that tells 1 million students they won’t have to pay more than 10 percent of their income toward student loans. And we won that fight, too — (applause) — and that law will take effect by the time — that law is scheduled to take effect by the time freshmen graduate.
But we decided, let’s see if we can do a little bit more. So today, I’m here to announce that we’re going to speed things up. (Applause.) We’re going to make these changes work for students who are in college right now. (Applause.) We’re going to put them into effect not three years from now, not two years from now — we’re going to put them into effect next year, (Applause.) Because our economy needs it right now and your future could use a boost right now. (Applause.)
So here is what this is going to mean. Because of this change, about 1.6 million Americans could see their payments go down by hundreds of dollars a month — and that includes some of the students who are here today. (Applause.) What we’re also going to do is we’re going to take steps to consolidate student loans so that instead of paying multiple payments to multiple lenders every month — and let me tell you, I remember this. I remember writing like five different checks to five different loan agencies — and if you lost one that month, you couldn’t get all the bills together, you missed a payment, and then suddenly you were paying a penalty. We’re going to make it easier for you to have one payment a month at a better interest rate. (Applause.) And this won’t cost — it won’t cost taxpayers a dime, but it will save you money and it will save you time. (Applause.)
And we want to start giving students a simple fact sheet. We’re going to call it “Know Before You Owe” — (applause) — “Know Before You Owe” — so you have all the information you need to make your own decisions about how to pay for college. And I promise you, I wish Michelle and I had had that when we were in your shoes.
So these changes will make a difference for millions of Americans. It will save you money. It will help more young people figure out how to afford college. It can put more money in your pocket once you graduate. And because you’ll have some certainty, knowing that it’s only a certain percentage of your income that is going to pay off your student loans, that means you will be more confident and comfortable to buy a house or save for retirement. And that will give our economy a boost at a time when it desperately needs it. (Applause.) So this is not just important to our country right now, it’s important to our country’s future.
When Michelle and I tuck our girls in at night, we think about how we are only where we are because somewhere down the line, somebody decided we’re going to give everybody a chance. It doesn’t matter if you’re not born wealthy; it doesn’t matter if your dad is disabled or doesn’t own his own home; it doesn’t matter if you’re a single mom who had to take food stamps — you’re still going to get a shot. You’re still going to get an education. (Applause.) This country gave us a chance. And because our parents and their generation worked and sacrificed, they passed on opportunity to us. And they didn’t do it alone. It was something that we as a country did together.
And now it’s our turn — because the dream of opportunity is what I want for you, and I want for my daughters, and I want them for your children. I want them for all young people, because no matter how tough times are, no matter how many obstacles stand in our way, we are going to make the dream that all Americans share real once again. And that starts right now. It starts with you. (Applause.) It starts with you.
I am going to keep doing everything in my power to make a difference for the American people. But, Denver, I need your help. (Applause.) Some of these folks in Washington still aren’t getting the message. I need your voices heard. I especially need your young — young people, I need you guys involved. I need you active. I need you communicating to Congress. I need you to get the word out. Like I said, tweet them. Tweet them — they’re all tweeting all over the place. (Laughter.) You tweet them back. Whatever works for you.
Tell them, do your job. Tell them, the President has ideas that in the past have been supported by Democrats and Republicans — there’s no reason not to support them just to play politics. (Applause.) It’s time to put country ahead of party. It’s time to put the next generation ahead of the next election. (Applause.) It’s time for all of us in Washington to do our job. It’s time for them to do their job. (Applause.) Too many people out there are hurting. Too many people are out there hurting for us to sit around and doing nothing.
And we are not a people who just sit around and wait for things to happen. We’re Americans; we make things happen. We fix problems. (Applause.) We meet our challenges. We don’t hold back, and we don’t quit. (Applause.) And that’s the spirit we need right now.
So, Denver, let’s go out and meet the moment. Let’s do the right thing, and let’s go, once again, show the world just why it is the United States of America is the greatest nation on Earth. (Applause.)
God bless you. God bless the United States of America. (Applause.) Thank you.
10:51 A.M. MDT
FACT SHEET: “Help Americans Manage Student Loan Debt”
Source: WH, 10-25-11
The Administration has made historic investments in Pell Grants and the American Opportunity Tax Credit to help make college more affordable for millions of current and future students. While college remains an excellent investment for most students, debt may discourage some potential students from enrolling, keeping them from getting the skills they need to compete in the global economy. Some borrowers may struggle to manage their bills and support their families. The need for enough income to make large monthly payments may discourage some graduates from starting a new job-creating business or entering teaching or another lower-paying public service career.
Today, the President announced a series of additional steps that the Administration will take to make college more affordable and to make it even easier for students to repay their federal student loans:
Help Americans Manage Student Loan Debt by Capping Monthly Payments to What They Can Afford
- Allow borrowers to cap their student loan payments at 10% of discretionary income. In the 2010 State of the Union, the President proposed – and Congress quickly enacted – an improved income-based repayment (IBR) plan, which allows student loan borrowers to cap their monthly payments at 15% of their discretionary income. Beginning July 1, 2014, the IBR plan is scheduled to reduce that limit from 15% to 10% of discretionary income.
- Today, the President announced that his Administration is putting forth a new “Pay As You Earn” proposal to make sure these same important benefits are made available to some borrowers as soon as 2012. The Administration estimates that this cap will reduce monthly payments for more than 1.6 million student borrowers.
- A nurse who is earning $45,000 and has $60,000 in federal student loans. Under the standard repayment plan, this borrower’s monthly repayment amount is $690. The currently available IBR plan would reduce this borrower’s payment by $332 to $358. President Obama’s improved ‘Pay As You Earn’ plan will reduce her payment by an additional $119 to a more manageable $239 — a total reduction of $451 a month.
- A teacher who is earning $30,000 a year and has $25,000 in Federal student loans. Under the standard repayment plan, this borrower’s monthly repayment amount is $287 . The currently available IBR plan would reduce this borrower’s payment by $116, to $171. Under the improved ‘P ay As You Earn’ plan, his monthly payment amount would be even more manageable at only $114. And, if this borrower remained a teacher or was employed in another public service occupation, he would be eligible for forgiveness under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program after 10 years of payments .
- Continues to provide help for those already in the workforce. Recent graduates and others in the workforce who are still struggling to pay off their student loans can immediately take advantage of the current income-based repayment plan that caps payments at 15% of the borrower’s discretionary income to help them manage their debt. Currently, more than 36 million Americans have federal student loan debt, but fewer than 450,000 Americans participate in income-based repayment. Millions more may be eligible to reduce their monthly payments to an amount affordable based on income and family size. The Administration is taking steps to make it easier to participate in IBR and continues to reach out to borrowers to let them know about the program .
Borrowers looking to determine whether or not income-based repayment is the right option for them should visit http://studentaid.ed.gov/ibr.
The CFPB also released the Student Debt Repayment Assistant, an online tool that provides borrowers, many of whom may be struggling with repayment, with information on income-based repayment, deferments, alternative payment programs, and much more. The Student Debt Repayment Assistant is available at ConsumerFinance.gov/students/repay
Improve Ease of Making Payments and Reduce Default Risk by Consolidating Loans
- Provide a discount on consolidation loans. While all new federal student loans are now Direct Loans thanks to the historic reforms in the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act, there are still $400 billion outstanding in old Federal Family Education Loans. These loans offer fewer repayment options and are unnecessarily expensive for taxpayers. In addition, about 6 million borrowers have at least one Direct Loan and at least one FFEL loan, which requires them to submit two separate monthly payments, a complexity that puts them at greater risk of default.
To ensure borrowers are not adversely impacted by this transition and to facilitate loan repayment while reducing taxpayer costs, the Department of Education is encouraging borrowers with split loans to consolidate their guaranteed FFEL loans into the Direct Loan program. Borrowers do not need to take any action at this time. Beginning in January 2012, the Department will reach out to qualified borrowers early next year to alert them of the opportunity.
This special consolidation initiative would keep the terms and conditions of the loans the same, and most importantly, beginning in January 2012, allow borrowers to make only one monthly payment, as opposed to two or more payments, greatly simplifying the repayment process. Borrowers who take advantage of this special, limited-time consolidation option would also receive up to a 0.5 percent reduction to their interest rate on some of their loans, which means lower monthly payments and saving hundreds in interest. Borrowers would receive a 0.25 percent interest rate reduction on their consolidated FFEL loans and an additional 0.25 percent interest rate reduction on the entire consolidated FFEL and DL balance.
- A borrower about to enter repayment with two $4,500 FFEL Stafford loans (at 6.0%) and a $5,500 Direct Stafford loan (at 4.5%). Under Standard Repayment, the borrower can expect to pay a total of $4,330 in interest until the loans are paid in full. If this borrower consolidates their FFEL loans under this initiative they would save $376 in interest payments, and make only one payment per month, instead of two.
- A borrower in repayment with a $32,000 FFEL Consolidation loan (at 6.25%) and a $5,500 Direct Unsubsidized Stafford loan (at 6.8%). Under Standard Repayment, the borrower can expect to pay a total of $13,211 in interest until the loans are paid in full. If this borrower consolidates the FFEL loan under this initiative they would save $964 in interest payments, and make only one payment per month instead of two.
Provide Consumers with Better Information to Make College Selection Decisions
“Know Before You Owe” Financial Aid Shopping Sheet.
- The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Department of Education have teamed up to launch a new “Know Before You Owe” project aimed at creating a model financial aid disclosure form, which colleges and universities could use to help students better understand the type and amount of aid they qualify for and easily compare aid packages offered by different institutions. This “Financial Aid Shopping Sheet” makes the costs and risks of student loans clear upfront – before students have enrolled – outlining their total estimated student loan debt, monthly loan payments after graduation and additional costs not covered by federal aid. Ultimately, this provides students and their families with useful information that can help them make a more informed decision about where to attend college and help them better understand the debt burden they may be left with.
The CFPB is soliciting feedback on how to further improve the form, especially looking for input from college students and their families. They can go to the CFPB’s website ( http://consumerfinance.gov/students/knowbeforeyouowe ) where an online ranking tool will provide the public with an opportunity to weigh in on the financial aid shopping sheet.