Full Text Obama Presidency October 1, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Statement on the Shootings at Umpqua Community College, Roseburg, Oregon Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Statement by the President on the Shootings at Umpqua Community College, Roseburg, Oregon

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

6:22 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  There’s been another mass shooting in America — this time, in a community college in Oregon.

That means there are more American families — moms, dads, children — whose lives have been changed forever.  That means there’s another community stunned with grief, and communities across the country forced to relieve their own anguish, and parents across the country who are scared because they know it might have been their families or their children.

I’ve been to Roseburg, Oregon.  There are really good people there.  I want to thank all the first responders whose bravery likely saved some lives today.  Federal law enforcement has been on the scene in a supporting role, and we’ve offered to stay and help as much as Roseburg needs, for as long as they need.

In the coming days, we’ll learn about the victims — young men and women who were studying and learning and working hard, their eyes set on the future, their dreams on what they could make of their lives.  And America will wrap everyone who’s grieving with our prayers and our love.

But as I said just a few months ago, and I said a few months before that, and I said each time we see one of these mass shootings, our thoughts and prayers are not enough.  It’s not enough.  It does not capture the heartache and grief and anger that we should feel.  And it does nothing to prevent this carnage from being inflicted someplace else in America — next week, or a couple of months from now.

We don’t yet know why this individual did what he did.  And it’s fair to say that anybody who does this has a sickness in their minds, regardless of what they think their motivations may be.  But we are not the only country on Earth that has people with mental illnesses or want to do harm to other people.  We are the only advanced country on Earth that sees these kinds of mass shootings every few months.

Earlier this year, I answered a question in an interview by saying, “The United States of America is the one advanced nation on Earth in which we do not have sufficient common-sense gun-safety laws — even in the face of repeated mass killings.”  And later that day, there was a mass shooting at a movie theater in Lafayette, Louisiana.  That day!  Somehow this has become routine.  The reporting is routine.  My response here at this podium ends up being routine.  The conversation in the aftermath of it.  We’ve become numb to this.

We talked about this after Columbine and Blacksburg, after Tucson, after Newtown, after Aurora, after Charleston.  It cannot be this easy for somebody who wants to inflict harm on other people to get his or her hands on a gun.

And what’s become routine, of course, is the response of those who oppose any kind of common-sense gun legislation.  Right now, I can imagine the press releases being cranked out:  We need more guns, they’ll argue.  Fewer gun safety laws.

Does anybody really believe that?  There are scores of responsible gun owners in this country –they know that’s not true.  We know because of the polling that says the majority of Americans understand we should be changing these laws — including the majority of responsible, law-abiding gun owners.

There is a gun for roughly every man, woman, and child in America.  So how can you, with a straight face, make the argument that more guns will make us safer?  We know that states with the most gun laws tend to have the fewest gun deaths.  So the notion that gun laws don’t work, or just will make it harder for law-abiding citizens and criminals will still get their guns is not borne out by the evidence.

We know that other countries, in response to one mass shooting, have been able to craft laws that almost eliminate mass shootings.  Friends of ours, allies of ours — Great Britain, Australia, countries like ours.  So we know there are ways to prevent it.

And, of course, what’s also routine is that somebody, somewhere will comment and say, Obama politicized this issue.  Well, this is something we should politicize.  It is relevant to our common life together, to the body politic.  I would ask news organizations — because I won’t put these facts forward — have news organizations tally up the number of Americans who’ve been killed through terrorist attacks over the last decade and the number of Americans who’ve been killed by gun violence, and post those side-by-side on your news reports.  This won’t be information coming from me; it will be coming from you.  We spend over a trillion dollars, and pass countless laws, and devote entire agencies to preventing terrorist attacks on our soil, and rightfully so.  And yet, we have a Congress that explicitly blocks us from even collecting data on how we could potentially reduce gun deaths.  How can that be?

This is a political choice that we make to allow this to happen every few months in America.  We collectively are answerable to those families who lose their loved ones because of our inaction.  When Americans are killed in mine disasters, we work to make mines safer.  When Americans are killed in floods and hurricanes, we make communities safer.  When roads are unsafe, we fix them to reduce auto fatalities.  We have seatbelt laws because we know it saves lives.  So the notion that gun violence is somehow different, that our freedom and our Constitution prohibits any modest regulation of how we use a deadly weapon, when there are law-abiding gun owners all across the country who could hunt and protect their families and do everything they do under such regulations doesn’t make sense.

So, tonight, as those of us who are lucky enough to hug our kids a little closer are thinking about the families who aren’t so fortunate, I’d ask the American people to think about how they can get our government to change these laws, and to save lives, and to let young people grow up.  And that will require a change of politics on this issue.  And it will require that the American people, individually, whether you are a Democrat or a Republican or an independent, when you decide to vote for somebody, are making a determination as to whether this cause of continuing death for innocent people should be a relevant factor in your decision.  If you think this is a problem, then you should expect your elected officials to reflect your views.

And I would particularly ask America’s gun owners — who are using those guns properly, safely, to hunt, for sport, for protecting their families — to think about whether your views are properly being represented by the organization that suggests it’s speaking for you.

And each time this happens I’m going to bring this up.  Each time this happens I am going to say that we can actually do something about it, but we’re going to have to change our laws.  And this is not something I can do by myself.  I’ve got to have a Congress and I’ve got to have state legislatures and governors who are willing to work with me on this.

I hope and pray that I don’t have to come out again during my tenure as President to offer my condolences to families in these circumstances.  But based on my experience as President, I can’t guarantee that.  And that’s terrible to say.  And it can change.

May God bless the memories of those who were killed today.  May He bring comfort to their families, and courage to the injured as they fight their way back.  And may He give us the strength to come together and find the courage to change.

Thank you.

END
6:35 P.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency September 14, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at Town Hall on College Access and Affordability transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at Town Hall on College Access and Affordability

Source: WH, 9-14-15

North High School
Des Moines, Iowa

4:06 P.M. CDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Everybody give it up for Russhaun!  (Applause.)  Hello, Iowa! (Applause.)  Well, it is good to be back in Iowa.  (Applause.)  I was missing you guys.  (Applause.) Go, Polar Bears!  (Applause.)  It is great to be back in Des Moines.  You know, I landed at the airport and saw the Hampton Inn there that I — I must have stayed there like a hundred days. (Laughter.)  I’m sure I’ve got some points or something.  I could get a couple free nights at the Hampton Inn.  (Laughter.)

Everybody, have a seat.  Have a seat.  Relax.  And I know it’s September, so I know you guys are all about to be flooded with ads and calls from a bunch of folks who want this job.  (Laughter.)  I just can’t imagine what kind of person would put themselves through something like this.  (Laughter.)  Although I noticed — I didn’t know Russhaun was on the ballot.  During the introduction, he was all like, “the next President of the United States.”

We could not be prouder of Russhaun, not just for the introduction, but for the inspiring story that he’s told.  I think it’s an example of what our young people can do when they put their minds to it.

I want to thank your principal, Mike Vukovich.  Where’s Mike?  (Applause.)  There he is.  Your Superintendent is here — Tom Ahart is here.  Where’s Tom?  (Applause.)  Your Mayor, Frank Cownie is here, who is a great friend.  Where’s Frank?  He was here.  He had to go to a City Council meeting.  He’s missing out on the fun.  Iowa Attorney General and great friend of mine, Tom Miller.  (Applause.)  Treasurer Mike Fitzgerald, great supporter. (Applause.)  And, of course, Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, for letting me crash his bus tour.  (Applause.)

So I’m not going to give a long speech, because we want to spend most of the time taking questions from all of you.  But I just want to explain that we came to North High School because you guys have done some great things over the past few years — making sure more students have laptops and iPads, more AP classes, improving test scores.  And so you’ve become a great example for the whole country of what’s possible.  (Applause.)

So we thought we’d come to pay you a visit, talk with some of the students here in Des Moines and your parents.  Because I know that there’s nothing that high schoolers love more than being in public with their moms and dads.  (Laughter.)  I know that — that’s what Malia and Sasha tell me all the time.  (Laughter.)

It was seven years ago this week that a financial crisis on Wall Street ended up ushering in some really hard years on Main Street.  But thanks to the incredible resilience and grit and hard work of the American people, we’ve bounced back.  We’ve created 13.1 million new private sector jobs over the past five and a half years.  We’ve helped more than 16 million people have the security of health insurance, many of them for the first time.  Our high school graduation rate is the highest that it has ever been.  (Applause.)  And I should point out, by the way, if you want to see the best graduation rate in America, it’s right here in Iowa.  (Applause.)

So we’ve been investing in things that help to grow the middle class and help provide opportunity for every young person. But no 21st century economy — nobody in a 21st century economy is going to be able to do what they want to do with their lives unless they’ve got a great education.  That’s just the truth.  By 2020, two in three job openings are going to require some form of post-high school education — whether it’s a four-year university, or a community college, or a tech school.  And it’s an investment that pays off.

Now, partly it pays off — and Russhaun mentioned this — because it empowers you.  It gives you a sense of who you are, and your hopes and your dreams.  It helps to sharpen how you see the world, and empowers you in all sorts of ways.  But it also has some pretty practical ramifications.  Compared to a high school diploma, a degree from a two-year school could earn you an extra $10,000 a year -– a four-year degree could earn you a million dollars more over the course of your lifetime.  That’s how important education is in today’s economy.

And here’s the thing — just as higher education has never been more important, let’s face it, it’s never been more expensive.  And that’s why Arne and I have been working to try to make college and post-high school education more affordable.  We’ve increased scholarships.  We reformed our student loan system that funneled billions of taxpayer dollars into big banks — we said, let’s cut out the middleman, let’s put that money directly to students.  We created a new tax credit of up to $2,500 to help working families pay for tuition and books and fees.  We’re helping people cap their federal student loan payments at 10 percent of their income.  So if you want to be a teacher, or you want to be a social worker, or some other profession that may not make a huge amount of money, you can still do that, knowing that you’re not going to go — you’re still going to be able to afford to support yourself and your family while doing it.  And we’re fighting for two years of free community college for any student that’s willing to work for it. (Applause.)

The bottom line is, is that no young person in America should be priced out of college.  They should not be priced out of an education.

And I know that finding the right school for you, the best school for you is a tough process.  Malia is going through it right now.  You guys are juggling deadlines and applications and personal statements.  And some of you, in the back of your mind, are asking yourselves what you plan for a career and what you want to do with your life.

I think we should make that process easier.  So a couple of things that we’ve done that we’re announcing over the course of this week during Arne’s bus tour — we’ve introduced something called College Scorecard.  Right now, a lot of families don’t have all the information they need to choose the right school.  And a lot of the college ranking systems that you see, they reward schools just for spending more money, or for rejecting more students.  And I think that’s the wrong focus.  I think that our colleges should be focusing on affordability and on serving students and providing them good value.

So we’ve pulled together all sorts of data on college costs and value; we created this College Scorecard.  And you can scroll through it to see which schools are more likely to graduate their students, are more likely to result in good jobs for the students, more likely to make sure that those students can pay off their student loans — and you can then use that information to make choices that are right for your future and right for your budget.

And you guys can go to CollegeScorecard.ED.gov.  CollegeScorecard.ED.gov — and we’ve already got half a million visits since we launched this thing on Saturday.  So it’s a valuable tool for students and parents as you’re trying to make a decision about which school to go to.

We’re also simplifying the financial aid process to give you more time as you make a decision.  Right now, about two million students don’t claim the financial aid that they’re eligible for. And part of it is it’s just complicated and time-consuming.  And so those young people are leaving money on the table.  And there may be some young people here who are not aware of all the financial help you can get.  So what we’ve done is we’ve shortened the federal student aid form — it’s called FAFSA — down to about 20 minutes.  It used to be about two, three times as long.

And because only Congress has the power to eliminate certain requirements, we’re asking them to simplify it even further.  The good news is it’s got some good bipartisan support.  In fact, we’ve got a Congressman here from Virginia who traveled with us

— Congressman Bobby Scott — where’s Bobby?  There he is way in the back there.  (Applause.)  And he’s working — he’s a Democrat — he’s working with Republicans to see if we can further shorten and make this form simpler.

Today, I’m also announcing that beginning next year, families will be able to fill out FAFSA even earlier — starting on October 1st, right around the time that college applications ramp up.  That means you won’t have to wait for months for your W-2s to arrive before you can get started, so you can get a jump on the college application process.  You’ll know sooner how much aid you qualify for; you’ll have more time to evaluate your options.  And we’re also working with colleges and universities and scholarship programs to align their application and their financial aid processes with this new FAFSA start date.

So all these steps taken together should help hundreds of thousands more students pay for college.  And I know that’s important to you.

I’m going to end my opening remarks with a story from somebody who couldn’t be here today, but graduated from here last year, and his name is Neico Greene.  (Applause.)  You might remember Neico from the Polar Bear basketball team.  (Applause.) And the reason that I want to tell his story is for the past few years, Neico was homeless.  As a junior and senior, he was grateful to mostly stay with his coach or his counselor.  But before that, he spent nights in shelters and in church basements, or in hotels with his mom — sometimes sleeping next to drug addicts or worse.  And this is something Neico wrote.  He said, “I’ve seen some terrible things… but I’m thankful for what I’ve been through because it’s taught me to be strong.”

And being strong meant studying.  It meant keeping his eye on college.  Applying for — and winning — some scholarships.  Last year, he filled out his FAFSA, found out he qualified for thousands of dollars of federal and state aid.  Today, Neico is a freshman at Graceland University.  He’s studying accounting.  He’s still playing ball, hoping to make enough money one day to build a career and give back to the mom that he loves.  (Applause.)

So that’s why we’re here.  That’s what this is about — the students like Neico and Russhaun.  Students like many of you who want to take that next step and have big dreams.  We want you to know that we’re there to help you achieve those dreams.  We want to make sure that we’re giving every student who’s willing to put in the effort all the tools that they need in order to succeed.

That’s not just good for the students, by the way.  That’s also good for America.  Because this country was built on the notion that it doesn’t matter where you come from, what you look like, what your last name is — if you’re willing to work hard, you can make it.  And education is the key to making that future possible.  That’s how we grow this country.  That’s how we make it successful.  And that’s the incredible project, the great experiment in democracy that all of you are part of.

So, with that, Arne and I are looking forward to taking your questions.  Thank you very much, everybody.  (Applause.)

All right.  So here’s how this is going to work.  You raise your hand and I’ll call on you.  We’re going to go girl, boy, girl, boy — to make it fair.  (Laughter.)  There should be people in the audience with microphones, so wait until they get there.  And introduce yourself.  Try to keep your question short enough that we can get as many questions in as possible.

And contrary to what Arne said, he’s going to get all the tough questions and I just want the easy ones.  (Laughter.)  All right.  So let’s see who wants to go first?  All right, well, this young lady, she shot her hand up quick.  Right here.  We need a microphone up here.  All right.

Q    Hi, my name is Angelica (ph).  And my question is for your — it’s what do you believe the role of a teacher should be?

THE PRESIDENT:  What do I believe the role of teacher should be?  That’s a great question.  When I think about my own life — some of you may know, my dad left when I was very young, so I really didn’t know him.  So I was raised by a single mom.  And we didn’t have a lot when we were coming up, although my mom had this great love of learning.  But she was a teenager when she had me; she was 18.  And she was still going to school and working at the same time as she was raising me and then my sister.

She was my first great teacher.  And what she taught me was compassion, caring about other people, but she also taught me to be curious.  And when I think back to all the great teachers that I’ve had, it’s not so much the facts that they’ve taught me — because I can get those from books — but it has been teachers who are able to spark in me a sense of curiosity, like, well, how does that work?  Why is that the way it is?  Somebody who has helped me want to learn more.  That, to me, is the role of a great teacher.  Somebody who can teach you to be so interested in the subject that you then start over time teaching yourself.

And I’ll bet there are a lot of great teachers here.  Part of the challenge I think for being a teacher is, is that sometimes students don’t always appreciate good teachers, let’s face it.  Because I think sometimes we think education is something that you just receive from somebody else.  It’s passive.  They just kind of pour knowledge in here.  But in fact, good teaching is a conversation that you’re having with somebody where they’re giving you not just answers but also asking you questions, and helping your brain get a workout and try to learn how to figure things out yourself.

And also, I think great teachers are somebody who’s got — who have — are people who have confidence in you and have high expectations for you, and they see something in you where they get a sense of, you know what, you’re important, and you can do amazing things.  And when you feel that from a teacher, that a teacher really thinks you’ve got something in you that’s worth saying or writing or — those are the teachers that you remember. Those are the teachers that inspire you.

What do you think, Arne?

SECRETARY DUNCAN:  I’ll be quick.  I think it’s a really, really good answer.  The only thing I would add is I think great teachers see things in students that they don’t even see in themselves, and pull things out of you.  And someone like Russhaun, who talked publicly, mom was locked up — lots of folks could look at you and say, well, that’s where he’s going to go.  Other teachers see him as a student body president, as a future teacher, as a future leader in the community.

So those amazing teachers see things in us as kids.  Those are the teachers I remember from my childhood, who saw things in me that I didn’t even recognize myself and helped to bring that to life.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Great question.  All right.  I think it’s a guy’s turn now.  Let’s see.  That gentleman right back there, around the corner there.

Q    Hi, my name is Dennis.  I have a senior here at North High School.  (Laughter.)  What’s so funny?

THE PRESIDENT:  Are you the dad that’s embarrassing —

Q    Maybe.

THE PRESIDENT:  Your daughter is just like, oh, dad, god.

Q    Well, it’s a give-and-take; they embarrass me, I’m going to embarrass them.  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Listen, I’m right there with you.  (Laughter.)

Q    Okay.  In your opinion, of all the next presidential candidates that are in line, which ones have the best ideas for education reform to make it more affordable and accessible?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, you know, I — (laughter and applause) — I’m going to beg off this question a little bit.  I promise you I’m generally going to give you straight answers.  On this one, I’m going to wiggle around a little bit.  (Laughter.)  Right now, I’m going to try to stay out of the campaign season until it — partly because I can’t keep track of all the candidates.  (Laughter.)  So I’ll wait until it’s winnowed down a little bit before I have an opinion.

But here’s what I can say — that a society’s values are reflected in where we put our time, our effort, our money.  It is not sufficient for us to say we care about education if we aren’t actually putting resources into education.  (Applause.)

Now, both Arne and I have gotten some guff sometimes from even within our own party because we’ve said that money alone is not enough; that it’s important for us, if a school isn’t teaching consistently kids so that they can achieve, then we’ve got to change how we do things, in collaboration with teachers and principals and parents and students.  We’ve got to figure out how do we make it work better.

So a lot of the initiatives we’ve had in terms of increased accountability and encouraging more creativity and empowering teachers more, those don’t cost money.  But what we also know is that if science labs don’t have the right equipment, then it’s harder to teach science.  If kids don’t have access to broadband and laptops in their classrooms, then they’re at a disadvantage to those kids who do.  If you’ve got a school that doesn’t have enough counselors, and so, come time to apply for college, there aren’t enough counselors to go around and kids aren’t getting the best advice that they need, then they may end up selling themselves short in terms of their ability to go to college.

So resources do matter.  And part of the reason I’m making this point — so that when you’re evaluating candidates, you pay attention to this — is we’re going to be having a major debate in Congress coming up, because the budget is supposed to be done by the end of this month.  And so far, Congress has not come up with a budget.  And there are some in the other party who are comfortable with keeping in place something called sequester, which is going to be — is going to result in significant cuts over the next several years in the amount of federal support for education.  And that’s going to force then either layoffs, or kids not getting the kinds of support that they need.  It will have an effect on the education of students.

So I just want everybody to be clear, without endorsing any particular candidate’s ideas, that if somebody is running for President and they say they want to be the “education president,” it means two things.  One is that you care about every student doing well, not just some — because whoever is President is the President for all people, not just some people.  That’s point number one.  (Applause.)  And point number two is, is that you’ve got to be willing to provide the resources, particularly for communities that may not have as much of a property tax base so they can’t always raise money on their own in order to help their students achieve.

All right?  Anything you want to add on that?  (Applause.)

SECRETARY DUNCAN:  Just very quickly, without getting into this candidate or that — you’ve got about two dozen to choose from, and they all want your vote.  Four questions I’d like you to ask every candidate, Republican, Democrat, conservative, liberal — it doesn’t matter.

One:  What are you willing to do to have more children have access to high-quality early childhood education?  That’s the best investment we can make.  (Applause.)  Two:  What are you going to do to continue to increase our nation’s high school graduation rate?  And we’re very proud, it’s at an all-time high, but it’s nowhere near where it needs to be.

Three:  What are you going to do to make sure high school graduates are truly college and career ready, and not having to take remedial classes in college,; that they’ve been taught to high standards?  And fourth, we need to lead the world in college graduation rates again.  We were first a generation ago; today, we’re 12th.  Other countries have passed us by.

So if every candidate you ask, what are your concrete goals for those four things, and then what resources — to the President’s point — are you willing to put behind that, our country would be a much stronger place.

THE PRESIDENT:  And not to be a tag team here, here’s one last thing.  Because — I’m sorry, what was your name?  Angelica asked a terrific question about what does it mean to be a great teacher.  If you hear a candidate say that the big problem with education is teachers, you should not vote for that person.  (Applause.)  Because it is a hard job.  And it is the most important job we’ve got.  And folks who go into teaching don’t go into it for the money.  (Laughter.)  They go into it because they are passionate about kids.

Now, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some bad teachers, and it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t hold teachers to high standards as well, and continue to work in terms of professional development and recruitment and retention of great teachers.  And there have been times where Arne and I have had some disagreements with the teachers’ unions on certain issues because we want to encourage experimentation.  But the bottom line, though, is, is that you can measure how good a school is by whether or not it is respecting and engaging teachers in the classroom so that they are professionals and they feel good about what they’re doing, and they’re given freedom and they’re not just being forced to teach to a test.

And it is very important for us, then, to make sure that — if what we hear is just a bunch of teacher-bashing, I can’t tell you who to vote for, but — at least not right now.  Later I will.  (Laughter.)  But I can tell you who to vote against, and that is somebody who decides that somehow teachers don’t deserve the kind of respect and decent pay that they deserve.  (Applause.)

All right.  Let’s see.  It’s a young lady’s turn.  Yes, you right there in the brown sweater right there.  Go ahead.  That’s fine.

Q    I’m Elena Hicks (ph), and I’m a senior at Roosevelt and an intern at the Hillary Clinton campaign.

THE PRESIDENT:  Oh, okay.  I guess I know who you’re voting for.  (Laughter.)

Q    Yes.  And this was a standards question, but I’ll make it more general.  Do you think it’s possible or realistic for there to be free tuition for college in the United States?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I think that it is absolutely realistic for us to, first of all, have the first two years of community college free, because it’s in my budget and I know how to pay for it.  (Applause.)  And it would — and essentially if you close up some corporate tax loopholes that aren’t growing the economy and are just kind of a boondoggle, you take that money, you can then help every state do what Tennessee is already doing — because Tennessee is already making community colleges free for the first two years.

And what that does, then, is, first of all, it helps young people who may not right now want to go get a four-year college education but know that they still need some sort of technical training, or they want to get an associate’s degree.  Right away, that whole group, they now know they can get their education for free as long as they’re working hard.  But for those who are thinking about a four-year college education, they can also get their first two-years at the community college, then transfer those credits to a four-year college, and they’ve just cut their overall college costs in half.  So it would be good for everybody, whether you’re going two years or four years.

Now, if we can get that done, then I think we can start building from there.  In the meantime, I do want to make sure, though, that everybody understands what we were talking about in terms of FAFSA.  You have to fill out this form.  And we are making it easier for you to do.  You have no excuse.  Parents who are here, even if you didn’t go to college, you need to nag your kids to make sure that this FAFSA form gets filled out so that people — so that you know the student aid that you may be entitled to.

My grandma, she didn’t go to college, even though she was probably the smartest person I knew, but she did know that you had to go to college and that you had to fill out this form.  So I want everybody here to make sure that you stay focused on that, because there’s more help already than a lot of people are aware of.  And this College Scorecard that we talked about — CollegeScorecard.ED.gov — what that does is it allows you to take a look at the schools to find out, do they graduate their students; how much debt do they have; are they generally getting a job after they graduate.

So we’re not, like, just ranking, here’s the most prestigious school; we’re giving you some news you can use here in evaluating whether the schools that you’re applying to actually deliver on their commitment.  Because a lot of times, the students who get big student loans debt after they graduate, it’s because they didn’t think through where they should go, what should they be studying, what resources are available.  And we want you to on the front end to have as much information as possible in order to make a good choice.

Arne, anything to add on that?

SECRETARY DUNCAN:  Very, very quickly, quick test.  That FAFSA form the President talked about — how much in grants and loans do we give out each year?  Any guesses at the federal level?

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  A lot.

SECRETARY DUNCAN:  How much is a lot?

THE PRESIDENT:  See, I didn’t test you.  (Laughter.)  You notice this.  That’s the head of the Education Department.

SECRETARY DUNCAN:  How much?  30,000?  Any other thoughts?  Yes, sir.  What’s that?  Total — How much?  $30 billion?  Any other guesses?  All right, so very quickly, we give out $150 billion in grants and loans each year.

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s real money.  (Laughter.)

SECRETARY DUNCAN:  And the President said we’ve got a long way to go, we want to do more, trying to make community colleges free.  But we don’t care whether your family has money or don’t have money, or whether your family has gone to college or not, or where you live.  If you work hard — $150 billion.  It’s the only form — 20 minutes, half an hour — the only form you’re ever going to fill out in your life that’s going to give you access to $150 billion.  So I just want to emphasize this point.  You have to fill that out.

THE PRESIDENT:  Got to fill it out.  (Laughter.)  All right? A’ight.  (Laughter.)  This gentleman back here.  I don’t want to neglect the folks in the back here.

Q    How are you doing, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT:  How are you, sir?

Q    Good, good.  My name is Rudolph Dawson and I’m a graduate of Fort Valley State University in Georgia.  My concern is that the Historically Black schools like Fort Valley State, a lot of the pressure is being put on them in terms of they’re not getting the budget they need to continue to educate people like myself.  They are not getting the programs that they need to attract students that want the higher pay.  And it’s to me — what can you do, or what can your administration do, or the next administration do to right the wrong that’s been done in the past?  And it’s continued to be done to these universities.  Fort Valley State is also a land-grant college and they haven’t been getting all the money they needed for agriculture like the University of Georgia.  I’d like to see some changes there.

THE PRESIDENT:  Okay.  Well, first of all, for those of you — because some of you — we’ve got a lot of young people here so just to give you a little bit of history, the Historically Black Colleges and Universities arose at a time when obviously a lot of schools were segregated.  And so African American students couldn’t attend a lot of the traditional state colleges and universities that had been set up.

And many of them went on to become incredible educational institutions that produced some of our greatest thinkers.  So Morehouse College, Howard, Spelman — all across the country, particularly in the South, a lot of these Historically Black Colleges and Universities were really the nurturer of an African American middle class — many of whom then went on to become the civil rights pioneers that helped to lead to Dr. King and to the Civil Rights Movement and to all the history that I think you’re aware of.

A lot of those schools are still doing well.  Some of them have gotten smaller and are struggling, partly because of — good news — University of Georgia isn’t segregated anymore, for example, so it’s good that African American students or Latino students have more diverse options.  But they still serve an important role.  And so working with people like Congressman Bobby Scott and others, we’ve continued to provide some support to those schools.

But one thing that Arne and I have been doing is saying to these Historically Black Colleges and Universities, you’ve also got to step up your game in terms of graduation rates, because there are some of those schools, just like non-historically black colleges and universities, who take in a lot of students but don’t always graduate those students.  And those students end up being stuck with debt and it’s not a good deal for them.

So we’re working together.  We’ve got a whole task force and commission that’s just devoted to working with these schools to make sure that they’ve got the resources they need to continue to perform a really important function, but that they’re also stepping up their game so that kids who attend these universities and colleges, they’re graduating on time and are able to then pursue the kind of careers that they need.

I think it’s a young lady’s turn now.  Oh, you know what, I need to go up top.  That young lady in the striped shirt right there.  I can barely see, but that’s what happens when you get older, young people.  (Laughter.)  First time I came to Iowa, I had no gray hair.  (Laughter.)  I didn’t.  Look at me now.  (Laughter.)

Q    Hi, my name is Abba.  I’m currently a junior at Lincoln High School here on the South Side of Des Moines.  My question to you is — I know you don’t want to get involved with the presidential race at the moment, but a candidate has said that they want to cut government spending to politically biased colleges, and I was wondering if, say, that would hurt the education system for those who depend on that, or would it better the education as a whole?

THE PRESIDENT:  First of all, I didn’t hear this candidate say that.  I have no idea what that means.  (Laughter.)  I suspect he doesn’t either.  (Laughter and applause.)

Look, the purpose of college is not just, as I said before, to transmit skills.  It’s also to widen your horizons; to make you a better citizen; to help you to evaluate information; to help you make your way through the world; to help you be more creative.  The way to do that is to create a space where a lot of ideas are presented and collide, and people are having arguments, and people are testing each other’s theories, and over time, people learn from each other, because they’re getting out of their own narrow point of view and having a broader point of view.

Arne, I’m sure, has the same experience that I did, which is when I went to college, suddenly there were some folks who didn’t think at all like me.  And if I had an opinion about something, they’d look at me and say, well, that’s stupid.  And then they’d describe how they saw the world.  And they might have had a different sense of politics, or they might have a different view about poverty, or they might have a different perspective on race, and sometimes their views would be infuriating to me.  But it was because there was this space where you could interact with people who didn’t agree with you and had different backgrounds that I then started testing my own assumptions.  And sometimes I changed my mind.  Sometimes I realized, you know what, maybe I’ve been too narrow-minded.  Maybe I didn’t take this into account.  Maybe I should see this person’s perspective.

So that’s what college, in part, is all about.  The idea that you’d have somebody in government making a decision about what you should think ahead of time or what you should be taught, and if it’s not the right thought or idea or perspective or philosophy, that that person would be — that they wouldn’t get funding runs contrary to everything we believe about education.  (Applause.)  I mean, I guess that might work in the Soviet Union, but it doesn’t work here.  That’s not who we are.  That’s not what we’re about.

Now, one thing I do want to point out is it’s not just sometimes folks who are mad that colleges are too liberal that have a problem.  Sometimes there are folks on college campuses who are liberal and maybe even agree with me on a bunch of issues who sometimes aren’t listening to the other side.  And that’s a problem, too.

I was just talking to a friend of mine about this.  I’ve heard I’ve of some college campuses where they don’t want to have a guest speaker who is too conservative.  Or they don’t want to read a book if it has language that is offensive to African Americans, or somehow sends a demeaning signal towards women.  And I’ve got to tell you, I don’t agree with that either.  I don’t agree that you, when you become students at colleges, have to be coddled and protected from different points of views.  (Applause.)

I think that you should be able to — anybody should — anybody who comes to speak to you and you disagree with, you should have an argument with them.  But you shouldn’t silence them by saying, you can’t come because I’m too sensitive to hear what you have to say.  That’s not the way we learn, either.

What do you think, Arne?

SECRETARY DUNCAN:  Amen.

THE PRESIDENT:  He said, amen.  (Laughter.)

Let’s see.  I think it’s a guy’s turn.  This gentleman here in the tie, you had your hand up a couple times.  Yes, I didn’t want you to feel neglected.  You almost gave up and I wanted to make sure to call on you.  Hold on a second.  Wait for the mic.

Q    My name is James Quinn.  This is my wife, Tatiana, and our daughter, Victoria.  We’ve been saving for her college education for 10 years, and over that time, the federal deductibility of 529 contributions has gone away, even though we can still get that deduction from Iowa income taxes.  It would be nice to see a little reward for saving, rather than just making borrowing money get easier.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  I’m going to let Arne hit this one because he’s an expert on our various savings programs.

SECRETARY DUNCAN:  Yes.  I’ll just say, as a parent with two kids not quite this age, my wife and I are putting money actively into 529s to try to save.  And getting the federal government to support that more or encourage that would be fantastic.  And again, this is something we have to work with Congress to do the right thing.

But for families who are saving — we have some families now starting kindergarten, first grade, saving every year, just a little bit, to help their kids to go to college.  We need to incentivize that and reward that.  It’s a great point.

THE PRESIDENT:  There was a time when the deductibility with student loans was more significant than it is today.  Whenever you make something tax-deductible, that means that there’s less money going into the Treasury.  That, then, means that either somebody has got to pay for it with other taxes, or the deficit grows, or we spend less on something else.

And this is part of why this argument, this debate that’s going on right now in Congress about lifting the sequester is so important.  It’s a Washington term — I hate the term — but essentially what Congress did was it said, all right, we’re just going to lop off spending at this level for the next decade.  The problem is, of course, the population is going up, the economy is growing, and so even though the deficit right now has been cut by two-thirds since I came into office — which is — (applause) — you wouldn’t know that listening to some of the candidates around here, but it has.

If, in fact, sequester stays in place, not only our ability to spend for education or to help families with student loans, but also things like early childhood education, Head Start programs, Pell grants — all those things can end up being adversely affected.

And this is one thing that I would just ask everybody to consider.  When you hear budget debates, I know your eyes kind of glaze over, but the federal budget, that’s really where we express our values.  And a lot of times people say, well, we should just cut government spending because there’s all this waste.  But, in fact, the vast majority of government spending is for Social Security, it’s for Medicare, it’s for Medicaid, it’s for helping vulnerable populations, and it’s for defense.  And not a lot is left over for helping middle-class families, for example, send their kids to college, or to save.

And if you have this ceiling, this artificial cap, without take into account a growing population and more young people going to college, then you end up with a situation in which fewer people are getting help.  And that’s why it’s important for us to lift this artificial cap.  And it’s also why it’s important for us to close some of these tax loopholes that are going to either the very wealthy or to corporations that really don’t need them, because they’re doing just fine and they’re not having a problem financing their college education — their kids’ college educations.  (Applause.)

All right.  It’s a young lady’s turn.  All right.  I will go — I’m going to go to this young lady because originally I called on her first and then — but we got mixed up.  Go ahead.  What’s your name?

Q    My name is Rosalie (ph) and I go to Roosevelt High School.  Hopefully, my question is not too difficult.  And it’s what is your best advice for Malia as she goes off to college?

THE PRESIDENT:  My best advice to Malia.  Now, this is assuming that Malia would listen to my advice.  (Laughter.)  She’s very much like her mother at this point.  (Laughter.)  She’s got her own mind.

One piece of advice that I’ve given her is not to stress too much about having to get into one particular college.  There are a lot of good colleges and universities out there, and it’s important I think for everybody here to understand you can find a college or university that gives you a great education, and just because it’s not some name-brand, famous, fancy school doesn’t mean that you’re not going to get a great education there.  So one is, lower the stress levels in terms of just having to get into one particular school.  I think that’s important.

The second piece of advice I have is keep your grades up until you get in, and after that, make sure you pass.  (Laughter.)  Because it’s important that you kind of run through the tape in your senior year and not start feeling a little slack.  I don’t worry about that with her; she’s a hard worker.

And then the third thing is really the advice that I already mentioned, which is be open to new experiences when you go to college.  Don’t go to college just to duplicate the same experience you had in high school.  Don’t make your decision based on, well, where are all my friends going so that I can do the exact same things with the exact same friends that I did in high school.  The whole point is for you to push yourself out of your comfort level, meet people you haven’t met before, take classes that you hadn’t thought of before.  Stretch yourself. Because this is the time to do it, when you’re young.  Seek out new experiences.

Because I think when you do that, you may discover you may think that you wanted to do one thing; it may turn out you wanted to do — that you wanted to do something completely different, and you have an amazing talent for something completely different, but you just haven’t been exposed to it yet.  You’ve got to know what it is that’s out there, and that requires you to do some things differently than you’ve been doing in high school.

So, Arne, anything you wanted to add on that?

SECRETARY DUNCAN:  Just quickly, particularly for the seniors, please don’t apply to one school — sort of what the President said — apply to four, five, six, seven schools.  It’s amazing to me how many young people just apply to one school.  And it might be the best fit for you, but keep your options open. So look at what’s out there — close to home, less close to home, whatever it might be — apply to a bunch of places.

And a final thing, just to emphasize, the goal is not to go to college; the goal is to graduate.  And so, figure out where you’re going to go and graduate.  It might take you three years, it might take you four, it might take you five.  But the big thing we need all of you — not to just go, not to attend, but to walk across those stages four or five years from now with that diploma in hand.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Gentleman right here.  Here, you can use my mic.

Q    All right.  (Laughter.)  Thanks, Mr. President.  I’m an elementary school principal here in Des Moines public schools, and one of the things that we really value is the diversity that we have within our community.  And I’m really curious to hear from you and Secretary Duncan the value that you see that diversity brings to a young person’s education.

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s a great question.  How long have you been a principal?

Q    Five years.

THE PRESIDENT:  Five years?

Q    Five years.

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s outstanding.  We’re getting old, though, man, because I thought he was a student.  (Laughter.)  He’s the principal.  He’s not even just a teacher, he’s a principal.  (Laughter.)  Well, thank you for the great work you’re doing.

To some degree, I’ve already answered this question.  The value of diversity is getting to know and understand people who are different from you, because that’s the world you will be living in and working in.  And it’s actually really interesting  — they’ve been showing through a variety of studies that people who can understand and connect with a wide range of people, that that ends up being as important a skill, if not more important a skill, than just about anything else in terms of your career success, whatever the field.

It also, by the way, is part of what makes our democracy work.  I was having a discussion about this earlier today.  Our democracy is premised on an assumption that even if somebody is not just like me, that they’re a good person and a generous person, and that we have things in common, and that we can work things out, and if we have a disagreement then we can have an argument based on facts and evidence.  And I might sometimes lose the argument, I don’t persuade as many people, and then — that’s how voting works, and majorities are formed, and they change. That’s how our democracy is supposed to work.

And I think that starts early.  Because when you’ve got diversity in schools, then you’re less likely as an adult to start thinking, well, that person, they’re not like me, or those persons, they don’t have the same values, or they don’t care as much about their kids, or — and then democracy starts breaking down, because then everything is a fight to the death because there’s no sense that we can actually bridge our differences and disagree without being disagreeable, and find common ground.

So it’s not only good for your career, but it’s also good for our country.  The same goes — the same holds true, by the way, as part of diversity — studies show that organizations that have women in decision-making positions function better than those who don’t.  (Applause.)  Seriously.  That if you look at corporate boards, actually you can correlate their performance with the number of women that they’ve got on those boards.  So it also is valuable for us to make sure that not only is there diversity, but that in leadership positions, different voices are heard.

So, Arne, anything you want to add to that?

Good.  So keep it up.  (Applause.)

Young lady right there.  Yes, you.  Right there.  Oh, I’m sorry, I’ll call on you first and then I’ll get back to you.  I’m sorry.  The mic is already there.  I promise you’ll be the next.

Q    Hi.  My name is Heidi.  I’m a junior here at North High School.  And actually, I have, like, two questions.  One is one for my friend — he’s very shy, he can’t speak up.  We are part of a group called Upward Bound, and we work through Simpson College.  There’s been stories of our budget being cut, and we want to know what the government can — help us and work with us for that.

And my other question is, in your professional opinion, how much is visual arts an importance to our school, and how are you going to save it?  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Okay.  Why don’t I — I’ll take the first — I’ll take the question on visual arts, you talk about Upward Bound.  Arne, go ahead.

SECRETARY DUNCAN:  Just very quickly, it really goes back to what the President talked about.  It’s not just Upward Bound that’s at risk; it’s Pell grants that are at risk, early childhood education.  Folks in Congress want to zero that out of the budget.  I think it’s so important that all of us as students and as educators to not pit this program against the other, but to hold folks in Washington accountable for investing in education.

As the President said, we want to make sure we’re getting results.  It’s not blindly investing.  But there are lots of things in our budget — Upward Bound being a piece of it — that honestly are in pretty significant danger right now.  And the President is fighting very hard.  We have some folks backing us, but the others that just sort of see these things as somehow extras.  And I think it’s so important that as young people, as voters, as family, your voices be heard.

He cannot by himself prevent these cuts.  That’s not how our democracy works.  And so we’ll hold us accountable.  We’ll continue to push very, very hard.  That’s why we’re out traveling the country all the time.  But we need voters’ voices being heard, saying, we need Upward Bound programs, we need TRIO, we need early childhood, we need after-school programs, we need the arts.  And you can talk about the arts, as well.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, look, I mean, the arts are what make life worthwhile, right?  (Applause.)  You need food and shelter and all that good stuff, but the things that make you laugh, cry, connect, love — so much of that is communicated through the arts.

And I don’t want our young people to think that the arts are just something that you sit there passively and watch on a TV screen.  I want everybody, even if you’re not a great artist, to have the experience of making art, and have the experience of making music.  Because that’s part of what makes for a well-rounded education.

We also know that young people learn better if they’re not just looking at a textbook and multiple text quizzes all day long, and that it breaks up the monotony and it gives expression to different sides of themselves — that that’s good for the overall educational experience.

So I think visual arts, music, it’s all important.  And we should not be depriving young people of those experiences.  And they’re not extras.  They’re central to who we are.  Part of what makes us human is our ability to make art, to represent what’s inside of us in ways that surprise and delight people.  And I don’t want us to start thinking that that’s somehow something we can just push aside.

Now, I want you to be able to read and be able to do your algebra, too.  But I don’t know where we got this idea we’ve got to choose between those two things.  We’ve got to be able to do them all.  And it used to be standard practice.  There was no debate, even in the smallest town in a poor community or a rural community.  There was always the art teacher and the math teacher — or the art teacher and the music teacher, and nobody assumed somehow that that was an extra.  That was part of it, just like having a sports program was part of it.  (Applause.)  And that’s part of what a well-rounded education is all about.

But it does cost some money.  And that’s something that I want to emphasize — that you can’t do all this stuff on the cheap all the time.

How many more questions — how much more time we got?  Only one?  I’m going to take two.  (Laughter.)  All right.  I’m going to get to you because I promised I was going to — I’ll tell you, it’s a guy’s turn.  This guy right there.  (Applause.)  All right.

Q    All right.  I’ve got two short questions.

THE PRESIDENT:  What’s your name?

Q    My name is Marcus Carter.  And I’m a senior.  And out of all the schools in Iowa, why did you come here?  And after this, can I get a picture with you?  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Now, Marcus, I’m going to answer your first question.  Second question, though, if I start taking a picture with you — look at this crowd right here.  (Laughter.)  We’d be taking a lot of selfies.  So I’m imposing the no-selfie rule, although I’ll definitely try to shake as many hands as possible.

We came here because some really good work is being done here.  And I think that your teachers, your principal, the superintendent deserve credit for the improvements that have been made.  (Applause.)  I want Arne to address this, because Arne travels to schools all across the country.  And sometimes we get so focused on what’s not working that we forget to lift up what is working.  And when a school is doing a good job, I’m sure the principal and superintendent, the teachers here feel like they want to do even more and do even better.  But when we’ve made progress, we’ve got to acknowledge that, because that makes us feel encouraged and hopeful that we can continue to make even more strides.

Arne?

SECRETARY DUNCAN:  I’ll just say a couple quick things.  It’s not a coincidence that we’re here, but this is a school that historically struggled, had some hard times.  And new leadership, new expectations — the President talked about technology here, talked a much better sense of culture, different ways to discipline.  But the thing I always go back to — I don’t know if my numbers are exact — I think a couple years ago you had two AP classes, and now you have 15.  (Applause.)  And to go from two to 15 is a really big deal.

But what I always say is the students here aren’t seven times as smart as four years ago; it’s just higher expectations, a different sense of belief among adults about what’s possible.  And so we try and highlight places that haven’t always been successful but are trying to do the right thing and move in the right direction.

As the President said, no one is satisfied.  You guys are still hungry, you’re still trying to get better.  But that’s real progress.  That’s adults saying, kids, students, young people deserve the opportunity to take college classes in high school, deserve to go to a safe school, deserve the technology.  I think there are lots of lessons other schools could learn from the progress you’re making here at North High School.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  All right.  I promised I was going to call on this young lady last.  Go ahead.

Q    Okay.

THE PRESIDENT:  What’s your name?

Q    My name is Tanya from North High School.  And my question is, if you legalize college — or free two-year college, is everyone, including illegal students with a good GPA able to get this benefit?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, right now, the way — no, this is an important question, and I know this is a debate that’s been taking place among some of the presidential candidates.  Right now, the way that the federal student loan programs work is that undocumented students are not eligible for these loan programs.  That’s how the law is currently.  And it is my view that — well, two things I want to say.

First, if you fall in that category, you should still fill out the FAFSA, because it may be that states or universities or colleges may have private scholarships or other mechanisms.  So it doesn’t automatically mean that you may not qualify for some benefits.  So it’s still important for you to kind of — because that’s a standard form that’s used by everybody.

But this raises the broader question that I’ve been talking about now for a couple of years, and that is that for young people who came here, their parents may have brought them here and they now are Americans, kids by every other criteria except for a piece of paper — they may be your classmates, they may be your friends, they may be your neighbors — the notion that somehow we would not welcome their desire to be full-fledged parts of this community and this country, and to contribute and to serve makes absolutely no sense.  (Applause.)

And this whole anti-immigrant sentiment that’s out there in our politics right now is contrary to who we are.  (Applause.)  Because unless you are a Native American, your family came from someplace else.  (Applause.)  And although we are a nation of laws and we want people to follow the law, and we have been working — and I’ve been pushing Congress to make sure that we have strong borders and we are keeping everybody moving through legal processes — don’t pretend that somehow 100 years ago the immigration process was all smooth and strict and — that’s not how it worked.

There are a whole bunch of folks who came here from all over Europe and all throughout Asia and all throughout Central America and all — and certainly who came from Africa, who it wasn’t some orderly process where all the rules applied and everything was strict, and I came the right way.  That’s not how it worked.

So the notion that now, suddenly, that one generation or two generations, or even four or five generations removed, that suddenly we are treating new immigrants as if they’re the problem, when your grandparents were treated like the problem, or your great-grandparents were treated like the problem, or were considered somehow unworthy or uneducated or unwashed — no.  That’s not who we are.  It’s not who we are.

We can have a legitimate debate about how to set up an immigration system that is fair and orderly and lawful.  And I think the people who came here illegally should have the consequences of paying a fine and getting registered, and all kinds of steps that they should have to take in order to get right with the law.  But when I hear folks talking as if somehow these kids are different from my kids, or less worthy in the eyes of God, that somehow they are less worthy of our respect and consideration and care — I think that’s un-American.  I do not believe that.  I think it is wrong.  (Applause.)  And I think we should do better.  Because that’s how America was made — by us caring about all our kids.

Thank you, everybody.  I love you guys.  (Applause.)

END

5:16 P.M. CDT

 

 

Political Musings January 8, 2015: State of the Union 2015 preview: Obama announces free community college tuition

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

State of the Union 2015 preview: Obama announces free community college tuition

By Bonnie K. Goodman

As part of his 2015 State of the Union Address preview tour, President Barack Obama announced on Thursday, Jan. 8, 2015 in a Facebook video that he plans to “make two years of community college free for responsible students…READ MORE

Political Musings September 22, 2014: Obama continues promise to help Americas youth realize their dreams

POLITICAL MUSINGS

https://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/pol_musings.jpg?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama continues promise to help Americas youth realize their dreams

By Bonnie K. Goodman

President Barack Obama continued a presidential tradition on Monday afternoon, September 22, 2014 by signing America’s Promise Summit Declaration at the Oval Office in the White House. The signing was a bipartisan affair with Former Secretary….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency September 19, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at “It’s On Us” Campaign Roll Out to Combat College Sexual Assaults — Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at “It’s On Us” Campaign Rollout

Source: WH, 9-19-14

East Room

12:14 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Welcome to the White House, everybody.  And thank you to Joe Biden not just for the introduction, not just for being a great Vice President — but for decades, since long before he was in his current office, Joe has brought unmatched passion to this cause.  He has.  (Applause.)

And at a time when domestic violence was all too often seen as a private matter, Joe was out there saying that this was unacceptable.  Thanks to him and so many others, last week we were able to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the law Joe wrote, a law that transformed the way we handle domestic abuse in this country — the Violence Against Women Act.

And we’re here to talk today about an issue that is a priority for me, and that’s ending campus sexual assault.  I want to thank all of you who are participating.  I particularly want to thank Lilly for her wonderful presentation and grace.  I want to thank her parents for being here.  As a father of two daughters, I on the one hand am enraged about what has happened; on the other hand, am empowered to see such an incredible young woman be so strong and do so well.  And we’re going to be thrilled watching all of the great things she is going to be doing in her life.  So we’re really proud of her.

I want to thank the White House Council on Women and Girls.  Good Job.  Valerie, thank you.  (Applause.)  I want to thank our White House Advisor on Violence Against Women — the work that you do every day partnering with others to prevent the outrage, the crime of sexual violence.

We’ve got some outstanding lawmakers with us.  Senator Claire McCaskill is right here from the great state of Missouri, who I love.  (Applause.)  And we’ve got Dick Blumenthal from the great state of Connecticut, as well as Congresswoman Susan Davis.  So thank you so much, I’m thrilled to have you guys here.  (Applause.)

I also want to thank other members of Congress who are here and have worked on this issue so hard for so long.  A lot of the people in this room have been on the front lines in fighting sexual assault for a long time.  And along with Lilly, I want to thank all the survivors who are here today, and so many others around the country.  (Applause.)  Lilly I’m sure took strength from a community of people — some who came before, some who were peers — who were able to summon the courage to speak out about the darkest moment of their lives.  They endure pain and the fear that too often isolates victims of sexual assault.  So when they give voice to their own experiences, they’re giving voice to countless others — women and men, girls and boys –- who still suffer in silence.

So to the survivors who are leading the fight against sexual assault on campuses, your efforts have helped to start a movement.  I know that, as Lilly described, there are times where the fight feels lonely, and it feels as if you’re dredging up stuff that you’d rather put behind you.  But we’re here to say, today, it’s not on you.  This is not your fight alone.  This is on all of us, every one of us, to fight campus sexual assault.  You are not alone, and we have your back, and we are going to organize campus by campus, city by city, state by state.  This entire country is going to make sure that we understand what this is about, and that we’re going to put a stop to it.

And this is a new school year.  We’ve been working on campus sexual assault for several years, but the issue of violence against women is now in the news every day.  We started to I think get a better picture about what domestic violence is all about.  People are talking about it.  Victims are realizing they’re not alone.  Brave people have come forward, they’re opening up about their own experiences.

And so we think today’s event is all that more relevant, all that more important for us to say that campus sexual assault is no longer something we as a nation can turn away from and say that’s not our problem.  This is a problem that matters to all of us.

An estimated one in five women has been sexually assaulted during her college years — one in five.  Of those assaults, only 12 percent are reported, and of those reported assaults, only a fraction of the offenders are punished.  And while these assaults overwhelmingly happen to women, we know that men are assaulted, too.  Men get raped.  They’re even less likely to talk about it.  We know that sexual assault can happen to anyone, no matter their race, their economic status, sexual orientation, gender identity -– and LGBT victims can feel even more isolated, feel even more alone.

For anybody whose once-normal, everyday life was suddenly shattered by an act of sexual violence, the trauma, the terror can shadow you long after one horrible attack.  It lingers when you don’t know where to go or who to turn to.  It’s there when you’re forced to sit in the same class or stay in the same dorm with the person who raped you; when people are more suspicious of what you were wearing or what you were drinking, as if it’s your fault, not the fault of the person who assaulted you.  It’s a haunting presence when the very people entrusted with your welfare fail to protect you.

Students work hard to get into college.  I know — I’m watching Malia right now, she’s a junior.  She’s got a lot of homework.  And parents can do everything they can to support their kids’ dreams of getting a good education.  When they finally make it onto campus, only to be assaulted, that’s not just a nightmare for them and their families; it’s not just an affront to everything they’ve worked so hard to achieve — it is an affront to our basic humanity.  It insults our most basic values as individuals and families, and as a nation.  We are a nation that values liberty and equality and justice.  And we’re a people who believe every child deserves an education that allows them to fulfill their God-given potential, free from fear of intimidation or violence.  And we owe it to our children to live up to those values.  So my administration is trying to do our part.

First of all, three years ago, we sent guidance to every school district, every college, every university that receives federal funding, and we clarified their legal obligations to prevent and respond to sexual assault.  And we reminded them that sexual violence isn’t just a crime, it is a civil rights violation.  And I want to acknowledge Secretary of Education Arne Duncan for his department’s work in holding schools accountable and making sure that they stand up for students.

Number two, in January, I created a White House task force to prevent — a Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault.  Their job is to work with colleges and universities on better ways to prevent and respond to assaults, to lift up best practices.  And we held conversations with thousands of people –- survivors, parents, student groups, faculty, law enforcement, advocates, academics.  In April, the task force released the first report, recommending a number of best practices for colleges and universities to keep our kids safe.  And these are tested, and they are common-sense measures like campus surveys to figure out the scope of the problem, giving survivors a safe place to go and a trusted person to talk to, training school officials in how to handle trauma.  Because when you read some of the accounts, you think, what were they thinking?  You just get a sense of too many people in charge dropping the ball, fumbling something that should be taken with the most — the utmost seriousness and the utmost care.

Number three, we’re stepping up enforcement efforts and increasing the transparency of our efforts.  So we’re reviewing existing laws to make sure they’re adequate.  And we’re going to keep on working with educational institutions across the country to help them appropriately respond to these crimes.

So that’s what we have been doing, but there’s always more that we can do.  And today, we’re taking a step and joining with people across the country to change our culture and help prevent sexual assault from happening.  Because that’s where prevention — that’s what prevention is going to require — we’ve got to have a fundamental shift in our culture.

As far as we’ve come, the fact is that from sports leagues to pop culture to politics, our society still does not sufficiently value women.  We still don’t condemn sexual assault as loudly as we should.  We make excuses.  We look the other way.  The message that sends can have a chilling effect on our young women.

And I’ve said before, when women succeed, America succeeds — let me be clear, that’s not just true in America.  If you look internationally, countries that oppress their women are countries that do badly.  Countries that empower their women are countries that thrive.

And so this is something that requires us to shift how we think about these issues.  One letter from a young woman really brought this point home.  Katherine Morrison, a young student from Youngstown, Ohio, she wrote, “How are we supposed to succeed when so many of our voices are being stifled?  How can we succeed when our society says that as a woman, it’s your fault if you are at a party or walked home alone.  How can we succeed when people look at women and say ‘you should have known better,’ or ‘boys will be boys?’?”

And Katherine is absolutely right.  Women make up half this country; half its workforce; more than half of our college students.  They are not going to succeed the way they should unless they are treated as true equals, and are supported and respected.  And unless women are allowed to fulfill their full potential, America will not reach its full potential.  So we’ve got to change.

This is not just the work of survivors, it’s not just the work of activists.  It’s not just the work of college administrators.  It’s the responsibility of the soccer coach, and the captain of the basketball team, and the football players.  And it’s on fraternities and sororities, and it’s on the editor of the school paper, and the drum major in the band.  And it’s on the English department and the engineering department, and it’s on the high schools and the elementary schools, and it’s on teachers, and it’s on counselors, and it’s on mentors, and it’s on ministers.

It’s on celebrities, and sports leagues, and the media, to set a better example.  It’s on parents and grandparents and older brothers and sisters to sit down young people and talk about this issue.  (Applause.)

And it’s not just on the parents of young women to caution them.  It is on the parents of young men to teach them respect for women.  (Applause.)  And it’s on grown men to set an example and be clear about what it means to be a man.

It is on all of us to reject the quiet tolerance of sexual assault and to refuse to accept what’s unacceptable.  And we especially need our young men to show women the respect they deserve, and to recognize sexual assault, and to do their part to stop it.  Because most young men on college campuses are not perpetrators.  But the rest — we can’t generalize across the board.  But the rest of us can help stop those who think in these terms and shut stuff down.  And that’s not always easy to do with all the social pressures to stay quiet or go along; you don’t want to be the guy who’s stopping another friend from taking a woman home even if it looks like she doesn’t or can’t consent.  Maybe you hear something in the locker room that makes you feel uncomfortable, or see something at a party that you know isn’t right, but you’re not sure whether you should stand up, not sure it’s okay to intervene.

And I think Joe said it well — the truth is, it’s not just okay to intervene, it is your responsibility.  It is your responsibility to speak your mind.  It is your responsibility to tell your buddy when he’s messing up.  It is your responsibility to set the right tone when you’re talking about women, even when women aren’t around — maybe especially when they’re not around.
And it’s not just men who should intervene.  Women should also speak up when something doesn’t look right, even if the men don’t like it.  It’s all of us taking responsibility.  Everybody has a role to play.

And in fact, we’re here with Generation Progress to launch, appropriately enough, a campaign called “It’s On Us.”  The idea is to fundamentally shift the way we think about sexual assault. So we’re inviting colleges and universities to join us in saying, we are not tolerating this anymore –- not on our campuses, not in our community, not in this country.  And the campaign is building on the momentum that’s already being generated by college campuses by the incredible young people around the country who have stepped up and are leading the way.  I couldn’t be prouder of them.

And we’re also joined by some great partners in this effort –- including the Office of Women’s Health, the college sports community, media platforms.  We’ve got universities who have signed up, including, by the way, our military academies, who are represented here today.  So the goal is to hold ourselves and each other accountable, and to look out for those who don’t consent and can’t consent.  And anybody can be a part of this campaign.

So the first step on this is to go to ItsOnUs.org — that’s ItsOnUs.org.  Take a pledge to help keep women and men safe from sexual assault.  It’s a promise not to be a bystander to the problem, but to be part of the solution.  I took the pledge.  Joe took the pledge.  You can take the pledge.  You can share it on social media, you can encourage others to join us.

And this campaign is just part of a broader effort, but it’s a critical part, because even as we continue to enforce our laws and work with colleges to improve their responses, and to make sure that survivors are taken care of, it won’t be enough unless we change the culture that allows assault to happen in the first place.

And I’m confident we can.  I’m confident because of incredible young people like Lilly who speak out for change and empower other survivors.  They inspire me to keep fighting.  I’m assuming they inspire you as well.  And this is a personal priority not just as a President, obviously, not just as a husband and a father of two extraordinary girls, but as an American who believes that our nation’s success depends on how we value and defend the rights of women and girls.

So I’m asking all of you, join us in this campaign.  Commit to being part of the solution.  Help make sure our schools are safe havens where everybody, men and women, can pursue their dreams and fulfill their potential.

Thank you so much for all the great work.  (Applause.)

END
12:34 P.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency August 16, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Weekly Address: Everyone Should Be Able To Afford Higher Education

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Weekly Address: Everyone Should Be Able To Afford Higher Education

Source: WH, 8-16-14

Video Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
Saturday, August 16, 2014

Hi, everybody. Over the next couple weeks, schools all across the country will be opening their doors. Students will suit up for fall sports, marching band, and the school play; moms and dads will snap those first-day-of-school pictures — and that includes me and Michelle.

And so today, I want to talk directly with students and parents about one of the most important things any of you can do this year — and that’s to begin preparing yourself for an education beyond high school.

We know that in today’s economy, whether you go to a four-year college, a community college, or a professional training program, some higher education is the surest ticket to the middle class. The typical American with a bachelor’s degree or higher earns over $28,000 more per year than someone with just a high school diploma. And they’re also much more likely to have a job in the first place – the unemployment rate for those with a bachelor’s degree is less than one-third of the rate for those without a high school diploma.

But for too many families across the country, paying for higher education is a constant struggle. Earlier this year, a young woman named Elizabeth Cooper wrote to tell me how hard it is for middle-class families like hers to afford college. As she said, she feels “not significant enough to be addressed, not poor enough for people to worry [about], and not rich enough to be cared about.”

Michelle and I know the feeling – we only finished paying off our student loans ten years ago. And so as President, I’m working to make sure young people like Elizabeth can go to college without racking up mountains of debt. We reformed a student loan system so that more money goes to students instead of big banks. We expanded grants and college tax credits for students and families. We took action to offer millions of students a chance to cap their student loan payments at 10% of their income. And Congress should pass a bill to let students refinance their loans at today’s lower interest rates, just like their parents can refinance their mortgage.

But as long as college costs keep rising, we can’t just keep throwing money at the problem — colleges have to do their part to bring down costs as well. That’s why we proposed a plan to tie federal financial aid to a college’s performance, and create a new college scorecard so that students and parents can see which schools provide the biggest bang for your buck. We launched a new $75 million challenge to inspire colleges to reduce costs and raise graduation rates. And in January, more than 100 college presidents and nonprofit leaders came to the White House and made commitments to increase opportunities for underserved students.

Since then, we’ve met with even more leaders who want to create new community-based partnerships and support school counselors. And this week, my Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, announced a series of commitments to support students who need a little extra academic help getting through college.

This is a challenge I take personally. And to all you young people, now that you’re heading back to school, your education is something you have to take personally, also. It’s up to you to push yourself; to take hard classes and read challenging books. Science shows that when you struggle to solve a problem or make a new argument, you’re actually forming new connections in your brain. So when you’re thinking hard, you’re getting smarter. Which means this year, challenge yourself to reach higher. And set your sights on college in the years ahead. Your country is counting on you.

And don’t forget to have some fun along the way, too.

Thanks everybody. Good luck on the year ahead.

Full Text Obama Presidency June 11, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech at Worcester Technical High School Commencement Ceremony

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at Worcester Technical High School Commencement Ceremony

Source: WH, 6-11-14 

Worcester Technical High School

Worcester, Massachusetts

4:44 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you!  (Applause.)  Thank you so much.  Please, everybody, be seated.  Good afternoon.  (Applause.)  It is great to be back in Massachusetts, and it is great to be here at Worcester Tech.  (Applause.)

I want to thank Reggie for that outstanding introduction.  (Applause.)  I want to thank Naomi for those inspiring words.  (Applause.)  I want to thank your outstanding, fabulous principal, Sheila Harrity, who has done so much to make this school a success.  (Applause.)  Let me just say, when you’re the National High School Principal of the Year, you’re doing something right.  There are a lot of principals out there, and we could not be prouder of what she’s doing.

I want to thank your Mayor, Joseph Petty; your outstanding Governor and a great friend of mine, Deval Patrick; wonderful Congressman, Jim McGovern.  (Applause.)  And most of all, I want to thank the class of 2014.  (Applause.)  Thank you for allowing me to be part of your special day.  And you all look great.  And I want to thank all the parents and all the grandparents, and the family and the friends — this is your day, too.  Part of the reason I’m here is because I’ve got to practice, because Malia is graduating in two years.  So I’m trying to get used to not choking up and crying and embarrassing her.  So this is sort of my trial run here.

I have to say, I do not remember my high school graduation speaker.  I have no idea who it was.  (Laughter.)  I’m sure I was thinking about the party after graduation.  (Applause.)  I don’t remember the party either.  (Laughter.)  I’m just telling the truth here.  You will remember the speaker at this graduation because there’s a lot of Secret Service around, not because of anything that I say that’s so inspiring.

But I know this day has been a long time coming.  Together, you made it through freshman initiation.  You survived Mr. O’Connor’s English class, which I understand is pretty tough.  (Applause.)  Everybody has got to have, like, a Mr. O’Connor in their life just to kind of straighten you out.  And now it’s the big day — although I notice that none of you are wearing your IDs.  Rumor has it some of you haven’t been wearing them for years.  (Laughter.)  Today I’m exercising my power as President and granting an official pardon for all of you who did not follow the rules there.  Consider it my graduation gift to you.

I know a lot of folks watching at home today will see all of you in your caps and your gowns and they’ll think, well, maybe this is just another class of graduates at another American high school.  But I’m here today because there is nothing ordinary about Worcester Tech or the Class of 2014.  (Applause.)  You have set yourselves apart.  This high school has set itself apart.

Over the past four years, some of you have learned how to take apart an engine and put it back together again.  Some of you have learned how to run a restaurant, or build a house, or fix a computer.  And all of you are graduating today not just with a great education, but with the skills that will let you start your careers and skills that will make America stronger.

Together, you’re an example of what’s possible when we stop just talking about giving young people opportunity, when we don’t just give lip service to helping you compete in the global economy and we actually start doing it.  That’s what’s happening right here in Worcester.  And that’s why I’m here today.  I mean, I like all of you, and I’m glad to be with you, but the thing I really want to do is make sure that what we’ve learned here at this high school we can lift up for the entire nation.  I want the nation to learn from Worcester Tech.  (Applause.)

Of course, your journey is just beginning.  Take a look around at all the smiles from the parents and the grandparents and all the family members.  Everything your families have done has been so that you could pursue your dreams, so that you could fulfill your potential.  Everybody here has a story of some sacrifice that’s been made on your behalf.  And whether you’re heading to college, or the military, or starting your career, you’re not going to be able to take them with you now.  Some of your moms and dads probably wish they could hang onto you a little bit longer.  Some of you, maybe they’re ready to get rid of you.  (Laughter.)  Regardless, though, you are now entering into a stage where it’s up to you.  And what you can do is remember some of the lessons that you’ve learned here and carry them with you, wherever you’re going.

And I want to talk about three of those lessons, a couple of which have already been mentioned by the previous speakers.

First of all, I want you to remember that each of us is only here because somebody somewhere invested in our success.  (Applause.)  Somebody invested in us.  I know that’s true for me.  I was raised by a single mom with the help of my grandparents.  We didn’t have a lot of money growing up.  At times, we struggled.  When my mom was going to school at the same time as she was raising my sister and me, we had to scrape to get by.

But we had a family who loved me and my sister.  And I had teachers who cared about me.  And ultimately, with the help of a community and a country that supported me, I was able to get a good education.  And I was able to get grants and student loans, and opportunities opened up.  And all of this happened because people saw something in me that I didn’t always see in myself.  And that’s not just true for me, that’s true for Michelle, who grew up the daughter of a blue-collar worker and a mom who stayed at home and then became a secretary — never went to college themselves.

That’s true for Duval, who grew up initially on the South Side of Chicago and didn’t have a lot, and somebody reached out and gave him a hand up.

It’s true of this city.  This is a town that’s always been home to smart people with big ideas.  The Mayor mentioned Robert Goddard, the father of the modern rocket.  He was born here, performed some of the earliest tests on rocketry.

But Worcester has also prepared its workers for the jobs that those big ideas would bring.  And that’s why they opened a technical school here more than a century ago — with a class of 29 ironworkers and 23 woodworkers.  And that school became Worcester Tech.

Along the way, the economy changed.  Innovation made it possible for businesses to do more with less.  The Internet meant they could do it anywhere.  Schools like this were finding it harder to prepare students with the skills that businesses were looking for.

And then a guy named Ted Coghlin came along.  (Applause.)  And Ted is known as the “godfather” of Worcester Tech, because about 10 years ago he set out to make this school what he knew it could be — a place where businesses train new workers, and young people get the keys to a brighter future.

And he put his heart and soul into it.  And eventually, that’s what happened.  Ted helped raise money for a new building — and the state and federal government chipped in, as well.  And businesses helped create everything from an auto service center to a bank right inside the school.  And top-notch teachers got on board — led by Principal Harrity and the assistant principals here, and an outstanding superintendent.  And before long, Worcester Tech was on its way to becoming one of the best schools in this city.

And today, so many students want to come to Worcester Tech that there’s a waiting list more than 400 names long.  (Applause.)  The number of students scoring “proficient” or “advanced” in math has gone up 100 percent; in English more than 200 percent.  (Applause.)  Ninety-five percent of students now graduate in four years.

And just as impressive, many of you are leaving here with more than a diploma.  You’re already certified as nursing assistants and EMTs and home health aides and preparing to become IT associates.  (Applause.)  And with the credits that you’ve earned, some of you are already on your way to a college diploma.  And as Ted said, “Our students deserve the best so we can help them become the best — for their future and ours.”

The point is, a lot of people made an investment in you.  I can’t imagine a better investment.  But as you experience your success and as you experience setbacks, you need to remember everything that’s been put into making sure that you had opportunity.  Which brings me to the second thing I hope you remember when you leave here:  You’re going to also have to give back.  (Applause.)  This community invested in you.  You’ve got to make sure that you use those gifts.

When my Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, came to Worcester Tech earlier this year, he said he had never seen a school more open.  If you live near the school, you can come in and get your car detailed for a fraction of what it would cost someplace else.  So I’m giving a little free advertising to the detailing operation here.  (Laughter.)  You can eat a meal cooked by students in the culinary arts program.  (Applause.)  One teacher called the hair salon the “city’s best kept secret.”  (Applause.)  Your veterinary clinic cares for about 250 pets a month, so I could have brought Bo and Sunny here.  (Laughter.)  You guys would have taken care of them.

So Worcester Tech isn’t separate from the broader community.  You’re a vital part of the community.  So part of what you’ve learned here is that we are at our best, we are strongest when we are working together and when we’re looking out for one another and we have responsibilities towards each other, and all of us have contributions to make.  You’re giving back to folks who gave you so much.  And whatever you do next, I hope you keep giving back.  That may mean staying in Worcester and working for one of the companies that helped train you.  If it means going to college or the military, or using your skills to help more students get the same opportunities that you’ve had here, no matter what it is that you do, no matter what path you take, I want to make sure that you understand the incredible leadership that we now expect from you.

I understand that every year at exam time, you hear from a motivational speaker.  And one of them this year was Colin Powell, because when you’re getting ready to take a test it never hurts to get a pep talk from a general.  (Laughter.)  But the best part is that you decide to do the same thing for younger kids.  So this class — those of you in the National Honor Society — rolled out the red carpet for students at nearby Chandler Elementary.  And so those younger kids left here feeling fired up, inspired by your example — looking up to you, imagining that they could do what you did.  And they’re going to keep on looking up to you.

And there are going to be people across the country who are watching you.  And when they see you succeed, when they see you working hard, when they see you overcoming setbacks — that’s going to inspire them as well.

And that brings me to my final point, which is I hope you leave here today believing that if you can make it, then there shouldn’t be any kid out here who can’t make it.  (Applause.)  Every child in America, no matter what they look like, or where they grow up, what their last name is — there’s so much talent out there.  And every single child — as Ted understood when he helped transform this school — every single child should have the opportunity like you have had to go as far as your talents and hard work will take you.  I’ve seen you do it, so we know it’s possible.

Now, it’s a challenging time.  I think sometimes I worry that your generation has grown up in a cynical time — in the aftermath of a Great Recession, in the aftermath of two wars.  We live in a culture that so often focuses on conflict and controversy and looks at the glass half empty instead of half full.  And you’re graduating at a time when you’ll no longer be competing just with people across town for good jobs, you’re going to be competing with the rest of the world.

But when I meet young people like you I am absolutely certain we are not just going to out-compete the rest of the world, we are going to win because of you.  Because we are Americans, that’s what we do.  We don’t settle.  We outwork.  We out-innovate.  We out-hustle the competition.  (Applause.)   And when we do, nobody can beat us.

And that’s what you’ve shown at this school — not just helping a few kids go as far as their hard work will take them.  I want all of you to be part of the process of helping all our young people achieve their God-given potential.  And as President, my job is to make sure every child in America gets that chance.  And Deval Patrick’s job is to make sure that everybody in the Commonwealth gets that chance.  And the Mayor, his focus is making sure everybody in this town gets that chance.  Every community is different.  But if Worcester can bring teachers and business and entire communities together for the sake of our young people, then other places can, too.

And that’s why I’ve challenged high schools all across the country to do what you’re doing here — better prepare students for the demands of the global economy.  We’re getting started this year with a competition that pairs schools and employers and colleges to combine quality education with real-world skills.

As part of that initiative, I launched something called ConnectED, working with the private sector to connect America’s students to high-speed broadband and advanced technology, just like you’ve got here at Worcester Tech.  Already, companies have committed to donate $2 billion to this effort.  And starting later this week, schools and teachers and students will be able to go to WhiteHouse.gov and access resources in time for the new school year — because I want to encourage more schools to do what you’re doing.  You’ve set a standard.  You’ve set a bar.  More schools can do it across the country.  (Applause.)

If you’re going to college, I also want to make sure that when you graduate you don’t have a mountain of debt.   (Applause.)  So we’re not only working to make college more affordable, we’re working to help more students pay back their loans that they take out when they go to college.  It is not fair to students who do everything right to get saddled with debt that they have to pay off not just for years, but in some cases decades.   We can do better than that.  (Applause.)

And even though they had votes and they couldn’t make it, I want to give a plug to a couple people.  Senator Elizabeth Warren and Congressman John Tierney, both from Massachusetts, who introduced bills that would make it easier for students to repay their student loans.  (Applause.)

It’s the same idea we used to make it easier for your parents to pay off their mortgages.  Now today, that idea was defeated by Republicans in Congress, which was frustrating, especially —

AUDIENCE:  Booo —

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, don’t boo.  Just remember to vote.   (Laughter and applause.)  So I know that it’s frustrating for parents.  It’s frustrating for students who are working hard and doing everything right.  There are too many politicians in Washington who don’t have the right priorities.  We need to straighten them out.  And maybe they forgot where they came from and who invested in them along the way.  (Applause.)  And when a bill to help you pay off your college doesn’t pass, it’s a disservice not only to your generation but to our history as a nation that strives to put quality education within the reach of every American.  So we’re going to have to keep on putting pressure on Congress.

But in the meantime, where Congress won’t act, I’m going to do whatever I can on my own.  (Applause.)  So on Monday, I announced executive actions that are going to help students like you find the right options — and give millions of Americans who are already making their loan payments a chance to cap those repayments at 10 percent of their income.  Because a quality education shouldn’t be something that other kids get — it should be something that every kid gets.  And that has to be a priority for this country.  (Applause.)

I tell you all this not just because you stand to benefit from changes in laws, but because you’re going to have to be a part of helping to shape the law.  You’re going to have to shape public opinion.  You’re going to have remember everybody who invested in you.  You’re going to have to remember the experience of being part of this incredible community.  And then, when you go out into the world, whether you are a businessperson, or you are in the military, or you are an academic, or a doctor, or whatever it is that you’re doing, you’re also going to be a citizen.  You’re also going to be somebody who has a voice in how this country operates.  And you’ve got to push so that others get the same chance you did.

And making sure that every young person has the same opportunities you’ve had — it won’t be easy.  Progress takes commitment.  It takes hard work.  We have to fight through the cynicism.  It’s going to take work from parents and from teachers, and members of the community and from students, but I know we can do it — and I know it because of you.

If Melinda Blanchard can get so good at welding that a bunch of college kids ask her help building a solar-paneled house for a competition in China, I know that we can get more young people excited about learning.  (Applause.)

If Greg Carlson can help the robotics team at Worcester Tech win the world championship — (applause) — and still find time to mentor a robotics team at the middle school where he started out, then I know we can help guarantee every child in America a quality education.

If Derek Murphy can start his own web development company — (applause) — and graduate with 18 college credits, I know we can help more students earn the skills that businesses are looking for.

You’re already doing it.  You’re already blazing a trail.  You’re already leading.  You’re already giving back.  You don’t need to remember what I said today, because you’re already doing it.

And if it can happen in Worcester, it can happen anyplace.  (Applause.)  And if it does — if more communities invest in young people like you, if you give back, if we all keep fighting to put opportunity within the reach of everybody who is willing to work for it — America will be stronger, your future will be brighter.  There is no limit to what we can do together.

So congratulations, Class of 2014.  You’re going to do big things.  God bless you.  God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

END
5:10 P.M. EDT

 

Full Text Obama Presidency June 10, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Remarks in Q&A with David Karp, CEO of Tumblr on Easing Student Loan Debt

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS


OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President in Q&A with David Karp, CEO of Tumblr

Source: WH, 6-10-14

State Dining Room

4:15 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, everybody.

AUDIENCE:  Hi.

THE PRESIDENT:  You don’t have to be so formal.  (Laughter.)  Sheesh.  Come on, now.

MR. KARP:  This is unusual.  Thank you.  Thank you, everyone, and welcome to the White House.  Thank you for having us, Mr. President.  I’m David Karp, the founder of Tumblr, and it is my tremendous privilege to be here with President Obama today and joined by the Tumblr community.  Thank you for joining us, everyone.

Yesterday, the President signed an executive order intended to curb the pain of student debt.  Americans now hold more than a trillion dollars in student debt, one of the greatest expenses they’ll incur in their lifetime.  And the generation that’s just reaching college age is beginning to wonder if it’s even worth it.

One-third of Americans who have applied for an education loan this year also happen to use Tumblr, so last week we asked our audience if they had questions that they’d like to ask the President about the cost value and accessibility of higher education — turns out they had quite a few.  We’re not going to be able to get through all of them today, but the President has been kind enough to give us some time at his house to answer some of those questions.  (Laughter.)

So again, huge thank you for making yourself available today.  Anything you’d like to add before we start?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first of all, this is a rental house.  (Laughter.)  I just want to be clear.  My lease runs out in about two and a half years.

Second of all, I want to thank David and the whole Tumblr community for participating in this.  We’re constantly looking for new ways to reach audiences that are relevant to the things we’re talking about.  And, obviously, young people disproportionately use Tumblr.  A lot of Tumblr users are impacted by student debt.  So for you to be able to give us this forum to speak directly to folks is wonderful, and I’m looking forward to a whole bunch of good questions.

MR. KARP:  Thank you.  Okay, so everybody is clear on how the questions work — so since we closed for questions at 5:00 p.m. yesterday, we brought together a team of influential Tumblr bloggers who helped us select some of the best questions.  There are — a few of them, anyway, are joining us in the audience in the State Dining Room here today.  Neither the White House nor the President have seen any of these questions in advance.

Should we get started?

THE PRESIDENT:  Let’s go.

MR. KARP:  All right.  So, first came in from Caitlin (ph).  I appreciate your willingness to work with legislators to attempt to retroactively diffuse the cost of some student’s loans by creating new repayment plans, but this seems to me like an attempt to put a band aid on a broken leg.  What are we doing to actually lower the cost of a college degree — excuse me — of college tuition so these loans will no longer be necessary?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, it’s a great question.  Let me give people some context for what’s happened over the last 20, 30 years.

I graduated from college in ’83; graduated from law school in 1990.  And although I went to a private school, through a combination of grants, loans and working I had a fairly low level of debt that I was able to pay in one year without getting an incredibly well-paying job.  I was able to keep my debt burden pretty low.  Folks who were 10 years younger than me, they probably paid even less.  And if you went to a state school at the time, typically people would come out with almost no debt whatsoever.

Today, the average debt burden, even for young people who are going to a public university, is about $30,000.  And that gives you some sense of how much the cost has escalated for the average young person.

Now, you mentioned earlier some people are wondering, is this a good investment.  It absolutely is.  The difference between a college grad and somebody with a high school diploma is about $28,000 a year in income.  So it continues to be a very smart investment for you to go to college.  But we have to find ways to do two things.

One is we have to lower the costs on the front end.  And then, if you do have to supplement whatever you can pay with borrowing, we’ve got to make sure that that is a manageable debt.  And about 12 months ago, maybe 16 months ago, I convened college and university presidents around the country to start working with them on how we could lower debt — or lower tuition, rather.

The main reason that tuition has gone up so much is that state legislatures stopped subsidizing public universities as much as they used to, in part because they started spending money on things like prisons and other activities that I think are less productive.  And so schools then made up for the declining state support by jacking up their tuition rates.

What’s also happened is, is that the costs of things like health care that a university community with a lot of personnel has to shoulder, those costs have gone up faster than wages and incomes.  The combination of those things has made college tuition skyrocket faster than health care costs have.

There are ways we can bring down those costs, and we know that because there are some colleges who have done a very good job in keeping tuition low.  We also have to do a better job of informing students about how to keep their debt down — because, frankly, universities don’t always counsel young people well when they first come in; they say, don’t worry about it, you can pay for it — not realizing that you’re paying for it through borrowing that you’re going to end up having to shoulder once you graduate.

MR. KARP:  What does that help, what does that support look like?  So Chelsea sent in a very similar question from Portland.  So she asks:  “Colleges help students get into debt.  They don’t often help offer financial planning services before school, after they graduate.”

Do you guys have a plan to help students make sound financial decisions?  I mean, these are teenagers who are making decisions sometimes amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars that are going to follow them through their entire lives.  Hopefully, they have parents who can help them navigate those decisions.  But if they don’t, are they on their own?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, we are already doing something we call Know What You Owe.  And the idea is to work with every college, university, community college out there so that when you come into school, ideally even before you accept admission from a school, you are given a sense of what your annual loans might be, what your financial package is going to translate into in terms of debt — assuming you go through a four-year degree on schedule, and what your monthly payments are likely to be afterwards.

And so just that one step alone — making sure that schools are obliged to counsel you on the front end when you come in, as opposed to just on the exit interview once you’ve already accumulated the debt — that in and of itself can make a big difference.

MR. KARP:  Understood.  We didn’t get first names for everybody.  So Haiku Moon asks — (laughter) —

THE PRESIDENT:  That might be the first name.  That’s a cool name.  (Laughter.)

MR. KARP:  “It wasn’t until after I graduated college that I realized what I wanted to do with my life.  Now I have a degree that has very little to do with that goal and a mountain of debt.  I can’t help but wonder if I wasn’t pressured to go to college and was better prepared to make that decision, and if I was better prepared to make that decision, that I might be in a better place to pursue my dreams today.  How can we change the public education system to better prepare and support young people making this huge decision?”  I mean, again, teenagers deciding what they want to do for the rest of their lives.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, one of the things that Haiku Moon is alluding to is that high school should be a time in which young people have greater exposure to actual careers as opposed to just classroom study.

And I went to a wonderful school in New York called P-TECH, went there for a visit.  What they’ve done is they have collapsed high school basically into a three-year program.  You can then extend for another two years and get an associate’s degree.  IBM is working with them so that if, in fact, they complete the curriculum that IBM helped to design, they know they’ve got a job at IBM on the back end.  And that’s just one example of what I’d like to see a lot more high schools do, which is give young people in high school more hands-on experience, more apprenticeships, more training.

If you are somebody who is interested in graphic design, I’d rather have you work at a company doing graphic design your senior year or junior year to see if you actually like it, to get a sense of the training you need.  You may not need a four-year degree.  You might only need a two-year degree.  You might be able to work while getting that degree.  All that can save you money.  So that can make a really big difference for high school kids.

At the same time, one of the things that we initiated several years back is something called income-based repayments.  And that’s something I really want to focus on, IBR for short — income-based repayments.  What we did in 2011 was to say all student loans going forward, if you have a debt and you decide you want to go into a job that — like teaching or social work, that doesn’t necessarily pay a lot, you shouldn’t be hampered from making that choice just because you’ve got such a significant debt load.  So what we said was that we will cap your repayments of your loans at 10 percent of your income above $18,000.  And by doing that, that gives people flexibility.  It doesn’t eliminate your debt.  But what it does is it makes it manageable each month so that the career that you choose may not be constrained, and we then have additional programs so that if you go into one of the helping professions — public service, law enforcement, social work, teaching — then over time that debt could actually be forgiven.

Now, the problem with it was that we passed this law in 2011; it only applied going forward.  It didn’t apply retroactively.  So yesterday what I did was sign an executive action saying that the Department of Education is going to be developing rules so that going backwards anybody can avail themselves of this income-based repayments, because I get a lot of letters from people who took out loans in 2005 or 2000 — they are also in a situation where they’re making regular payments but it’s very hard for them to make ends meet.  And we want to ideally finish what’s called the rulemaking process — nothing is easy around here — hopefully by the time — say, the end of next year, the rules will be in place, that will be the law, and then everybody and not just folks who borrowed after 2011 can take advantage of that.

But there’s not a lot of knowledge of this, and I hope that the Tumblr community helps to spread the word that this is something already available for loans that you took out after 2011 and hopefully by next year it will be available for people even if you took out your loans before 2011.

MR. KARP:  Where do we find information about it?

THE PRESIDENT:  You should go to whitehouse.gov, the White House website.  It will then link you to ED.gov, which is the Education Department website.  But whitehouse.gov I figure is easier to remember.  (Laughter.)

MR. KARP:  Can you elaborate real quick on encouraging public service?  So Josh from Oak Park sent in a really good question about this:  “The U.S. has a long history of encouraging college-age men and women to give back to their larger communities through organizations like the Peace Corps, through organizations like Teach for America.  Couldn’t we make a larger commitment to that by creating tuition loan forgiveness programs for those students who agree to work in those fields or work in those geographic areas in need of skilled employees?”  So you can imagine family practice doctors, you can imagine public defenders.

THE PRESIDENT:  I mean, right now we have some programs like this in place but they’re typically relatively small, relatively specialized.  So there are some loan-forgiveness programs for primary care physicians who are going out to rural communities or inner cities or underserved communities.  There are some programs that are available through the AmeriCorps program for people who are engaged in public service.  They are not as broad-based and widespread as I would like.  And we have tried to work with Congress — so far, unsuccessfully — to be able to get an expansion of these areas.

And let’s take health care as an example.  We know that the population is aging.  We know that we have a severe shortage of primary care physicians.  A lot of young doctors are going into specialized fields like dermatology or plastic surgery because you can make a relatively large profit, you don’t end up having a lot of liability, and that’s not really what we need more of.

And so my hope is, is that over time Congress recognizes that young people are our most precious asset.  There are some areas that we know we need people to get into the field, our best and brightest, and right now the financial burdens are precluding them from doing it.  And we could open up those fields to a huge influx of talent if we were a little smarter with it.

MR. KARP:  So you’ve touched on health care in public service and health care in general.  You talk a lot about STEM fields.  So how do we promote — this is one Orta (sp) asked:  “How can we promote growth in STEM fields without putting humanities on the back burner?”

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first of all, I want to say I was a humanities major.  (Laughter.)  I majored in political science and I minored in English.  And I was pretty good in math, but in high school — I actually loved math and science until I got into high school, and then I misspent those years.  (Laughter.)  And the thing about the humanities was you could kind of talk your way through classes, which you couldn’t do in math and science.  (Laughter.)

So a great liberal arts humanities education is still critically important, because in today’s global economy, one of the most important skills you have is your ability to work with people and communicate clearly and effectively.  Having said that, what is also true is that technology is going to continue to drive innovation.  And just to be a good citizen, you need some background in STEM, and we are not producing enough engineers, enough computer scientists, enough math teachers and science teachers, and enough researchers.

And so I’m putting a big emphasis on STEM in part because we have a shortage; not because I’m privileging one over the other, but because we don’t have as many people going into the STEM fields.  And it starts early.

Part of what we’re trying to do is work with public schools to take away some of the intimidation factor in math and science.  Part of what we’re trying to do is make sure that we are reaching to demographics that are very underrepresented — and, yes, I mean you, women.  Girls are still more likely to be discouraged from pursuing math, science, technology degrees.  You see that imbalance in Silicon Valley, you see it in a lot of high-tech firms.

And so we’re trying to lift up curriculums that are interesting for kids, work with schools in terms of best practices.  One of the things that we’re also discovering is that young people who have an interest in math and science, when they go to college, oftentimes they’re steered into finance because that’s been perceived as the more lucrative option.  And we’re trying to work with universities and departments of engineering, for example, to help mentor young people to understand that — if you look at the top 100 companies in the country, you’ve got a lot more engineers running companies than you do folks who have a finance background.

And so there are great opportunities.  And one of the things that every young person should be thinking about is, A, what’s their passion, what do they care about, but they should also be taking a look at where is there a demand.  And frankly, if you’ve got a science or engineering background, the likelihood of you being unemployed is very low, because there’s always going to be a need — and it doesn’t preclude you from writing a haiku at some point and figuring out some creative outlet.  But having that discipline and that skillset is still going to be invaluable.

MR. KARP:  Well, you just described it as really hard to navigate — again, a teenager making the decision between passion or an industry that’s going to have demand for them.  So great question:  “At this point, I’m stuck between majors.  I know the field I have a passion for has a limited number of jobs, all of which pay very little.  Assuming I get the job, the low income will make it difficult to pay the substantial debt I’ll most likely be in from that education.  There are other fields I know I could succeed in and receive the higher salary, but I’m afraid that one day I’ll realize I hate what I do.”

Question was, how did you decide on your career, and what advice do you have for somebody who is coming up trying to navigate that marketplace with demand or their passions?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well —

MR. KARP:  By the way, one vote for keeping kids out of finance.  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Or the law, by the way, because — (laughter) — we have enough lawyers.  Although it’s a fine profession.  (Laughter.)  I can say that because I’m a lawyer.

I think everybody is different.  But I do think that, first of all, when I first got out of school I worked for a year in a job that I wasn’t interested in because I wanted to pay off my loans.

Now, I had the luxury, as I said, that my loan burden was only — was small enough that I could pay it off in a year.  But work is not always fun, and you can’t always follow your bliss right away.  And so I think that young people should be practical.  I know a lot of young people who work for five years in a field that they may not be interested, but it gives them the financial stability and the base from which then to do what they want.  And there’s nothing wrong with that.

The main advice I would give young people starting off, though, is ultimately you are going to do best at something you care deeply about.  And some people have probably heard this said before, but if you really enjoy what you do, then the line between work and play starts vanishing a little bit.  You still have to grind it out, but you can get into that mindset where the creativity or the effort and the sweat that you’re putting into what you do doesn’t feel like a burden, it feels like an expression of what you care about.

And so I think your career is not going to be a straight line all the time.  I think there may be times where you got to take a detour and you got to do something practical to pay the bills.  There are going to be times where you see an opportunity, and you’re making a calculated risk that I’m going to start some wacky company called Tumblr.  (Laughter.)

And how you balance the practical with your highest aspirations is something that will be different for each person.  Everybody is going to have different circumstances.

MR. KARP:  What do you say to kids right now who ask you — they see their passion, they want to build big stuff for the Internet.  They want to build the next big app or the next big social network.  What do you tell them, when they say, hey, look, David, Zuckerberg, Jobs, Gates, all these guys —

THE PRESIDENT:  Just dropped out of school.

MR. KARP:  — might not necessarily deserve to get a company up, but dropped out of school?

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes.  I mean you wouldn’t know it looking at you, but you’re like LeBron or Durant.  (Laughter.)  I mean, you guys don’t have the same physiques — (laughter) — but there are only going to be so many Zuckerbergs or Gates who are able to short-circuit the traditional path.

If you can, more power to you.  But let me put it this way: Had you not — let’s say Tumblr had been a bust, right?  Or Facebook had just ended up being some dating site that nobody was really interested in.

MR. KARP:  We’d be in a hard place.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, but the truth is also you had the foundation where you could go back to school, right?  I mean, it wasn’t as if you were suddenly operating without a net.  I’m assuming that you would have been readmitted to whatever institution you were in.  And if not, then you would go to another school and you’d do fine.

So the issue is not whether you may not want to take a risk at some point.  The point is that for the average young person an investment in college is always going to be a smart investment.  Making sure you know what it is that you’re investing in is important.

One of the biggest areas where we see a problem is young people who are going, let’s say, to technical schools or community colleges or some of these for-profit universities, they’re promised a lot.  But they haven’t done the research to see, okay, does typically a graduate coming out of one of these schools get a job in the occupation?  Are they actually making money?  If you’re going to have $50,000 worth of debt, you better have factored in what are the employment prospects coming out.

And so I think it’s good for young people — not only good, it’s imperative for young people to be good consumers of education, and don’t just assume that there’s one way of doing things.

We tell our daughters — Malia is now — she’ll be 16 next month, and she’s going to be in the college process.  And we tell her, don’t assume that there are 10 schools that you have to go to, and if you didn’t go to those 10, that somehow things are going to be terrible.  There are a lot of schools out there.  There are a lot of options.  And you should do your research before you decide to exercise one of those options.

Having said that, the overwhelming evidence is that a college education is the surest, clearest path into the middle class for most Americans.

MR. KARP:  Is the White House right now offering any of those tools to be a good a consumer, to navigate all the choices out there?

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes, yes.  So if you go to whitehouse.gov, which will link you to the Department of Education, one of the things that we’re doing is to — we’re starting to develop a scorecard for colleges and universities so you have just a general sense of what’s the typical graduation rate, what’s the typical debt that you carry once you get out, what is the employment rate for graduates five years afterwards.  And over time, one of the things that we’re trying to do is develop a ranking system that is not exactly the same as the typical college-ranking systems that you see in U.S. News and World Report, for example.

Part of the problem with the traditional ranking systems of schools is that, for example, high cost is actually a bonus in the ranking system.  It indicates prestige, and so there may be some great schools that are expensive, but what you’re missing is a great school that may give you much better value, particularly in the field that you’re in.

Now, there’s some controversy, I want to confess, about — that a lot of colleges and universities say, you know, if you start ranking just based on cost and employability, et cetera, you’re missing the essence of higher education and so forth.  What we’re really trying to do is just identify here are some good bargains, here are some really bad deals.  Then there’s going to be a bunch of schools in the middle that there’s not going to be a huge amount of differentiation.  But what we are trying to do is make sure that students have enough information going into it that they don’t end up in a school that is pretty notorious for piling a lot of debt on their students but not really delivering a great education.

MR. KARP:  Back to the debt, which is top of mind for everybody here today — so Megan (ph) from Tulsa asked an interesting question:  “Of my $220,000 in student loans —

THE PRESIDENT:  Yikes.

MR. KARP:  — from college and law school” — there you go — “less than half is receiving the benefit of loan forgiveness.”  Why is there no discussion on the mounting private student loan debt?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, there is a discussion.  The problem is we just end up having less leverage over that.  I mean, the truth is, is that both legislatively and administratively we have some impact on federal loans.  Private loans — if you take — if you go to a private company and you’re taking out a loan, we have the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau that is trying to regulate this area and make sure that you have full information about what you’re getting yourself into.  It’s another version of Know Before You Owe.  But it’s harder for us to restructure some of that debt.

Now, one thing that I think is really important for everybody to know here — because this is actual action you can take, as opposed to just listening to me blather on.  This week, there will be a vote in the United States Senate on a bill sponsored by Elizabeth Warren, the Senator from Massachusetts.  And what this bill would do would allow students to refinance their existing loans at today’s rates.  The reason that’s important is because rates have been low, and typically there’s going to be a pretty big spread between the rates that a lot of students — the interest rates that a lot of students have on their debt right now, versus what they could do if they refinanced, the same way that a lot of people refinance their mortgages to take advantage of historically low rates.

And so this vote is coming up.  It will come up this week.  I think everybody on Tumblr should be contacting their senators and finding out where they stand on the issue, because — and, by the way, this is something that will not add to the deficit, because the way we pay for it is we say that we’re going to eliminate some loopholes right now that allow millionaires and billionaires to pay lower rates of taxes than secretaries and teachers.  And so it would pay for itself.  It’s a good piece of legislation.  It directly affects folks in their 20s and 30s, and in some cases, their 40s and 50s and 60s.  But particularly the young people who use Tumblr, this is something that you should pay a lot of attention to.  Make sure that you are pushing your senators around this issue.

MR. KARP:  Particularly important if you know you’re facing that debt already or you are already today facing that debt.  What’s the best way, though, for people who are — again, they’re thinking about higher education, they’re in school today, and a thoughtful question.  What is the best way for students to have a voice in their own education?  So much education today, I think really — I don’t know, I mean, so many teenagers who feel like education is happening to them.  They’re going through the motions.  They know that this is what they’re supposed to do, and so they follow along.  How do we make sure kids are driving?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, look, at some point it’s going to be up to the young person to drive that education.  It’s not inevitable that you just fasten your seatbelt and just go on a ride for four years or two years or whatever it is.  I mean, I have to say that in my own college experience, I think the first two years I was there thinking I’m just happy to be here and I’m having fun and I’ll just sort of go through the motions.  My last two years was when I really became much more serious about what I was doing and much more intentional about what I was doing.

Too many young people see — and I’m grossly generalizing now, so excuse me — but I use myself as an example as well.  I think too many of us see college as a box to check or a place to have fun and extend adolescence, as opposed to a opportunity for each of us to figure out what is it that we’re good at, what is it that we care about, what is it that we’re willing to invest a lot of time and effort and energy into, how do we hone some skills or interests or attributes that we already have.  And as a consequence, I think young people waste a lot of time in school.

Now, again, I’m generalizing, because there are a whole bunch of folks who are working while going to school, while helping out their parents — in some cases, they’re already parents themselves.  And so everything I just said does not apply to you.  It’s interesting — one of the reasons I think I did well in law school was because I had worked for three and a half years so that by the time I got to law school I actually knew why I was studying the law, and I knew exactly what I wanted to get out of it — not to mention the fact that the idea of just going to class for three hours a day and then reading didn’t seem particularly oppressive to me, whereas young people who had come straight out of college thought, this is horrible.  Try working for a while and then you realize that this is a pretty good deal.  (Laughter.)

But I think that part of what we as adults have to do goes back to what I said about high schools.  Education is not a passive thing.  You don’t tip your head and somebody pours it into your ear.  It is an active process of you figuring out the world and your place in it.  And the earlier we can help young people — not lock them in.  Look, nobody expects that somebody who is 16 automatically knows exactly what they want to do, and people may change their minds repeatedly.  But what we can do is expose young people to enough actual work and occupations that they start getting a feel for what they would be interested in.  And I really want to work with more school districts, and I’ve asked the Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, to work with more school districts, and we’re actually giving grants to school districts that are thinking creatively about how high school can be used more effectively.

I don’t want a young person who knows that they want to go into the trades to just waste four years of high school and then they’ve got to go through two years of apprenticeship and classwork before they become a contractor.  I’d rather have them doing contracting while also getting some other educational exposure so that they’re getting a jump on the things that they want to do.  And they can save a lot of money in the process.

MR. KARP:  So Beth asked a question close to that point.  Instead of pushing all students into college, shouldn’t we focus on the other side — increasing the minimum wage and making it viable, livable to enter the workforce straight out of high school?  Should we be doing both?

THE PRESIDENT:  Absolutely.  Well, here is what I would say:  There are very few jobs now where you’re not going to need some advanced training.  One of the great things about being President is I get to visit companies and worksites and factories.  And if you go into the average auto company today, for example, first of all, it’s not at all what you’d imagine — it is spotless and it is quiet, and it is humming, because it is all mechanized and computerized at this point.  And even if you have a four-football-field-sized assembly line, most of the people there are working with machines and they’re working on computer keyboards.

So having some basic training in math, some familiarity with computers, some familiarity with programming and code — all that is a huge advantage if you are trying to get a job on an assembly line.  Now, if that’s true for assembly line work, that’s certainly going to be true for any other trade that you’re interested in.

We do have to do a better job of giving young people who are interested an effective vocational education.  And there are tons of opportunities out there for people — here’s an interesting statistic:  The average trade person in Wisconsin — and what I mean by that is an electrician, a plumber, a carpenter, a machine tool worker — the average age in Wisconsin is 59 years old.  Now, these jobs typically pay 25, 30 bucks an hour, potentially, with benefits.  You can make a really good living doing that, and there are a lot of folks who love doing it.  It’s really interesting work and highly skilled work.

So I don’t want somebody to find out about that when they’re 30, after they’ve already taken a bunch of classes and stuff that they ended up not using; now they’ve got a bunch of debt.  I’d rather, if they got that inclination, to figure that early and be able to go straight into something that helps them get that job.

MR. KARP:  So one question we heard a lot from our community that I wanted to make sure to mention today:  Recently — I think you’ve been following — the Department of Ed’s Office of Civil Rights and DOJ have extended Title IX protections to trans students.  What do you see as the next steps to ensure equal treatment of trans people in schools in America?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, Title IX is a powerful tool.  It’s interesting — yesterday I had the University of Connecticut men’s and women’s basketball teams here.  This is only the second time that the men’s and women’s basketball teams won the national championship in the same year.  The previous year was 2004, and it was UConn again.

But what was interesting about it is that the men were kind of a surprise.  It was nice.  The women were dominant.  I mean, the UConn Husky women’s program, they rule.  And they are incredible athletes.  And talking to these young women, they’re poised and they’re beautiful, and some of them are 6’6” and they’re wearing high heels, and supremely confident and competitive.  And that’s a huge shift from even 20 years ago or 30 years ago.  The reason for that was Title IX was applied vigorously in schools, and it gave opportunities — it’s not like women suddenly became athletes.  They were athletic before.  Michelle, when I work out with her, she puts me to shame.  (Laughter.)  But it had more to do with restrictions and opportunity.

So the point I’m making is, is that Title IX is a very powerful tool.  The fact that we are applying it to transgender students means that they are going to be in a position to assert their rights if and when they see that they are being discriminated on their college campuses.  And that could manifest itself in a whole variety of ways.

MR. KARP:  Brilliant.  This one was sent in a few days ago:  “Mr. President, my name is Nick Dineen, and I attend school at the University of California-Santa Barbara.  I was the RA for the floor that George Chen lived on last year as a first-year college student.  I knew him.  Elliot Rodger killed him and five more of my fellow students.  Today, another man has shot and killed at least one person and injured three others at a private Christian school in Seattle.  What are you going to do?  What can we all do?”  And of course, another mass shooting this morning.

THE PRESIDENT:  I have to say that people often ask me how has it been being President, and what am I proudest of and what are my biggest disappointments.  And I’ve got two and a half years left.  My biggest frustration so far is the fact that this society has not been willing to take some basic steps to keep guns out of the hands of people who can do just unbelievable damage.

We’re the only developed country on Earth where this happens.  And it happens now once a week.  And it’s a one-day story.  There’s no place else like this.  A couple of decades ago, Australia had a mass shooting similar to Columbine or Newtown.  And Australia just said, well, that’s it — we’re not seeing that again.  And basically imposed very severe, tough gun laws.  And they haven’t had a mass shooting since.

Our levels of gun violence are off the charts.  There’s no advanced, developed country on Earth that would put up with this.  Now, we have a different tradition.  We have a Second Amendment.  We have historically respected gun rights.  I respect gun rights.  But the idea that, for example, we couldn’t even get a background check bill in to make sure that if you’re going to buy a weapon you have to actually go through a fairly rigorous process so that we know who you are, so you can’t just walk up to a store and buy a semiautomatic weapon — it makes no sense.

And I don’t know if anybody saw the brief press conference from the father of the young man who had been killed at Santa Barbara.  And as a father myself, I just could not understand the pain he must be going through and just the primal scream that he gave out — why aren’t we doing something about this?

And I will tell you, I have been in Washington for a while now and most things don’t surprise me.  The fact that 20 six-year-olds were gunned down in the most violent fashion possible and this town couldn’t do anything about it was stunning to me.  And so the question then becomes what can we do about it.  The only thing that is going to change is public opinion.  If public opinion does not demand change in Congress, it will not change.  I’ve initiated over 20 executive actions to try to tighten up some of the rules in the laws, but the bottom line is, is that we don’t have enough tools right now to really make as big of a dent as we need to.

And most members of Congress — and I have to say, to some degree, this is bipartisan — are terrified of the NRA.  The combination of the NRA and gun manufacturers are very well financed and have the capacity to move votes in local elections and congressional elections.  And so if you’re running for office right now, that’s where you feel the heat.  And people on the other side may be generally favorable towards things like background checks and other commonsense rules but they’re not as motivated.  So that’s not — that doesn’t end up being the issue that a lot of you vote on.

And until that changes, until there is a fundamental shift in public opinion in which people say, enough, this is not acceptable, this is not normal, this isn’t sort of the price we should be paying for our freedom, that we can have respect for the Second Amendment and responsible gun owners and sportsmen and hunters can have the ability to possess weapons but that we are going to put some commonsense rules in place that make a dent, at least, in what’s happening — until that is not just the majority of you — because that’s already the majority of you, even the majority of gun owners believe that.  But until that’s a view that people feel passionately about and are willing to go after folks who don’t vote reflecting those values, until that happens, sadly, not that much is going to change.

The last thing I’ll say:  A lot of people will say that, well, this is a mental health problem, it’s not a gun problem.  The United States does not have a monopoly on crazy people.  (Laughter.)  It’s not the only country that has psychosis.  And yet, we kill each other in these mass shootings at rates that are exponentially higher than anyplace else.  Well, what’s the difference?  The difference is, is that these guys can stack up a bunch of ammunition in their houses and that’s sort of par for the course.

So the country has to do some soul searching about this.  This is becoming the norm, and we take it for granted in ways that, as a parent, are terrifying to me.  And I am prepared to work with anybody, including responsible sportsmen and gun owners, to craft some solutions.  But right now, it’s not even possible to get even the mildest restrictions through Congress, and we should be ashamed of that.

MR. KARP:  Thank you for taking the time to answer that one.  Obviously an incredibly difficult and disappointing conversation to have.

It looks like we have time for one more question, so let’s switch over to a lighter one.  There are plenty of young people out there today who are watching your career incredibly closely.  They’re thinking about their futures, their careers, their educations that they’re going off to pursue.  Astonishment asked, “Where do you see yourself in 10 years?”  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I haven’t projected out 10 years.  I’m really focused on making sure that I make every day in the next two and a half years count, because it’s an incredible privilege to be in this office.  And even when I’m frustrated with Congress or I’m frustrated with the press and how it’s reporting things and Washington generally, I also know that there’s something I can do every single day that’s helping somebody and that sometimes without a lot of fanfare we’re making it easier for a business to get a loan, and we’re making it easier for a young person to get an education, and we’re making it easier for a family to get health care, and making sure that each day I come away with something that we’ve done to make it a little easier for folks to work their way into the middle class, to stay in the middle class, to save for retirement, to finance their kids’ college educations — that’s a good day for me.

I know what I’ll do right after the next President is inaugurated.  I’ll be on a beach somewhere drinking out of a coconut.  (Laughter.)  But that probably won’t last too long.

And one of the things that Michelle and I have talked about a lot is we’re really interested in developing young people and working with them and creating more institutions to promote young leadership.  I’m so impressed when I meet young people around the country.  They’re full of passion.  They’re full of ideas.  I think they’re much wiser and smarter than I was, part of it maybe is because of Tumblr — I don’t know.  (Laughter.)

And so there’s just huge potential.  And the challenge is they’re also fed a lot of cynicism.  You guys are fed a lot of cynicism every single day about how nothing works and big institutions stink and government is broken.  And so you channel a lot of your passion and energy into various private endeavors.

But this country has always been built both through an individual initiative, but also a sense of some common purpose.  And if there’s one message I want to deliver to young people like a Tumblr audience is, don’t get cynical.  Guard against cynicism.  I mean, the truth of the matter is that for all the challenges we face, all the problems that we have, if you had to be — if you had to choose any moment to be born in human history, not knowing what your position was going to be, who you were going to be, you’d choose this time.  The world is less violent than it has ever been.  It is healthier than it has ever been.  It is more tolerant than it has ever been.  It is better fed then it’s ever been.  It is more educated than it’s ever been.

Terrible things happen around the world every single day, but the trend lines of progress are unmistakable.  And the reason is, is because each successive generation tries to learn from previous mistakes and pushes the course of history in a better direction.  And the only thing that stops that is if people start thinking that they don’t make a difference and they can’t make changes.  And that’s fed in our culture all the time.

It’s fascinating to me — I don’t consume a lot of television, but generally, the culture right now is inherently in a cynical mood in part because we went through a big trauma back in 2007, 2008 with the financial crisis, and we went through a decade of wars that were really tough.  And that’s the era in which you were born.

But look out on the horizon, and there’s a lot of opportunity out there.  And that’s what I’d like to do after the presidency, is make sure that I help young people guard against cynicism and do the remarkable things they can do.

MR. KARP:  Beautiful.  Mr. President, thank you so much for taking time to answer our questions today, really.

THE PRESIDENT:  We had a great time.

MR. KARP:  Thank you.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Appreciate it.  It was great.  Thank you.

MR. KARP:  Was that okay?  I’ve never talked to a President before.

THE PRESIDENT:  He’s a natural.  He could have gone into journalism.

MR. KARP:  I’ve never talked to a President before.  Thank you so much.  Hey, real quick, guys, before we go, I would really like to thank the President for having us over to his rental property today.  (Laughter.)  It really does mean a lot to our community to know that America’s leader is listening to us.  I hope we’ve all come away with a clear picture as to the issues that we’re facing.  Please make sure to follow WhiteHouse.tumblr.com.  And lastly, please wish — excuse me — Sasha a happy 13th birthday from us.

THE PRESIDENT:  It is Sasha’s birthday today.  (Applause.)

MR. KARP:  Now that’s she’s 13, guys — (applause) — now that she’s 13, according to our terms of service, she’s officially old enough to use Tumblr.  (Laughter.)  Let us know.

THE PRESIDENT:  So she wasn’t before then?  (Laughter.)

MR. KARP:  She wasn’t.  Sorry.  We can let this one slide.  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  I’m going to have to talk to somebody about that.  (Laughter.)

Thank you, guys.  Had a great time.  (Applause.)

END
5:10 P.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency June 9, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech at Executive Order Signing Easing Student Loan Debt

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on Opportunity for All: Making College More Affordable

Source: WH, 6-9-14

1:51 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  Everybody have a seat.  Welcome to the White House.  And I want to thank Andy for the terrific introduction.  And this is commencement season, and it’s always a hopeful and exciting time, and I’ll bet we might have some folks who just graduated here today.  Raise your hands.  Let’s see — yes, we’ve got a couple of folks who are feeling pretty good.  (Laughter.)

Of course, once the glow wears off, this can be a stressful time for millions of students.  And they’re asking themselves, how on Earth am I going to pay off all these student loans?  And that’s what we’re here to talk about.  And Andy I think gave a vivid example of what’s going through the minds of so many young people who have the drive and the energy and have succeeded in everything that they do but because of family circumstances have found themselves in a situation where they’ve got significant debt.

Now, we know, all of you know, that in a 21st century economy, a higher education is the single best investment that you can make in yourselves and your future, and we’ve got to make sure that investment pays off.

And here’s why:  For 51 months in a row, our businesses have created new jobs — 9.4 million new jobs in total.  And over the last year, we’ve averaged around 200,000 new jobs every month.  That’s the good news.  But while those at the top are doing better than ever, average wages have barely budged.  And there are too many Americans out there that are working harder and harder just to get by.

Everything I do is aimed towards reversing those trends that put a greater burden on the middle class and are diminishing the number of ladders to get into the middle class, because the central tenet of my presidency, partly because of the story of my life and Michelle’s life, is this is a country where opportunity should be available for anybody — the idea that no matter who you are, what you look like, where you come from, how you were raised, who you love, if you’re willing to work hard, if you’re willing to live up to your responsibilities, you can make it here in America.

And in America, higher education opens the doors of opportunity for all.  And it doesn’t have to be a four-year college education.  We’ve got community colleges, we’ve got technical schools, but we know that some higher education, some additional skills is going to be your surest path to the middle class.  The typical American with a bachelor’s degree or higher earns over $28,000 more per year than somebody with just a high school education — 28 grand a year.  And right now, the unemployment rate for workers with a bachelor’s degree is about half of what it is for folks with just a high school education.

So you know that this is a smart investment.  Your parents know this is a smart investment.  That’s why so many of them made such big sacrifices to make sure that you could get into college, and nagged you throughout your high school years.  (Laughter.)

Here’s the problem:  At a time when higher education has never been more important, it’s also never been more expensive.  Over the last three decades, the average tuition at a public university has more than tripled.  At the same time, the typical family’s income has gone up just 16 percent.

Michelle and I both went to college because of loans and grants and the work that we did.   But I’ll be honest with you — now, I’m old, I’ve got to admit — (laughter) — but when I got out of school, it took me about a year to pay off my entire undergraduate education.  That was it.  And I went to a private school; I didn’t even go to a public school.  So as recently as the ‘70s, the ‘80s, when you made a commitment to college, you weren’t anticipating that you’d have this massive debt on the back end.

Now, when I went to law school it was a different story.  But that made sense because the idea was if you got a professional degree like a law degree, you would probably be able to pay it off.  And so I didn’t feel sorry for myself or any lawyers who took on law school debt.

But compare that experience just half a generation, a generation ago to what kids are going through now.  These rising costs have left middle-class families feeling trapped.  Let’s be honest:  Families at the top, they can easily save more than enough money to pay for school out of pocket.  Families at the bottom face a lot of obstacles, but they can turn to federal programs designed to help them handle costs.  But you’ve got a lot of middle-class families who can’t build up enough savings, don’t qualify for support, feel like nobody is looking out for them.  And as Andy just described vividly, heaven forbid that the equity in their home gets used up for some other family emergency, or, as we saw in 2008, suddenly home values sink, and then people feel like they’re left in the lurch.

So I’m only here because this country gave me a chance through education.  We are here today because we believe that in America, no hardworking young person should be priced out of a higher education.

This country has always made a commitment to put a good education within the reach of young people willing to work for it.  I mentioned my generation, but think about my grandfather’s generation.  I just came back from Normandy, where we celebrated D-Day.  When that generation of young people came back from World War II, at least the men, my grandfather was able to go to college on the GI Bill.  And that helped build the greatest middle class the world has ever known.

Grants helped my mother raise two kids by herself while she got through school.  And she didn’t have $75,000 worth of debt, and she was raising two kids at the same time.  Neither Michelle or I came from a lot of money, but with hard work, and help from scholarships and student loans, we got to go to great schools.  We did not have this kind of burden that we’re seeing, at least at the undergraduate stages.  As I said, because of law school, we only finished paying off our own student loans just 10 years ago.  So we know what many of you are going through or look forward — or don’t look forward to.  (Laughter.)  And we were doing it at the same time — we already had to start saving for Malia and Sasha’s education.

But this is why I feel so strongly about this.  This is why I’m passionate about it.  That’s why we took on a student loan system that basically gave away tens of billions of taxpayer dollars to big banks.  We said, let’s cut out the middle man.  Banks should be making a profit on what they do, but not off the backs of students.  We reformed it; more money went directly to students.  We expanded grants for low-income students through the Pell grant program.  We created a new tuition tax credit for middle-class families.  We offered millions of young people the chance to cap their student loan payments at 10 percent of their income — that’s what Andy was referring to.  Michelle right now is working with students to help them “Reach Higher,” and overcome the obstacles that stand between them and graduation.  This is something we are deeply invested in.

But as long as college costs keep soaring, we can’t just keep throwing money at the problem.  We’re going to have to initiate reforms from the colleges themselves.  States have to invest more in higher education.  Historically, the reason we had such a great public education system, public higher education system was states understood we will benefit if we invest in higher education.  And somewhere along the line, they started thinking, we’ve got to invest more in prisons than we do in higher education.  And part of the reason that tuition has been jacked up year after year after year is state legislators are not prioritizing this.  They’re passing the costs onto taxpayers.  It’s not sustainable.

So that’s why I laid out a plan to shake up our higher education system and encourage colleges to finally bring down college costs.  And I proposed new rules to make sure for-profit colleges keep their promises and train students with the skills for today’s jobs without saddling them with debt.  Too many of these for-profit colleges — some do a fine job, but many of them recruit kids in, the kids don’t graduate, but they’re left with the debt.  And if they do graduate, too often they don’t have the marketable skills they need to get the job that allows them to service the debt.

None of these fights have been easy.  All of them have been worth it.  You’ve got some outstanding members of Congress right here who have been fighting right alongside us to make sure that we are giving you a fair shake.  And the good news is, more young people are earning college degrees than ever before.  And that’s something we should be proud of, and that’s something we should celebrate.

But more of them are graduating with debt.  Despite everything we’re doing, we’re still seeing too big a debt load on too many young people.  A large majority of today’s college seniors have taken out loans to pay for school.  The average borrower at a four-year college owes nearly $30,000 by graduation day.  Americans now owe more on student loans than they do on credit cards.  And the outrage here is that they’re just doing what they’ve been told they’re supposed to do.  I can’t tell you how many letters I get from people who say I did everything I was supposed to and now I’m finding myself in a situation where I’ve got debts I can’t pay off, and I want to pay them off, and I’m working really hard, but I just can’t make ends meet.

If somebody plays by the rules, they shouldn’t be punished for it.  A young woman named Ashley, in Santa Fe, wrote me a letter a few months ago.  And Ashley wanted me to know that she’s young, she’s ambitious, she’s proud of the degree she earned.  And she said, “I am the future” — she put “am” in capital letters so that I’d know she means business.  (Laughter.)  And she told me that because of her student loan debt, she’s worried she’ll never be able to buy a car or a house.  She wrote, “I’m not even 30, and I’ve given up on my future because I can’t afford to have one.”  I wrote her back and said it’s a little early in your 20s to give up.  (Laughter.)  So I’m sure Ashley was trying to make a point, but it’s a point that all of us need to pay attention to.  In America, no young person who works hard and plays by the rules should feel that way.

Now, I’ve made it clear that I want to work with Congress on this issue.  Unfortunately, a generation of young people can’t afford to wait for Congress to get going.  The members of Congress who are here are working very hard and putting forward legislation to try to make this stuff happen, but they have not gotten some of the support that they need.  In this year of action, wherever I’ve seen ways I can act on my own to expand opportunity to more Americans, I have.  And today, I’m going to take three actions to help more young people pay off their student loan debt.

Number one, I’m directing our Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, to give more Americans who are already making their loan payments a chance to cap those payments at 10 percent of their income.  We call it “Pay As You Earn.”  We know it works, because we’ve already offered it to millions of young people.  It’s saving folks like Andy hundreds of dollars potentially every month. It’s giving graduates the opportunity to pursue the dreams that inspired them to go to school in the first place, and that’s good for everybody.  And we want more young people to start their own businesses.  We want more young people becoming teachers and nurses and social workers.  We want young people to be in a position to pursue their dreams.  And we want more young people who act responsibly to be able to manage their debt over time.  So we’re announcing steps that will open up “Pay As You Earn” to nearly 5 million more Americans.  That’s the first action we’re taking today.

The second action is to renegotiate contracts with private companies like Sallie Mae that service our student loans.  And we’re going to make it clear that these companies are in the business of helping students, not just collecting payments, and they owe young people the customer service, and support, and financial flexibility that they deserve.  That’s number two.

Number three — we’re doing more to help every borrower know all the options that are out there, so that they can pick the one that’s right for them.  So we’re going to work with the teachers’ associations, and the nurses’ associations, with business groups; with the YMCA, and non-profits and companies like TurboTax and H&R Block.  And tomorrow, I’m going to do a student loan Q&A with Tumblr to help spread the word — you’re laughing because you think, what does he know about Tumblr?  (Laughter.)  But you will recall that I have two teenage daughters so that I am hip to all these things.  (Laughter.)  Plus I have all these twenty-somethings who are working for me all the time.  (Laughter.)

But to give even more student borrowers the chance to save money requires action from Congress.  I’m going to be signing this executive order.  It’s going to make progress, but not enough.  We need more.  We’ve got to have Congress to make some progress.  Now, the good news is, as I said, there are some folks in Congress who want to do it.  There are folks here like Jim Clyburn, John Tierney, who are helping lead this fight in the House.  We’ve got Elizabeth Warren, who’s leading this fight in the Senate.  Elizabeth has written a bill that would let students refinance their loans at today’s lower interest rates, just like their parents can refinance a mortgage.  It pays for itself by closing loopholes that allow some millionaires to pay a lower tax rate than middle-class families.

I don’t know, by the way, why folks aren’t more outraged about this.  I’m going to take a pause out of my prepared text.  You would think that if somebody like me has done really well in part because the country has invested in them, that they wouldn’t mind at least paying the same rate as a teacher or a nurse.  There’s not a good economic argument for it, that they should pay a lower rate.  It’s just clout, that’s all.  So it’s bad enough that that’s already happening.  It would be scandalous if we allowed those kinds of tax loopholes for the very, very fortunate to survive while students are having trouble just getting started in their lives.

So you’ve got a pretty straightforward bill here.  And this week, Congress will vote on that bill.  And I want Americans to pay attention to see where their lawmakers’ priorities lie here:  lower tax bills for millionaires, or lower student loan bills for the middle class.

This should be a no-brainer.  You’ve got a group of far-right Republicans in Congress who push this trickle-down economic plan, telling hard-working students and families, “You’re on your own.”  Two years ago, Republicans in Congress nearly let student loan interest rates double for 7 million young people.  Last year, they tried to strip protections from lower-income students.  This year, House Republicans voted overwhelmingly to slash Pell grants and make it harder for thousands of families to afford college.  If you’re a big oil company, they’ll go to bat for you.  If you’re a student, good luck.

Some of these Republicans in Congress seem to believe that it’s just because — that just because some of the young people behind me need some help, that they’re not trying hard enough.  They don’t get it.  Maybe they need to talk to Andy.  These students worked hard to get where they are today.

Shanelle Roberson — where is Shanelle?  Shanelle is the first in her family to graduate from a four-year college.  (Applause.)  Shanelle is not asking for a handout, none of these folks are.  They’re working hard.  They’re working while they’re going to school.  They’re doing exactly what we told them they should do.  But they want a chance.  If they do exactly what they’re told they should do, that they’re not suddenly loaded up where they’ve got so much debt that they can’t buy a house, they can’t think about starting a family, they can’t imagine starting a business on their own.

I’ve been in politics long enough to hear plenty of people, from both parties, pay lip service to the next generation, and then they abandon them when it counts.  And we, the voters, let it happen.  This is something that should be really straightforward, just like the minimum wage should be straightforward, just like equal pay for equal work should be straightforward.  And one of the things I want all the voters out there to consider, particularly parents who are struggling trying to figure out how am I going to pay my kid’s college education, take a look and see who is that’s fighting for you and your kids, and who is it that’s not.  Because if there are no consequences, then this kind of irresponsible behavior continues on the part of members of Congress.

So I ran for this office to help more young people go to college, graduate, and pay off their debt.  And we’ve made some really good progress despite the best efforts of some in Congress to block that progress.  Think about how much more we could do if they were not standing in the way.

This week, they have a chance to help millions of young people.  I hope they do.  You should let them know you are watching and paying attention to what they do.  If they do not look out for you, and then throw up a whole bunch of arguments that are meant to obfuscate — meaning confuse, rather than to clarify and illuminate — (laughter) — then you should call them to account.  And in the meantime, I’m going to take these actions today on behalf of all these young people here, and every striving young American who shares my belief that this is a place where you can still make it if you try.

Thank you, everybody.  God bless you.  God bless America.

END
2:12 P.M. EDT

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Full Text Obama Presidency March 7, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech on Education, College Opportunity and Federal Student Aid

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

A World-Class Education for Every Student in America

Source: WH, 3-7-14
President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama talks with students in a classroom at Coral Reef Senior High School, Florida, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama talks with students in a classroom at Coral Reef Senior High School, Fla., March 7, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Today, President Obama and the First Lady visited Coral Reef High School in Miami to discuss the President’s plan to equip all Americans with the education they need to compete in the 21st century economy….READ MORE

Remarks by the President on Preparing for College

Source: WH, 3-7-14

Watch the Video

President Obama Speaks on College Opportunity
March 07, 2014 5:36 PM

President Obama Speaks on College Opportunity

Coral Reef Senior High School
Miami, Florida

3:05 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, Miami!  (Applause.)  Hello, Cuda Nation!  (Applause.)  Hello!  It is good to be here at Coral Reef Senior High.  (Applause.)  You guys are just happy because it’s warm down here all the time.  (Laughter.)  I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but the rest of the country is cold.  (Laughter.)  Listen, Michelle and I are so grateful for the warm welcome.  It is great to be here.  I want to thank some people who are doing outstanding work.

First of all, your superintendent, Superintendent Carvalho, is doing great work.  We’re really proud of him.  (Applause.)  Your principal, Principal Leal, is doing great work.  (Applause.)  All the Coral Reef teachers and staff, you guys are all doing a great job.  (Applause.)  And you’re doing what is necessary to help young people get ready for college and careers.  So that’s why we’re here.  We are proud of what’s being done at this school.

I want to mention a few other folks who are here who are fighting on behalf of the people of South Florida every day.  We’ve got Congressman Joe Garcia is here.  (Applause.)  We’ve got Congresswoman Frederica Wilson here.  (Applause.)  We’ve got Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez.  Your former Governor Charlie Crist is here.  (Applause.)

And most of all, I want to thank the people that Michelle and I came all the down here to see, and that is the students of Coral Reef.  (Applause.)  We had heard great things about your school.  We had heard great things about the students.  We wanted to come down here and just see what was going on.  (Applause.)  And Michelle and I just had a chance to visit with some of your classmates who are going through some of the scholarship applications, and we had a chance to talk to them and hear what their plans were.  And first of all, Michelle and I looked and we said, these must be actors playing students, because they were all smart and good-looking and organized.  (Laughter.)  And I asked them, what are you going to do?  And they’re — well, I’m going to be applying to business school, and then I’m going to start a company, and then I — when I was your age, I didn’t know what I was doing.  I was lucky if I had gotten out of bed on time.  (Laughter.)  So you guys are ahead of the game.

And we’re here to tell you that you’ve got to keep up the good work, because by working hard every single day, every single night, you are making the best investment there is in your future.  And we want to make sure you’ve got everything, all the tools you need to succeed.  We want every young person to have the kinds of teachers and the kind of classes and the kind of learning experiences that are available to you here at Coral Reef.  (Applause.)  Because that’s the best investment we can make in America’s future.  (Applause.)

Now, keep in mind, Michelle and I, we’re only here today because of the kind of education that we got.  That was our ticket to success.  We grew up a lot like many of you.  I was raised by a single mom; she was a teenager when I was born.  We moved around a lot, we did not have a lot of money, but the one thing she was determined to see was that my sister and I would get the best education possible.

And she would press me.  Sometimes she’d make me wake up, do my lessons before I even went to school.  She was not going to let me off the hook.  And at the time, I wasn’t happy about it, but now I’m glad she pressed me like that.  Because, thanks to my mother and my grandparents, and then great teachers and great counselors who encouraged me, and a country that made it possible for me to afford a higher education, I was able to go to college and law school.

And then when I met Michelle, I saw that — (applause) –there were a couple of things I noticed.  I noticed she was smart.  (Applause.)  I noticed she was funny — she’s funny, she’s funnier than I am.  (Laughter.)  Obviously, I noticed she was cute, yes.  (Applause.)  But one of the things I also realized was, even though we had grown up in very different places, her story was a lot like mine.  Her dad worked at a city water plant.  He didn’t go to college.  He was a blue-collar worker.  Michelle’s mom — my mother-in-law, who I love to death — she was a secretary.  No one in her family had gone to college.  But because she had worked hard and her parents understood the value of education, and she had great teachers and great opportunities, and because the country was willing to invest to make sure that she was able to pay for college, she ended up going to some of the best universities in the country.  (Applause.)

So the point is she and I have been able to achieve things that our parents, our grandparents would have never dreamed of.  And that’s the chance this country should give every young person.  That’s the idea at the heart of America.  (Applause.)

What makes this country great, what makes it special when you look around, and Miami is a great example of it, you’ve got people coming from everywhere, every background, every race, every faith.  But what binds us together is this idea that if you work hard, you can make it — that there’s opportunity for all.  The belief that no matter who you are, no matter where you come from, no matter what your last name is, if you are responsible and put in the effort, you can succeed.  There’s no limit to what you can do.  That’s what America is all about.  (Applause.)

Opportunity is what drew many of your parents and grandparents to America.  And we’ve got to restore that idea for your generation, so that everybody has the same chance Michelle and I did.  That’s why we’re working on what we call an opportunity agenda to create more jobs and train more workers with new skills; to make sure hard work is rewarded with a paycheck that supports a family; to make sure that everybody can get health care when they need it, so that nobody has to get into financial trouble because somebody in the family gets sick.  (Applause.)

And for the students here, a lot of you, you may not think about these issues all the time.  You’re spending a lot of time on homework and sports, and this and that.  But you also oftentimes see your own family struggling and you worry about it.  And one of the single-most important parts of our opportunity agenda is making sure that every young person in America has access to a world-class education — a world-class education.  (Applause.)  So that’s why we are here.

I believe we should start teaching our kids at the earliest ages.  So we’re trying to help more states make high-quality preschool and other early learning programs available to the youngest kids.  (Applause.)  I believe that our K-12 system should be the best in the world.  So we started a competition called Race to the Top, to encourage more states like Florida to raise expectations for students like you, because when we set high expectations, every single one of you can meet them.  (Applause.)  You’re recruiting and preparing the best teachers.  You are turning around low-performing schools.  You’re expanding high-performing ones.  You’re making sure every student is prepared for college or a career.

I believe that every student should have the best technology.  So we launched something we called ConnectED to connect our schools to high-speed Internet.  And I want to congratulate Miami-Dade and your superintendent, because you have achieved your goal of installing wi-fi in every single one of your schools.  (Applause.)

So the good news is, in part because of some of these reforms we’ve initiated, when you add it all up our nation’s high school graduation rate is the highest on record.  The drop-out rate has been dropping, and among Latino students has been cut in half since 2000.  (Applause.)  Miami-Dade’s graduation rate is higher than it’s ever been.  That’s all because of the efforts of so many people, including the parents and students who have been putting in the effort.  It’s because of the teachers and administrators and staff who are doing such a great job.  You should be proud.  We’re making progress — we’re making progress.  (Applause.)

Yes, you guys — by the way, you can all sit down.  I didn’t realize everybody was still standing up.  Sit down.  Take a load off.  You guys can’t sit down though, because you don’t have chairs, although bend your knees so you don’t faint.  (Laughter.)

But here’s the key thing, Coral Reef:  We still have more work to do, all of us — elected officials, principals, teachers, parents, students.  Because, as Michelle says, education is a two-way street.  Folks like us have to work hard to give you the best schools and support that you need.  But then, you’ve got to hold up your end of the bargain by committing to your education.  That means you’ve got to stretch your minds.  You’ve got to push through subjects that aren’t always easy.  And it means continuing your education past high school, whether that’s a two-year or a four-year college degree or getting some professional training.

So I want to talk about an easy step that high school students like you can take to make college a reality.  And it’s something you already know here at Coral Reef, but I’m speaking to all the young people out there who may be watching.  It’s called FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

It is a simple form.  It used to be complicated; we made it simple.  It doesn’t cost anything — that’s why the word “free” is right there in the name.  (Laughter.)  It does not take a long time to fill out.  Once you do, you’re putting yourself in the running for all kinds of financial support for college — scholarships, grants, loans, work-study jobs.

For the past five years, we’ve been working to make college more affordable.  We took on a college loan system that gave billions of dollars of taxpayer money to big banks to manage the student loan system.  We said, we don’t need the banks, let’s give the money directly to students, we can help more students.  (Applause.)  We can help more students that way.  So we expanded the grants that help millions of students from low-income backgrounds pay for college.  We’re offering millions of people the chance to cap their student loan payments at 10 percent of their incomes once they graduate.

Today, more young people are earning college degrees than ever before.  That’s a great thing.  (Applause.)  That is a great thing.  But we still need to do more to help rein in the rising cost of tuition.  We need to do more to help Americans who feel trapped by student loan debt — because no striving, hardworking, ambitious, young American should ever be denied a college education just because they can’t afford it — nobody.  (Applause.)

Unfortunately, there are still a lot of young people all across the country who say the cost of college is holding them back.  Some of you may have sat around the kitchen table with your parents wondering about whether you’ll be able to afford it.  So FAFSA is by far the easiest way to answer that question.  And I know the Barracudas know all about FAFSA.  (Applause.)  Last year, you had the second-highest completion rate of any large high school in the state.  (Applause.)  You should be proud of that.  Your teachers and parents should be proud of that.

But last year, almost half of high school graduates in Florida didn’t fill out the FAFSA form.

AUDIENCE:  Booo —

THE PRESIDENT:  That ain’t right.  (Laughter.)  Not only is it not right, but it also ain’t right.  (Laughter.)  And as a result, they lost out on over $100 million in Pell grants.  Think about that — $100 million that could have helped Florida students help pay for college was just left on the table.  That’s just in Florida.  Nationwide, over one million high school students did not fill out the FAFSA form.  That happens every year.

So my challenge today to every high school student in America:  Fill out the form.  Even if you think you might not qualify for financial aid, fill out the form.  You might qualify.

And we’re making it easier than ever.  We put the FAFSA form online.  We made it shorter.  It takes about half an hour to fill out.  And it could change the rest of your life.  We’ve updated it to save your parents a lot of hassle as well.  And today, I’m announcing another improvement.

Today, I’m directing the Department of Education to tell every governor that, starting today, they can, if they choose, confidentially let high school administrators know which students have filled out the FAFSA form and which haven’t.  So that way, if Principal Leal wants to check in with the seniors —

AUDIENCE:  Wooo —

THE PRESIDENT:  I know, everybody is like, wow.  (Laughter.)  I know she’s already on top of stuff, but this way, she could check and seniors who had not filled it out, she could then help them answer the questions and figure out what’s holding her back — what’s holding them back.

Anybody will be able to go online and find out the number of students who have filled out the form at each high school, so we can track it.  So if you want to have a friendly competition with Palmetto High or Miami Killian — (applause) — to see who can get a higher completion rate on your FAFSA, you can do that.  (Applause.)  You achieved the second-highest rate in the state, but I mean if you want to settle for number two, that’s okay —  you might be able to get number one.  (Applause.)  Huh?  I’m just saying you could go for number one.  (Applause.)

So these are things I can do on my own, but I’m here to also tell you I need — I could use some help from folks in Washington.  There are some things I don’t need Congress’s permission for, and in this year of action, whenever I see a way to act to help expand opportunity for young people I’m just going to go ahead and take it.  I’m just going to go ahead and do it.  (Applause.)

So earlier this year, Michelle and I hosted a College Opportunity Summit, where over 150 colleges and universities and nonprofits made commitments to help more low-income students get to college and graduate from college.  (Applause.)  But I’m also willing to work with anybody in Congress — Democrat, Republican, don’t matter — to make sure young people like you have a shot to success.

So a few days ago, I sent my budget to Congress.  And budgets are pretty boring — but the stuff inside the budgets are pretty important.  And my budget focuses on things like preschool for all; like redesigning high schools so students like you can learn real-world skills that businesses want — (applause) — like preparing more young people for careers in some of the fields of the future — in science and technology and engineering and math to discover new planets and invent robots and cure diseases — all the cool stuff that we adults haven’t figured out yet.  (Laughter.)

These are not just the right investments for our schools; they’re the right priorities for our country.  You are our priority.  We’ve got to make sure we have budgets that reflect that you are the most important thing to this country’s success. If you don’t succeed, we don’t succeed.  (Applause.)

We’ve got to make sure all of you are prepared for the new century, and we’ve got to keep growing our economy in other ways:  attracting new high-tech jobs, reforming our immigration system — something Congressman Garcia is fighting for.  (Applause.)   And the rest of Congress needs to stop doing nothing, do right by America’s students, America’s teachers, America’s workers.  Let’s get to work.  Let’s get busy.  (Applause.)  We’ve got work to do. All of us have work to do — teachers, school counselors, principals, superintendents, parents, grandparents.

We all have work to do, because we want to see you succeed, because we’re counting on you, Barracudas.  (Applause.)  And if you keep reaching for success — and I know you will, just based on the small sampling we saw of students here — if you keep working as hard as you can and learning as much as you can, and if you’ve got big ambitions and big dreams, if you don’t let anybody tell you something is out of your reach, if you are convinced that you can do something and apply effort and energy and determination and persistence to that vision, then not only will you be great but this country will be great.  (Applause.)  Our schools will be great.  (Applause.)

I want us to have the best-educated workforce in America.  And I want it to be the most diverse workforce in the world.  That’s what I’m fighting for.  That’s what your superintendent and your principal are fighting for, and I hope that’s what you fight for yourselves.  (Applause.)  Because when I meet the students here at Coral Reef, I am optimistic about the future.  Michelle and I walked out of that classroom, and we said, you know what, we’re going to be in good hands, we’re going to do okay.  (Applause.)  Because these young people are coming, and nobody is going to stop them.

Thank you, everybody.  God bless you.  God bless America.  (Applause.)

END
3:25 P.M EST

Political Musings February 19, 2014: Obama rehabs art history loving image, sends apology letter, hosts Monuments Men

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

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Obama rehabs art history loving image, sends apology letter, hosts Monuments Men

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President Barack Obama looks at the Edward Hopper paintings now displayed in the Oval Office, Feb. 7, 2014.

Obama appreciates two new Edward Hopper paintings now adorning the Oval Office

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Full Text Obama Presidency January 16, 2014: President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama’s Speeches at College Opportunity Summit

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Taking Action to Expand College Opportunity

Remarks by the President and First Lady at College Opportunity Summit

 Source: WH, 1-16-14

President Barack Obama, with First Lady Michelle Obama and Bard College student Troy Simon, delivers remarks during the College Opportunity SummitPresident Barack Obama, with First Lady Michelle Obama and Bard College student Troy Simon, delivers remarks during the College Opportunity Summit in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building South Court Auditorium, Jan. 16, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

South Court Auditorium

Eisenhower Executive Office Building

11:37 A.M. EST

MRS. OBAMA:  Good morning.  Thank you, everyone.  (Applause.)  Thank you so much.  Thank you.  You guys rest yourselves.  Thank you so much.

It is really great to be here today with all of you.  We have with us today college and university presidents; we have experts and advocates, and civic and business leaders.  And I want to thank all of you for taking the time to be here today and for working every day to help young people pursue their education and build brighter futures for themselves and for our country.

And I’d also like us to give a really big hand to Troy for sharing that story.  (Applause.)  That’s pretty powerful stuff, and presented so eloquently.  I know yesterday I met Troy — he was nervous.  (Laughter.)  I don’t really know why you were nervous.  You’re pretty awesome.

MR. SIMON:  Thank you.

MRS. OBAMA:  Troy’s story reminds us all of the limitless capacity that lies within all of our young people no matter where they come from or how much money they have.  Troy is an example of why we all should care deeply about this issue.

And Troy, and millions of others like him, are why I care so much about this issue, and why in the coming years I’m going to be spending more and more of my time focusing on education.  Because as everyone here knows, education is the key to success for so many kids.  And my goal specifically is to reach out directly to young people and encourage them to take charge of their futures and complete an education beyond high school.  And I’m doing this because so often when we talk about education, we talk about our young people and what we need to do for them.  We talk about the programs we need to create for them, about the resources we need to devote to them.

But we must remember that education is a two-way bargain.  And while there is so much more we must do for our kids, at the end of the day, as Troy described, the person who has the most say over whether or not a student succeeds is the student him or herself.  Ultimately, they are the ones sitting in that classroom.  They’re the ones who have to set goals for themselves and work hard to achieve those goals every single day.

So my hope is that with this new effort, that instead of talking about our kids, we talk with our kids.  I want to hear what’s going on in their lives.  I want to inspire them to step up and commit to their education so they can have opportunities they never even dreamed of.  I’m doing this because that story of opportunity through education is the story of my life, and I want them to know that it can be their story, too –- but only if they devote themselves to continuing their education past high school.

And for many students, that might mean attending a college or university like the ones many of you represent.  For others, it might mean choosing a community college.  It might mean pursuing short-term professional training.  But no matter what they do, I want to make sure that students believe that they have what it takes to succeed beyond high school.  That’s going to be my message to young people.

But here’s the thing:  I know that that message alone isn’t enough.  Like I said, this is a two-way street, and that means we all have to step up.  Because make no mistake about it, these kids are smart.  They will notice if we’re not holding up our end of the bargain.  They will notice if we tell them about applying for college or financial aid, but then no one is there to help them choose the right school or fill out the right forms.  They will notice if we tell them that they’re good enough to graduate from college, but then no college asks them to apply, no college invites them to visit their campus.

And so we’ve got to re-commit ourselves to helping these kids pursue their education.  And as you discussed in your first panel today, one of the first steps is getting more underserved young people onto college campuses.  The fact is that right now we are missing out on so much potential because so many promising young people — young people like Troy who have the talent it takes to succeed — simply don’t believe that college can be a reality for them.  Too many of them are falling through the cracks, and all of you know that all too well.

And that’s why so many of you are already finding new ways to reach out to the underserved students in your communities.  You’re helping them navigate the financial aid and college admissions process, and you’re helping them find schools that match their abilities and interests.  And I know from my own experience just how important all of that work is that you’re doing.

See, the truth is that if Princeton hadn’t found my brother as a basketball recruit, and if I hadn’t seen that he could succeed on a campus like that, it never would have occurred to me to apply to that school — never.  And I know that there are so many kids out there just like me — kids who have a world of potential, but maybe their parents never went to college or maybe they’ve never been encouraged to believe they could succeed there.

And so that means it’s our job to find those kids.  It’s our job to help them understand their potential and then get them enrolled in a college that can help them meet their needs.  But then we all know that just getting into school is only half the story, because once students are there, they have got to graduate.  And that’s not always easy, especially given what many of these kids are dealing with when they get to campus.

Just think about it.  You just heard a snippet from Troy.  Just to make it to college, these kids have already overcome so much — neighborhoods riddled with crime and drugs, moms and dads who weren’t around, too many nights when they had to go to bed hungry.  But as I tell these kids when I talk to them, we can’t think about those experiences that they’ve had as weaknesses — just the opposite.  They’re actually strengths.

In facing and overcoming these challenges, these kids have developed skills like grit and resilience that many of their peers will never be able to compete with — never.  And when they get out in the world, those are the exact skills they will need to succeed.  And they will succeed.

But imagine how hard it is to realize that when you first get to college.  You’re in a whole new world.  You might have trouble making friends because you don’t see any peers who come from a background like yours.  You might be worried about paying for classes, and food, and room and board because you have never had to set your own budget before.  You might be feeling guilty when you call home because Mom and Dad are wondering why you didn’t get a job so you could help support their family.  Those are the kinds of obstacles these kids are facing right from day one.

But let’s be clear — all of that isn’t just a challenge for them.  It’s a challenge for folks like us, who are committed to helping them succeed.  And make no mistake about it, that is our mission — not simply giving speeches or raising money or hosting conferences, but to take real, meaningful action that will help our young people get into college, and more importantly, actually get their degree.

And here’s the good news:  Time and again you all have shown that you have the experience, the passion and the resources to help these young people thrive.  For example, in recent decades, you’ve realized that students from across the socioeconomic spectrum have been coming to campus with more and more issues like eating disorders and learning disabilities, emotional challenges like depression and anxiety, and so much more.  And luckily, you all have not shied away from these issues.  I’ve seen it.  I worked at a university.  And you haven’t said, these aren’t our problems; we’re a university, not a hospital or a counseling center.  No, you’ve stepped up.

And while there’s still work left to do on these issues, you’re working every day to support these kids through treatment programs and outreach initiatives and support groups, because you know that these issues have a huge impact on whether students can learn and succeed at your school.  So now, as you begin to see more and more underserved students on your campuses, we need you to direct that same energy and determination toward helping these kids face their unique challenges.

Now, fortunately, you’ve already got the expertise you need to address these issues.  And simply by building on what you’re already doing best, you can make real differences for these kids.  And that’s what so many of you are doing with commitments you’ve made here at this summit.

For example, every school offers financial aid services, but listen to what the University of Minnesota is doing.  They’re committing to expand those services to include financial literacy programs to help students and their families manage the costs of college.  And every school has advisors who desperately want their students to succeed.  Oregon Tech is committing to set up a text message program so that these advisors can connect more easily with students who need some extra encouragement or academic support.

And every college has orientation programs or learning communities to help students transition to college.  And many of the schools here today are supplementing those programs by partnering with organizations like the Posse Foundation so that underserved students can connect and build a social network before they even step foot on campus.  And those were the types of resources that helped a kid like me not just survive but thrive at a school like Princeton.

When I first arrived at school as a first-generation college student, I didn’t know anyone on campus except my brother.  I didn’t know how to pick the right classes or find the right buildings.  I didn’t even bring the right size sheets for my dorm room bed.  (Laughter.)  I didn’t realize those beds were so long.  (Laughter.)  So I was a little overwhelmed and a little isolated.

But then I had an opportunity to participate in a three-week, on-campus orientation program that helped me get a feel for the rhythm of college life.  And once school started, I discovered the campus cultural center, the Third World Center, where I found students and staff who came from families and communities that were similar to my own.  And they understood what I was going through.  They were there to listen when I was feeling frustrated.  They were there to answer the questions I was too embarrassed to ask anyone else.

And if it weren’t for those resources and the friends and the mentors, I honestly don’t know how I would have made it through college.  But instead, I graduated at the top of my class, I went to law school — and you know the rest.  (Laughter.)  So whether it’s aligning with an organization like Posse or offering a new advising or mentoring program, or creating a central space where students can connect with one another, you all can take simple steps that can determine whether these kids give up and drop out, or step up and thrive.

And that’s not just good for these young people, it’s good for your schools — because if you embrace and empower these students, and if you make sure they have good campus experiences, then they’re going to stay engaged with your school for decades after they graduate.  They will be dressed up in school colors at homecoming games.  They’ll be asking to serve on your committees and advisory boards.  And they’ll be doing their part when fundraising season rolls around.  (Laughter.)

So believe me, these will be some of the best alumni you could possibly ask for, because after everything these kids will have overcome to get into college and get through college, believe me, they will have all the skills they need to run our businesses and our labs, and to teach in our classrooms, and to lead our communities.

Just look at me, and look at Troy and the countless success stories from the organizations and schools represented here in this room.  That’s how we will win, this country.  We will win by tapping the full potential of all of our young people so that we can grow our economy and move this country forward.  And let me tell you that is something that my husband understands deeply, because his life story, just like mine, is rooted in education as well.  And as President, that is was drives him every single day — his goal of expanding opportunity to millions of Americans who are striving to build better futures for themselves, for their families and for our country, as well.

So now it is my pleasure to introduce my husband, the President of the United States, Barack Obama.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you, everybody.  Everybody, please have a seat.  Have a seat.  Welcome to the White House, everybody.  And let me begin by thanking Troy and sharing his remarkable story.  I could not be more inspired by what he’s accomplished and can’t wait to see what he’s going to accomplish in the future.

My wife — it’s hard to speak after her.  (Laughter and applause.)  We were in the back, and Gene Sperling, who did extraordinary work putting this whole summit together, said, “Everybody is so excited that Michelle is here.”  (Laughter.)  And I said, well, what about me?  (Laughter.)  But you should be excited, her being here, because she brings a passion and a body of experience and a passion to this issue that is extraordinary.  And I couldn’t be prouder of the work she’s already done and the work I know that she’s going to keep on doing around these issues.

She did leave one thing out of her speech, and that is it’s her birthday tomorrow.  (Applause.)  So I want everybody to just keep that in mind.

Now, we are here for one purpose:  We want to make sure more young people have the chance to earn a higher education.  And in the 21st century economy, we all understand it’s never been more important.

The good news is, is that our economy is steadily growing and strengthening after the worst recession in a generation.  So we’ve created more than 8 million new jobs.  Manufacturing is growing, led by a booming auto industry.  Thanks to some key public investments in advances like affordable energy and research and development, what we’ve seen is not only an energy revolution in this country that bodes well for our future, but in areas like health care, for example, we’ve slowed the growth of health care costs in ways that a lot of people wouldn’t have anticipated as recently as five or ten years ago.

So there are a lot of good things going on in the economy.  And businesses are starting to invest.  In fact, what we’re seeing are businesses overseas starting to say, instead of outsourcing, let’s insource back into the U.S.

All that bodes well for our future.  Here’s the thing, though:  We don’t grow just for the sake of growth.  We grow so that it translates into a growing middle class, people getting jobs, people being able to support their families, and people being able to pass something on to the next generation.  We want to restore the essential promise of opportunity and upward mobility that’s at the heart of America — the notion that if you work hard, you can get ahead, you can improve your situation in life, you can make something of yourself.  The same essential story that Troy so eloquently told about himself.

And the fact is it’s been getting harder to do that for a lot of people.  It is harder for folks to start in one place and move up that ladder — and that was true long before the recession hit.  And that’s why I’ve said that in 2014, we have to consider this a year of action, not just to grow the economy, not just to increase GDP, not just to make sure that corporations are profitable and the stock market is doing well and the financial system is stable.  We’ve also got to make sure that that growth is broad-based and that everybody has a chance to access that growth and take advantage of it.  We’ve got to make sure that we’re creating new jobs and that the wages and benefits that go along with those jobs can support a family.  We have to make sure that there are new ladders of opportunity into the middle class, and that those ladders — the rungs on those ladders are solid and accessible for more people.

Now, I’m going to be working with Congress where I can to accomplish this, but I’m also going to act on my own if Congress is deadlocked.  I’ve got a pen to take executive actions where Congress won’t, and I’ve got a telephone to rally folks around the country on this mission.

And today is a great example of how, without a whole bunch of new legislation, we can advance this agenda.  We’ve got philanthropists and business leaders here; we’ve got leaders of innovative non-for-profits; we’ve got college presidents — from state universities and historically black colleges to Ivy League universities and community colleges.  And today, more than 100 colleges and 40 organizations are announcing new commitments to help more young people not only go to, but graduate from college.  And that’s an extraordinary accomplishment, and we didn’t pass a bill to do it.

Everybody here is participating, I believe, because you know that college graduation has never been more valuable than it is today.  Unemployment for Americans with a college degree is more than a third lower than the national average.  Incomes — twice as high as those without a high school diploma.  College is not the only path to success.  We’ve got to make sure that more Americans of all age are getting the skills that they need to access the jobs that are out there right now.  But more than ever, a college degree is the surest path to a stable, middle-class life.

And higher education speaks to something more than that.  The premise that we’re all created equal is the opening line in our American story.  And we don’t promise equal outcomes; we’ve strived to deliver equal opportunity — the idea that success does not depend on being born into wealth or privilege, it depends on effort and merit.  You can be born into nothing and work your way into something extraordinary.  And to a kid that goes to college, maybe like Michelle, the first in his or her family, that means everything.

And the fact is, is if we hadn’t made a commitment as a country to send more of our people to college, Michelle, me, maybe a few of you would not be here today.  My grandfather wasn’t rich, but when he came home from the war he got the chance to study on the GI Bill.  I grew up with a single mom.  She had me when she was 18 years old.  There are a lot of circumstances where that might have waylaid her education for good.  But there were structures in place that allowed her then to go on and get a PhD.  Michelle’s dad was a shift worker at the city water plant; mom worked as a secretary.  They didn’t go to college.  But there were structures in place that allowed Michelle to take advantage of those opportunities.

As Michelle mentioned, our parents and grandparents made sure we knew that we’d have to work for it, that nobody was going to hand us something, that education was not a passive enterprise — you just tip your head over and somebody pours education into your ear.  (Laughter.)  You’ve got to work for it.  And I’ve told the story of my mother — when I was living overseas, she’d wake me up before dawn to do correspondence courses in English before I went to the other school.  I wasn’t that happy about it.  (Laughter.)  But with that hard work — but also with scholarships, also with student loans, and with support programs in place — we were able to go to some of the best colleges in the country even though we didn’t have a lot of money.  Every child in America should have the same chance.

So over the last five years, we’ve worked hard in a variety of ways to improve these mechanisms to get young people where they need to be and to knock down barriers that are preventing them from getting better prepared for the economies that they’re going to face.  We’ve called for clearer, higher standards in our schools — and 45 states and the District of Columbia have answered that call so far.  We’ve set a goal of training 100,000 new math and science teachers over the next 10 years, and the private sector has already committed to help train 40,000.  We’ve taken new steps to help students stay in school, and today the high school dropout rate is the lowest it has been in 40 years — something that’s rarely advertised.  The dropout rate among Hispanic students, by the way, has been cut in half over the last decade.

But we still have to hire more good teachers and pay them better.  We still have to do more training and development, and ensure that the curriculums are ones that maximize the chances for student success.  When young people are properly prepared in high school, we’ve got to make sure that they can afford to go to college, so we took on a student loan system that was giving billions of dollars of taxpayer dollars to big banks and we said, let’s give that money directly to students.  As a consequence, we were able to double the grant aid that goes to millions of students.  And today, more young people are earning college degrees than ever before.

So we’ve made progress there, but as I’ve discussed with some of you, we’re still going to have to make sure that rising tuition doesn’t price the middle class out of a college education.  The government is not going to be able to continually subsidize a system in which higher education inflation is going up faster than health care inflation.  So I’ve laid out a plan to bring down costs and make sure that students are not saddled with debt before they even start out in life.

Even after all these steps that we’ve taken over the last five years, we still have a long way to go to unlock the doors of higher education to more Americans and especially lower-income Americans.  We’re going to have to make sure they’re ready to walk through those doors.  The added value of a college diploma has nearly doubled since Michelle and I were undergraduates.  Unfortunately, today only 30 percent of low-income students enroll in college right after high school and, far worse, by their mid-twenties only 9 percent earn a bachelor’s degree.

So if we as a nation can expand opportunity and reach out to those young people and help them not just go to college but graduate from college or university, it could have a transformative effect.  There is this huge cohort of talent that we’re not tapping.

Now, what this meeting today tells me is we’ve got dedicated citizens across the country who are ready to stand up and meet this challenge.  And what I want to really do is highlight some of the commitments that have been made here today.  So we know that not enough low-income students are taking the steps required to prepare for college.  That’s why I’m glad the University of Chicago, my neighbor, and the place where Michelle and I both worked in the past, is announcing a $10 million College Success Initiative that will reach 10,000 high schools over the next five years.  It’s why iMentor, a mentoring program that began 15 years ago with just 49 students in the South Bronx, has committed to matching 20,000 new students with mentoring in more than 20 states over the next five years.

We also know that too many students don’t apply to the schools that are right for them.  They may sometimes underestimate where they could succeed, where they could go.  There may be a mismatch in terms of what their aspirations are and the nature of what’s offered at the school that’s close by.  And they kind of assume, well, that’s my only option.  So UVA, for example, is going experiment with new ways to contact high-achieving, low-income students directly and encourage them to apply.  Organizations like the College Board are going to work with colleges to make it easier for students to apply to more schools for free.

I know sometimes for those of you in university administrations, the perception may be that $100 application fees is not a big deal.  But for a lot of these students, that’s enough of a barrier that they just don’t end up applying.

Number three, we know that when it comes to college advising, and preparing for tests like the ACT and the SAT, low-income kids are not on a level playing field.  We call these standardized tests — they’re not standardized.  Malia and Sasha, by the time they’re in seventh grade at Sidwell School here, are already getting all kinds of advice and this and that and the other.  The degree of preparation that many of our kids here are getting in advance of actually taking this test tilts the playing field.  It’s not fair.  And it’s gotten worse.

I was telling Michelle, when I was taking the SAT I just barely remembered to bring a pencil.  I mean, that’s how much preparation I did.  (Laughter.)  But the truth of the matter is, is that we don’t have a level playing field when it comes to so-called standardized tests.  So we’ve got a young man here today named Lawrence Harris who knows this better than most.  Lawrence went to the University of Georgia, and like a lot of first-generation college students it wasn’t easy for him.  He had to take remedial classes.  He had to work two part-time jobs to make ends meet.  At one point, he had to leave school for a year while he helped support his mom and his baby brother.  Those are the kinds of just day-to-day challenges that a lot of these young people with enormous talent are having to overcome.  Now, he stuck with it.  He graduated.

But now he’s giving back.  He’s made it his mission to help other young people like him graduate, as a college advisor at Clarke Central High School in Athens, Georgia.  And today the National College Advising Corps, the program that placed Lawrence in Clarke Central, is announcing plans to add 129 more advisors who will serve more than 80,000 students over the next three years.

Finally, we know that once low-income students arrive on campus — Michelle I think spoke eloquently to her own personal experience on this — they often learn that even if they were at the top of their high school class, they still have a lot of catching up to do with respect to some of their peers in the classroom.  Bunker Hill Community College is addressing this by giving more incoming students the chance to start catching up over the summer before their freshman year.  And we’ve got 22 states and the District of Columbia who have joined together in a commitment to dramatically increase the number of students who complete college-level math and English their first year.

So these are just a sampling of the more than 100 commitments that your organizations and colleges are making here today.  And that’s an extraordinary first step.  But we’ve got more colleges and universities than this around the country.  We’ve got more business leaders around the country and philanthropies around the country.  And so we have to think of this as just the beginning; we want to do something like this again, and we want even more colleges and universities and businesses and non-for-profits to take part.

For folks who are watching this who were not able be here today, we want you here next time.  Start thinking about your commitments now.  We want you to join us.  For those who were able to make commitments today, I want to thank you for doing your part to make better the life of our country — because what you’re doing here today means that there are a bunch of young people, like Troy and like Michelle and like me, who suddenly may be able to see a whole new world open up before — that they didn’t realize was there.

So I’ll end with a great story that I think speaks to this.  There’s a former teacher here today named Nick Ehrmann.  Where’s Nick?  So here’s Nick right here.  Five years ago, Nick founded a New York City nonprofit called Blue Engine, and they recruit recent college graduates to work as teaching assistants in public high schools that serve low-income communities, teaming up to help students build the skills they need to enter college ready for college.

The first group of students to work with those teaching assistants are seniors now.  One of them, Estiven Rodriguez, who also is here today — where is he?  There he is — good-looking, young guy right here.  (Laughter.)  Could not speak a word of English when he moved to the United States from the Dominican Republic at the age of nine.  Didn’t speak much more English by the time he entered sixth grade.

Today, with the support of a tightly knit school community, he’s one of the top students in his senior class at Washington Heights Expeditionary Learning School, or WHEELS.  Last month, he and his classmates put on their WHEELS sweatshirts, unfurled a banner, waved flags and marched down the streets of Washington Heights in New York City through cheering crowds.  You would have thought it was the Macy’s parade.  (Laughter.)  But the crowds on the sidewalk were parents and teachers and neighbors.  The flags were college pennants.  The march was to the post office, where they mailed in their college applications.  (Applause.)  And Estiven just heard back — this son of a factory worker who didn’t speak much English just six years ago won a competitive scholarship to attend Dickinson College this fall.  (Applause.)

So everywhere you go you’ve got stories like Estiven’s and you’ve got stories like Troy’s.  But we don’t want these to be the exceptions.  We want these to be the rule.  That’s what we owe our young people and that’s what we owe this country.  We all have a stake in restoring that fundamental American idea that says:  It doesn’t matter where you start, what matters is where you end up.  And as parents and as teachers, and as business and philanthropic and political leaders — and as citizens — we’ve all got a role to play.

So I’m going to spend the next three years as President playing mine.  And I look forward to working with you on the same team to make this happen.  Thank you very much, everybody.  (Applause.)

END

12:15 P.M. EST

Political Headlines August 23, 2013: President Obama, Vice President Biden Side-By-Side in Scranton, But What About 2016?

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama, Biden Side-By-Side in Scranton, But What About 2016?

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Ever since President Obama and Hillary Clinton appeared together for a joint network interview in January, it seemed like the president had unofficially made the former Secretary of State his heir apparent.

But on Friday, President Obama stood by Vice President Joe Biden in his hometown of Scranton, Pa., heaping praise on the man who has dutifully been at his side since Obama picked him as his running mate five years ago to the day….READ MORE

Political Headlines August 23, 2013: President Barack Obama Fields Questions on Education at Townhall at Binghamton University

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama Fields Questions on Education at Townhall

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images

In a rare townhall on the second day of his bus tour, President Obama fielded questions ranging from how to keep Head Start funding intact to the education and civil rights progress made since the March on Washington 50 years ago.

“We don’t have an urgent deficit crisis. The only crisis we have is one that’s manufactured in Washington, and it’s ideological,” President Obama told students, faculty, and parents at Binghamton University, the State University of New York, Friday….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency August 23, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Remarks in Town Hall Meeting on College Affordability, College Cost Cutting Plan at Binghamton University

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President in Town Hall at Binghamton University

Source: WH, 8-23-13

Binghamton University
Binghamton, New York

12:48 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, Binghamton!  (Applause.)  It is good to see all of you.  Thank you so much.  Now, go ahead and have a seat — I’m going to be here a while.  (Laughter.)

Well, first of all, let me thank the university and your president, Harvey Stenger, for having me here today.  Give your president a big round of applause.  (Applause.)  There he is.    A couple other people I want to recognize — Mayor Matt Ryan is here.  (Applause.)  Two wonderful Congressmen — Richard Hanna and Paul Tonko.  (Applause.)  Your former Representative, Maurice Hinchey, is here as well.  (Applause.)

So, first of all, thank you, because it’s really nice outside, so for you to be willing to come inside, I greatly appreciate.  And I’m not going to do a lot of talking at the top because I want to have a conversation with you about a range of issues, but in particular, something that is personal for me.

A lot of you know that I wasn’t born into a lot of wealth or fame, there wasn’t a long Obama dynasty.  And so the only reason I’m here today, the only reason Michelle and I have been able to accomplish what we accomplished is because we got a great education.  And I think the essence of the American Dream is that anybody who’s willing to work hard is able to get that good education and achieve their dreams.

And central to that is the issue that — you’ve got a big sign there — we try to message effectively — (laughter) — College Affordability — making sure that people can afford to go to college.

I’m on a road trip from New York to Pennsylvania.  Yesterday I was at the University of Buffalo.  I visited students at Syracuse.  Later today, I’m going to meet Joe Biden in Scranton, his hometown.  But I decided to stop here for a couple of reasons.  Number one, I’ve been told that it’s very important for me to get a spiedies while I’m here.  (Laughter and applause.)  So we’re going to pick one up and try it on the road.  Number two, I’m excited because of the great work that SUNY campuses like Binghamton are doing to keep costs down for hardworking students like so many of you.

Chancellor Zimpher is making sure that hundreds of thousands of SUNY students all across the state are getting a world-class higher education but without some of the debt and financial burden that is stopping too many young people from going to college.  And that’s what we want for all of our students and all of our families all across the country.

Over the past month, I’ve been visiting towns throughout America, and I’ve talked about how do we secure a better bargain for the middle class and everybody who’s trying to work their way into the middle class.

We’ve fought our way through a very brutal recession, and now we’re at a point where we’re creating jobs, the economy is growing, budget deficits are falling, health care inflation has been reduced.  And yet there are still a lot of working families out there who are having a tough time in this competitive global economy that we live in.

And the fact is even before this last financial crisis, we had increasingly an economy where folks at the top were doing better and better and better, but the average individual or family was seeing their incomes and their wages flat-lining.  And you start getting a tale of two Americas.  And the whole premise of upward mobility in this country, which is central to who we understand ourselves to be, was being diminished for too many people.  So, from my perspective, reversing that trend should be Washington’s highest priority.  It’s certainly my highest priority.

Unfortunately, what we’ve seen in Washington all too often is, instead of focusing on how do we bring good middle-class jobs back to America, how do we make sure the economy is growing robustly and that growth is broad-based, we’ve been spending a lot of time arguing about whether we should be paying our bills that we’ve already accrued.  Or the discussion has been about slashing spending on education and basic research and science — all the things that are going to make sure that we remain competitive for the future.

Most recently, there’s been threats that we would shut down the government unless we agree to roll back the health care reform that’s about to provide millions of Americans with health care coverage for the first time.  And that’s not an economic plan.  That’s not going to grow the economy.  That’s not going to strengthen the middle class and it’s not going to create ladders of opportunity into the middle class.

What we need to do is focus on the pocketbook, bread-and-butter issues that affect all of you — making sure we’ve got good jobs with good wages; a good education; a home of your own; affordable health care; a secure retirement; and a way for people who are currently in poverty to get out of poverty.  That’s what we should be spending our time thinking about when it comes to domestic policy.  That’s what’s always made America great.  And nothing is more important to that process than what we’re doing in terms of K through 12 education and higher education.

Now, here’s the challenge:  At the time when higher education has never been more important — and when I say higher education I mean two-year, four-year, technical colleges — it doesn’t all have to be four-year, traditional bachelor of arts or sciences — at a time when that’s never been more important, college has never been more expensive.

And in fact, what you’ve seen is, is that over the last three decades, the cost of higher education has gone up 260 percent, at a time when family incomes have gone up about 18 percent.  So I’m not a math major — there are probably some here — but if you’ve got one line going up 260 percent and another line going up 16 percent, you start getting a bigger and bigger gap.  And what’s happened as a consequence is that either college has become out of reach for too many people, or young people are being loaded up with more and more debt.

Now, we’ve tried to close that gap.  When I came into office, we reformed our financial aid system, so the student loan programs were being run through banks and banks were making billions of dollars on it, and we said let’s just give the money directly to students, cut out the middleman.  And we then were able to re-funnel billions of dollars to provide more students with more grants and more assistance.  We’ve done our best to keep interest rates on student loans as low as possible.

But even with all the work that we’re doing there, the fact is the average student is still coming out with $26,000 worth of debt when they graduate.  And for a lot of students it’s much more than that.  And particularly, for those young people who are choosing careers where — like teaching, where they may not make a lot of money, if they’re burdened with tens of thousands of dollars of debt, in some cases it’s impossible for them ever to pay it off — or they have to put off buying a home, or starting a business, or starting a family.  And that has a depressive effect on our economy overall.  So it’s not just bad for the students, it’s also bad for the economy as a whole.

The bottom line is this:  We can’t price higher education so prohibitively that ordinary families can’t afford it.  That will ruin our chances to make sure the 21st century is the American Century just like the 20th century was.

So what we’ve done — and I announced this yesterday — is propose three basic reforms to try to shake the system up.

Number one, we want to start rating colleges based on how well they’re doing in providing good value and opportunity for students.  I mean, right now you’ve got a bunch of ranking systems, some of them commercial, and when you look at what’s being rated it’s typically how selective the schools are, how few students they take in, and how expensive they are and what are their facilities like.  And what we want to do is to start looking at factors like how much debt do students leave with, and do they actually graduate, and do they graduate in four years as opposed to six or eight or 10, and do they find a job after they graduate — giving some concrete measures that will allow students and families to gauge if I go to this school, am I going to get a good deal.

And since taxpayers are often providing those families and students assistance, we want to make sure taxpayers are getting a good deal as well.  And that will create an atmosphere in which college presidents and trustees start thinking about affordability and don’t just assume that tuition can keep on going up and up and up.

Now, what we’re also going to be doing is putting pressure on state legislatures to rebalance, because part of the reason so many state universities have had to increase tuition is because state legislative priorities have shifted all across the country — more money into prisons, less money into schools.  That means that costs are passed on to students in the form of higher tuition.  So we’ve got to do something about that.

And we’re also going to ask a little more from students.  What we’re going to say to students is you need to actually finish courses before you take out more loans and more grants.  And we want to say that to students not to be punitive, but instead, to prevent a situation where students end up taking out a lot of debt but never actually getting the degree, which puts them in a deeper financial hole than they otherwise would be.

So that’s point number one.  Second, we want to jumpstart competition among colleges and states to think of more innovative ways to reduce costs.  And there are schools that are doing some terrific work in reducing costs while maintaining high-quality education.  So, for example, there are some schools that are experimenting where you can get credits based on your competency, as opposed to how much time you’re spending in the classroom.

There’s no law that says you have to graduate — that for you to be in school for four years rather than three or three and a half somehow automatically gives you a better education.  And so, schools are experimenting with how can we compress the time and thereby reduce the costs.  Are there ways that we can use online learning to improve the educational quality and, at the same time, make things a little cheaper for students?

So we’re going to work with states, schools, university presidents to see what’s working and what’s not.  And let’s spread best practices all across the country.

And then the third thing we want to do is to is to expand and better advertise a program that we put in place and expanded when I came into office, and that is a program that says for college graduates who do have debt we’re going to cap the monthly payments that you have to make to 10 percent of your income.

And the notion is that that way it’s manageable, and you’re not going to have to make career decisions simply based on how much money can I make to pay off those student loans.  If I want to be a teacher, if I want to be a social worker, if I want to go into public service, then I can do that and I’m still going to be able to act responsibly and pay off my debt.

We already have that program in place, but it’s not as widely known as it needs to be, and not as many young people are eligible for it as we want them to be.  So we’re going to work to improve on that front.

Bottom line is we need to stop taking the same business-as-usual approach when it comes to college education.  Not all the reforms that we’re proposing are going to be popular.  There are some who are benefitting from the status quo.  There will be some resistance.  There’s going to have to be a broad-based conversation, but part of our goal here is to stir a conversation because the current path that we’re on is unsustainable.  And it’s my basic belief and I suspect the belief of most people here, higher education shouldn’t be a luxury.  It’s an economic necessity in this knowledge-based economy.  And we want to make sure that every family in America can afford it.  (Applause.)

So I’m interested if you guys have other ideas — if you have other ideas about things that we should be looking at, we want to hear them.  And that’s part of the purpose of this town hall discussion.  I’m interested in hearing your stories, getting your questions.  And this will be a pretty informal affair — well, as informal as it gets when the President comes — (laughter) — and there are a bunch of cameras everywhere.

So with that, I’d just like to start the discussion.  And what I’m going to do is I’m just going to call on folks.  Just raise your hand.  I would ask you to stand up, introduce yourself.  There are people with mics and they’ll bring the mic to you.  And I’m going to go girl, boy, girl, boy, to make sure that it’s fair.  (Laughter.)  All right?

So we’ll start with this young lady right here in the striped top.

Q    Thank you.  It’s an honor to have you here today.

THE PRESIDENT:  Hold on a second.  I think — here we go.

Q    Thank you.  It’s an honor to have you here today, Mr. President.  I’m from the Decker School of Nursing here, which is an outstanding school of nursing that has excellent outcomes.

My question today is, because advanced practice nurses, primarily nurse practitioners and nurse midwives, have such an outstanding reputation, we have good outcomes.  And the Affordable Care Act is ready to be rolled out soon.  Nurse practitioners and advanced practice nurses are in an excellent position to really serve vulnerable populations and people who don’t have care.  I’m wondering if there’s any provisions within your educational act that would support health care workers and nurse practitioners to create a sustainable workforce that would be able to support caring for people as we roll out the Affordable Care Act.

THE PRESIDENT:  It is a great question.  Now, first of all, let me — without buttering you up — I love nurses.  (Laughter.) Michelle and I have been blessed, we haven’t been sick too much, but — knock on wood.  But every interaction we’ve had at the hospital, the doctors are wonderful and we appreciate them, but I know when Malia and Sasha were being born, we spent 90 percent of the time with the nurses and 10 percent with the OB/GYN.  When my grandmother got sick and was passing away at the end, it was nurses who were caring for her in an incredible compassionate but also professional way.

And you’re absolutely right that one of the keys to reducing our health care costs overall is recognizing the incredible value of advanced practice nurses and giving them more responsibilities because there’s a lot of stuff they can do in a way that, frankly, is cheaper than having a doctor do it, but the outcomes are just as good.

The challenge we have is we still have a nursing shortage in too many parts of the country.  My understanding — you probably know this better than I do — part of the problem is, is that too many professors of nursing or instructors in nursing are getting paid less than actual nurses.  So what ends up happening is we don’t have enough slots in some of the nursing schools.  That may not be true here, but there are parts of the country where that’s true.

So we have to upgrade a little bit the schools of nursing and make sure that they’re properly resourced so that we have enough instructors.  And, in fact, as part of the Affordable Care Act, one of the things that we thought about was how are we going to expand and improve the number of nurses and making sure that they can actually finance their educations.  And so there are some special programs for nurses who are committing themselves — as well as doctors who are committing themselves — to serving in underserved communities.  And we will be happy to get that information to the school of nursing here.

One other element to this that I think is really interesting — we’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about making sure that our veterans coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan are getting the opportunities they need.  So we instituted something called the Post-9/11 GI Bill that provides the same kind of support that my grandfather got when he came back from World War II.

And the young people who have served in our armed forces just do extraordinary work.  One of the problems, though, is, is that they don’t always get credit for the skills that they already possess when they come home.  So one — and we’ve got a gentleman here who’s a veteran.  And one great example actually is in the medical profession — when you get medics coming back who served in the worst possible circumstances, out in theater, having to make life-or-death decisions — I met a young man up in Minnesota.  He had come back, wanted to continue to pursue his career and become a professional nurse, and he was having to start from scratch, taking the equivalent of Nursing 101.

And what we’re trying to do is to make sure that states and institutions of higher learning recognize some of the skills, because as we bring more and more of our veterans home — we’ll be ending the war in Afghanistan by the end of next year — we want to make sure that those folks have the opportunity to succeed here in America.  (Applause.)  Great question, though.

All right.  It’s a guy’s turn.  Right here, yes.  Hold on, let’s get a mic all the way to the back.

Q    Hello, Mr. President.  I’m glad for you to come to Binghamton University.  I’m the director of Rainbow Pride Union here, and it’s the largest LGBT organization on campus.  And my main concern is that I know a lot of stories of people who are LGBT who come out to their parents, and their parents are supporting them financially for college, and when they come out their parents cut out that support.  I was wondering if maybe in the future part of your affordability for college would be able to include LGBT people.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first of all, the programs that we have in place don’t discriminate and shouldn’t discriminate.  And the good news is I think the phenomenon that you just described is likely to happen less and less and less with each successive year.  I mean, think about the incredible changes that have been made just over the last decade,  DOMA is gone.  “Don’t ask, don’t tell” is gone.  But more importantly, people’s hearts and minds have changed.  And I think that’s reflective of parents as well.

That doesn’t mean that there aren’t still going to be struggles internally, but I think, more and more, what we recognize is, is that just as we judge people on — should judge people on the basis of their character, and not their color or religion or gender, the same is true for their sexual orientation.

So I don’t suspect that we’ll have special laws pertaining to young people who are cut off from support by their parents because their parents hadn’t gotten to the place I think they should be when it comes to loving and supporting their kids regardless of who they are, but we are going to make sure that all young people get the support that they need so that if their parents aren’t willing to provide them support, and they’re functionally independent, that they’re able to still go to college and succeed.  All right?

Right here, in the Obama t-shirt.  (Laughter.)  You know, so if you — here’s a general rule in the presidential town hall:  If you want to get called on, wear the President’s face on your shirt.  (Laughter.)

Q    Good afternoon, President Obama.  I’m a graduate student in the College of Community and Public Affairs.  I study student affairs administration.  With that being said, as we’re all students, we know how vital it is to have a good foundation in our education. How does your administration plan to address the major budget cuts that are happening with Head Start schools around the U.S.?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, this is a great question.  And this will be a major topic over the next several months.  First of all, I want to expand early childhood education so that it’s accessible for every young person in America.  (Applause.)

And I talked about this in my State of the Union address.  It is just common sense.  We know, study after study has shown that the biggest bang for the buck that we get when it comes to education is to invest early.

If we get 3-year-olds, 4-year-olds well prepared when they start school that momentum continues.  If they start behind, too often they stay behind.  Kids are resilient and they can make up for some tough stuff early on in life, but it’s a lot harder for them than if we get them young.

In fact, studies have shown that there’s some very smart programs out there where you identify low-income single moms in the maternity ward, and nurses talk to them immediately not just about the health of their child, but also parenting, and create a little packet with some books and some toys, and talk about engagement and expanding vocabulary.  All that can make a difference.  And high-quality early childhood education can continue that process so that by the time the kid starts school, they know their colors, they know their letters.  They’re ready to go.

Now, unfortunately, right now the federal budget generally has been a political football in Washington.  Partly, this came out of the financial crisis.  We had a terrible crisis.  We had to immediately pump money into the system to prevent a great depression.  So we cut taxes for middle-class families.  We initiated programs to rebuild our roads and our bridges.  We helped states so that they wouldn’t have to lay off as many teachers and firefighters and police officers.  And that’s part of the reason why we avoided a depression, although we still had a terrible recession.

But the combination of increased spending and less revenue meant that the deficit went up.  And by the time the Republicans took over the House in 2011, they had made this a major issue.  And, understandably, a lot of families said, well, we’re having to tighten our belts — the federal government should, too.  Although, part of what you want the federal government to do when everybody else is having a hard time is to make sure that you’re providing additional support.

As the economy has improved, the deficit has gone down.  It’s now dropped at the fastest rate in 60 years.  I want to repeat that, because a lot of people think that — if you ask the average person what’s happening with the deficit, they’d tell you it’s going up.  The deficit has been cut in half since 2009 and is on a downward trajectory.  (Applause.)  And it’s gone down faster than any time since World War II.

So we don’t have a problem in terms of spending on education.  We don’t have a problem when it comes to spending on research and development.  We do have a long-term problem that has to do with our health care programs, Medicare and Medicaid.  The good news is, is that in part because of the Affordable Care Act — Obamacare — costs have actually gone down — health care inflation has gone down to the slowest rate that we’ve seen in a long time.

So we’re starting to get health care costs under control.  We’ll still have to make some modifications when it comes to our long-term entitlement program so that they’re there for young people here when they are ready for retirement.

But we don’t have an urgent deficit crisis.  The only crisis we have is one that’s manufactured in Washington, and it’s ideological.  And the basic notion is, is that we shouldn’t be helping people get health care, and we shouldn’t be helping kids who can’t help themselves and whose parents are under-resourced  — we shouldn’t be helping them get a leg up.  And so some of the proposals we’ve seen now are talking about even deeper cuts in programs like Head Start; even deeper cuts in education support; even deeper cuts in basic science and research.

And that’s like eating your corn seed.  It’s like being pennywise and pound-foolish.  Because if young people aren’t succeeding, if we’re not spending on research and maintaining our technological edge, if we’re not upgrading our roads and our bridges and our transportation systems and our infrastructure — all things that we can afford to do right now and should be doing right now, and would put people to work right now — if we don’t do those things, then 20 years from now, 30 years from now we will have fallen further and further behind.

So when we get back to Washington — when Congress gets back to Washington, this is going to be a major debate.  It’s the same debate we’ve been having for the last two years.  The difference is now deficits are already coming down.  And what we should really be thinking about is how do we grow an economy so that we’re creating a growing, thriving middle class, and we’re creating more ladders of opportunity for people who are willing to work hard to get into the middle class.

And my position is going to be that we can have a budget that is sensible, that doesn’t spend on programs that don’t work, but does spend wisely on those things that are going to help ordinary people succeed.  All right?  Good.

Let’s see.  It is a gentleman’s turn.  This gentleman right here.  He’s had his hand up for a while.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Yay!  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, that settles it.  You have a little cheering section there.  (Laughter.)

Q    Hello, Mr. President.  I’m a faculty member of the computer science department.  I’m very excited and encouraged by your plan on the affordability reform.  My question is related about the quality of future higher education.  As you know, many universities are trying their best to provide the best value by doing better with less.  But the challenges are real, and they’re getting tougher and tougher as the budget cuts are getting tougher and tougher.  So my question is what your administration will do to ensure the best American universities remain to be the best in the world in the 21st century?  Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first of all, what’s really important is to make sure that we’re supporting great teachers.  And since you got an applause line, you must be a pretty good one.  (Laughter.)  And I don’t think that there is a conflict between quality and paying attention to costs as it’s affecting students.

Now, I mentioned earlier, one of the big problems that we’ve seen in public universities is a diminished level of support from states, state legislatures.  And part of what we’re going to try to do is to provide more incentives to states to boost the support that they’re giving to colleges and universities.

Traditionally, when you think of the great state university systems, it was because those states understood if we invest in our people we’ll have a better-trained workforce, which means companies will want to locate here, which creates a virtuous cycle and everybody benefits.

But starting, let’s say, 15 years ago, 20 years ago, you saw a trend in which state legislatures who were trying to balance their budgets kept on cutting support to state education.  What happened was that — and I don’t know whether this is true, Mr. President, for SUNY, but around the country, on average, what you’ve seen is a drop from about 46 percent of the revenues of a public college coming from states down to about 25 percent.  It’s almost been cut in half.  And essentially, the only way these schools have figured to make it up is to charge higher tuition.

So states have to do their jobs.  But what is true also, though, is that universities and faculty need to come up with ways to also cut costs while maintaining quality — because that’s what we’re having to do throughout our economy.  And sometimes when I talk to college professors — and, keep in mind, I taught in a law school for 10 years, so I’m very sympathetic to the spirit of inquiry and the importance of not just looking at X’s and O’s and numbers when it comes to measuring colleges.  But what I also know is, is that there are ways we can save money that would not diminish quality.

This is probably controversial to say, but what the heck, I’m in my second term so I can say it.  (Laughter.)  I believe, for example, that law schools would probably be wise to think about being two years instead of three years — because by the third year — in the first two years young people are learning in the classroom.  The third year they’d be better off clerking or practicing in a firm, even if they weren’t getting paid that much.  But that step alone would reduce the cost for the student.

Now, the question is can law schools maintain quality and keep good professors and sustain themselves without that third year.  My suspicion is, is that if they thought creatively about it, they probably could.  Now, if that’s true at a graduate level, there are probably some things that we could do at the undergraduate level as well.

That’s not to suggest that there aren’t some real problems. Colleges, for example, they’ve got health care costs like everybody else.  Personnel is one of the most important — it’s the biggest cost you’ve got.  And if health care costs to provide insurance for your employees is going up as fast as it’s been going up, that affects folks.

So our idea is not to just have some cookie-cutter approach that doesn’t take quality into account.  The idea is, understanding we’ve got to maintain high quality, are there ways that we can reorganize schools, use technology, think about what works so that, overall, we’re creating a better value for the student.

And one of the best things that we could do for students is to make sure that they graduate in a more timely fashion.  And unfortunately, too many young people go to schools where they’re not getting the kind of support and advice on the front end that they need and they drift, and four years, five years, six years into it, they’ve got a bunch of credits but it all doesn’t result in actual graduation.  And then they get discouraged.  And that’s an area where we know we can be making improvement as well.

Okay?  And if you’ve got any other ideas, let me know.  (Applause.)

Let’s get a young person in here.  Right there, yes.

Q    Welcome to Binghamton, President Obama.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thanks.

Q    I’m a doctoral student here as well as a writing instructor at Syracuse University.  And I’m interested in the giving of federal funds to students who are going to for-profit colleges — or colleges I might even call predatory.  And I’m very conflicted about this issue and so I’d like to hear your insight.  Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, you probably know more about it than I do since you’ve written about it.  But let me describe for the audience what the challenge is.

For-profit institutions in a lot of sectors of our lives obviously is the cornerstone of our economy.  And we want to encourage entrepreneurship and new ideas and new approaches and new ways of doing things.  So I’m not against for-profit institutions, generally.  But what you’re absolutely right about is, is that there have been some schools that are notorious for getting students in, getting a bunch of grant money, having those students take out a lot of loans, making big profits, but having really low graduation rates.  Students aren’t getting what they need to be prepared for a particular field.  They get out of these for-profit schools loaded down with enormous debt.  They can’t find a job.  They default.  The taxpayer ends up holding the bag.  Their credit is ruined, and the for-profit institution is making out like a bandit.  That’s a problem.

I was mentioning veterans earlier.  Soldiers and sailors and Marines and Coast Guardsmen, they’ve been preyed upon very badly by some of these for-profit institutions.  And we actually created a special task force inside our consumer advocate protection organization that we set up just to look out for members of the armed forces who were being manipulated.  Because what happened was these for-profit schools saw this Post-9/11 GI Bill, that there was a whole bunch of money that the federal government was committed to making sure that our veterans got a good education, and they started advertising to these young people, signing them up, getting them to take a bunch of loans, but they weren’t delivering a good product.

This goes to, then, the point I made earlier about how we can rate schools.  We’re going to spend some time over the course of the next year talking to everybody — talking to university professors, talking to faculty members, talking to students, talking to families — but if we can define some basic parameters of what’s a good value, then it will allow us more effectively to police schools whether they’re for-profit or non-for-profit — because there are some non-for-profit schools, traditional schools that have higher default rates among their graduates than graduation rates — and be able to say to them, look, either you guys step up and improve, or you’re not going to benefit from federal dollars.  (Applause.)

Because there are a bunch of schools like this one that are doing a good job, and we don’t want money being funneled to schools that aren’t doing a good job.  We want to encourage students to be smart shoppers, to be good consumers.

So there are probably more problems in the for-profit sector on this than there are in the traditional non-for-profit colleges, universities and technical schools, but it’s a problem across the board.  And the way to solve it is to make sure that we’ve got ways to measure what’s happening and we can weed out some of the folks that are engaging in bad practices.

Great question.

All right, this corner of the room has been neglected.  So the gentleman right there, right in the corner there.

Q    Thank you for taking the time to visit Binghamton University.  I’m a sophomore student of Binghamton University.  I am from Turkey and I want to ask something about the international students.  Most of my friends’ families have been facing some hardships to support them financially.  For example, when we consider two Turkish lira equals one American dollar, this situation is getting more important for us.  We think that the most reason of this situation is the high level of payment.  What do you think, and do you have any working about the situation?  Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first of all, we’re glad you’re here and we hope you’re having a wonderful experience.  One of the great things about American universities is they are magnets for talent from around the world.  And that has enriched us immeasurably.  It enriches us in part because students who come here and study and excel may end up staying here and working and starting businesses, and that’s always been part of the American experience, is smart, striving immigrants coming here and succeeding.  And that makes everybody better off — which is part of the reason why we‘ve got to get immigration reform done so that if we’re taking the time to train a great computer scientist or engineer or entrepreneur, we’re not, then, just sending them back to their country.  Let’s invite them, if they want to stay, to succeed here and start jobs here and create businesses here.  (Applause.)

Now, obviously, when it comes to federal grants, loans, supports, subsidies that we provide, those are for our citizens. And a lot of Americans are having a tough time affording college, as we talked about, so we can’t spread it too thin.  What we can do, though, is to make sure that if tuition is reasonable for all students who enroll, then it makes it easier for international students to come and study here as well.

So all the things that I talked about before apply to foreign students as well as American students.  We need to make sure that college is affordable, that it’s a good value.  The good news is that there are schools out there that are doing a great job already.  And we just need to make sure that we’re duplicating some of those best practices across the country.

All right, who’s next?  Let’s see, it’s a young lady’s turn, isn’t it?  Okay.  Go ahead, right there in the red — or orange.

Q    My name is Anne Bailey, and I am a faculty member in the History and Afrikana Studies department here.  And I teach African American history and African diaspora studies.  And tomorrow, I’m going to the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.  And I’m going — and I’m going with my son — because I’m here, as you said, because of a good education, and that good education became possible because of that faith-inspired movement that really reached such an important milestone 50 years ago.

And I’m so grateful for the fact that I had that opportunity, and that my son and that these young people will have these opportunities.  But I still kind of wonder where we are now in terms of education and civil rights.  Have we — where do you think we are?  What do we need to do to kind of make sure that it is education for all, including under-represented groups? That’s just my question.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, 50 years after the March on Washington and the “I Have a Dream Speech,” obviously we’ve made enormous strides.  I’m a testament to it.  You’re a testament to it.  The diversity of this room and the students who are here is a testimony to it.  And that impulse towards making sure everybody gets a fair shot is one that found expression in the Civil Rights Movement, but then spread to include Latinos and immigrants and gays and lesbians.

And what’s wonderful to watch is that the younger generation seems — each generation seems wiser in terms of wanting to treat people fairly and do the right thing and not discriminate.  And that’s a great victory that we should all be very proud of.

On the other hand, I think what we’ve also seen is that the legacy of discrimination — slavery, Jim Crow — has meant that some of the institutional barriers for success for a lot of groups still exist.  African American poverty in this country is still significantly higher than other groups.  Same is true for Latinos.  Same is true for Native Americans.

And even if there weren’t active discrimination taking place right now — and obviously, we know that some discrimination still exists, although nothing like what existed 50 years ago — but let’s assume that we eliminated all discrimination magically, with a wand, and everybody had goodness in their heart.  You’d still have a situation in which there are a lot of folks who are poor and whose families have become dysfunctional because of a long legacy of poverty, and live in neighborhoods that are run down and schools that are underfunded and don’t have a strong property tax base.  And it would still be harder for young people born into those communities to succeed than those who were born elsewhere.

So if, in fact, that’s the case — and that is what I believe — then it’s in all of our interests to make sure that we are putting in place smart policies to give those communities a lift, and to create ladders so that young people in those communities can succeed.

Well, what works?  We’ve already talked about what works.   Early childhood education works.  We know that can make a difference.  It’s not going to solve every problem, but it can help level the playing field for kids early in life so that — they’re still going to have to work hard.  Not everybody is going to succeed, but they’ll have a better chance if we put those things in place.

Making college affordable — that makes a difference.  Because we know, in part because of the legacy of discrimination, that communities of color have less wealth.  If they have less wealth, it means that mom and dad have a more difficult time financing college.  Well, we should make sure that every young person, regardless of their color, can access a college education.

I think the biggest challenge we have is not that we don’t know what policies work, it’s getting our politics right.  Because part of what’s happened over the last several decades is, because times have been tough, because wages and incomes for everybody have not been going up, everybody is pretty anxious about what’s happening in their lives and what might happen for their kids, and so they get worried that, well, if we’re helping people in poverty, that must be hurting me somehow, it’s taking something away from me.

And part of what I think we have to understand is that America has always been most successful, we’ve always grown fastest, and everybody’s incomes have gone up fastest when our economic growth is broad-based, not just when a few people are doing well at the top, but when everybody is doing well.

And so if working people and folks who are struggling — whether they’re white, black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, disabled, LGBT — if working folks join together around common principles and policies that will help lift everybody, then everybody will be better off — including, by the way, the folks at the top.  Because when the economy is growing and people have jobs and people are seeing better incomes, they go out and they shop more.  And that means businesses are doing better.  And you buy a new iPod and Apple is happy, and shareholders are pleased.

But unfortunately, we’ve got politics sometimes that divides instead of bringing people together.  And we’ve seen that over the last couple of years, the tendency to suggest somehow that government is taking something from you and giving it to somebody else, and your problems will be solved if we just ignore them or don’t help them.  And, that, I think is something that we have to constantly struggle against — whether we’re black or white or whatever color we are.

All right?  Thank you.  (Applause.)

How much time do we got?  I want to make sure that I get a couple more questions in here.  Two more.  We’ll make it three.  (Laughter.)  We’ll make it three.  This gentleman right here in the front.  Here, we got a mic right here.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  My name is Adam Flint.  I work currently at Cooperative Extension, but I’ve been connected to this institution since 1966.  And I want to tell you about the Broome Energy Conservation Corps where we are educating, training and also employing Binghamton University graduates and current students to really take the vision that, well, Kennedy and others advanced of service to the problems of the community and to the country.

And at Cooperative Extension, our energy corps students are helping people who could not benefit from energy efficiency, they’re helping getting people employed with local home performance contactors.  And we could do so much more if it were possible for programs like ours across the country to be able to know that we’re going to be here in 2014, which we don’t right now.

And so I guess we’ve been in discussions with Harvey and with many of the people in this room, with Matt Ryan, with many of the senior Binghamton University folks, and we’d really like to see coming out of Washington some good news about funding for the green economy for the future and for our ability to give a future to our children that right now I’m doubtful about.

You have two girls.  I’ve got two girls.  And this is the last century of fossil fuels, so we’ve got to make it happen.  With this energy corps, we could move to food corps and on and on and on.  I’ve said enough.  I’m afraid it’s one of the family business of the professoriate to say too much.  And I’m going to shut up and listen to the wisdom that I hope you will bring to my question.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, as you indicated in your remarks, we are going to have to prepare for a different energy future than the one we have right now.

Now, we’re producing traditional energy — fossil fuels — at record levels.  And we’ve actually achieved, or are on the verge of achieving about as close as you can get to energy independence as America is going to see.  I mean, natural gas, oil, all that stuff is going up.

In some cases, what you’ve seen is that, for example, transitional fuels like natural gas have replaced coal, which temporarily are reducing greenhouse gases.  But the bottom line is those are still finite resources.  Climate change is real.  The planet is getting warmer.  And you’ve got several billion Chinese, Indians, Africans and others who also want cars, refrigerators, electricity.  And as they go through their development cycle, the planet cannot sustain the same kinds of energy use as we have right now.  So we’re going to have to make a shift.

That’s why when I came into office, we made record investments in green energy.  And that’s why I think it’s critical for us to invest in research and development around clean energy.  And that’s why it sounds like programs like yours need to take advantage of technologies that already exist.

We’re going to have to invent some new technologies to solve all of our energy problems.  But we know, for example, the low-hanging fruit of energy efficiency.  We know that if we design our schools, homes, hospitals more efficiently, that as a country we could probably cut our power usage by 20, 25, 30 percent with existing technologies, and without lowering our standard of living.

And, by the way, we can put a whole bunch of folks to work doing it right now.  We could gather up a whole bunch of young people here in this community, train them for insulation, for energy-efficient construction, and redo a whole bunch of buildings and institutions right here, and eventually it would pay for itself.  So it’s win-win across the board.

Unfortunately, what we’ve seen too often in Congress is that the fossil fuel industries tend to be very influential — let’s put it that way — on the energy committees in Congress.  And they tend not to be particularly sympathetic to alternative energy strategies.  And, in some cases, we’ve actually been criticized that it’s a socialist plot that’s restricting your freedom for us to encourage energy-efficient light bulbs, for example.  I never understood that.  (Laughter.)  But you hear those arguments.  I mean, you can go on the Web, and people will be decrying how simple stuff that we’re doing, like trying to set up regulations to make appliances more energy-efficient — which saves consumers money and is good for our environment — is somehow restricting America’s liberty and violates the Constitution.

So a lot of our job is to educate the public as to why this can be good for them — in a very narrow self-interested way.  This is not pie in the sky.  This is not tree-hugging, sprout-eating university professors.  (Laughter.)  This is a practical, hardheaded, smart, business-savvy approach to how we deal with energy.  And we should be investing it and encouraging it and expanding it.  And so I budgeted for it.  I will fight for it.

But just as I will be advocating and fighting for Head Start or increases in our science and technology funding, the challenge is going to be that my friends in the other party right now in Congress seem less interested in actual governing and taking practical strategies, and seem more interested in trying to placate their base or scoring political points.  Or they’re worried about primaries in the upcoming election.

That can’t be how we run a country.  That’s not responsible leadership.  (Applause.)  And my hope is, is that we’ll see a different attitude when we get back.  But we’ll only see a different attitude if the public pushes folks in a different direction.

Ultimately, what has an impact on politicians is votes.  And that influence is not — it can’t just come from districts that are strongly Democratic.  We need voices in Republican districts to say this is a smart thing to do.  And we can make — and, by the way, businesses can make money doing it, and people can get jobs doing it.  And it’s just sensible.  And it’s good, by the way, for our national security because those countries that control the energy sources of the future, they’re the ones that are going to be in a position to succeed economically.

So, all right.  I’ve got time for a couple more.  Yes, right here.

Q    Good afternoon, Mr. President.  I’m an integrative neuroscience major —

THE PRESIDENT:  That sounds very impressive.  (Laughter.)  What was that again?

Q    Integrative neuroscience.

THE PRESIDENT:  Okay, so tell me about that.  Explain that to me.  It has something to do with the brain and nerves and —

Q    It’s a mix between psychology and biology.

THE PRESIDENT:  Okay.

Q    So it’s not as impressive as —

THE PRESIDENT:  No, it’s very impressive.  (Laughter.)  Come on.  Absolutely.  Anyway, what’s the question?

Q    Well, my question today is about financial aid.  Currently, financial aid eligibility is based on — or heavily based on students’ parents’ income.  Now, there are many middle-class families that send their students to state schools like Binghamton, who live in high-cost regions such as New York City. Now, do you think it’s possible for the financial aid formula to include the living costs of the region that applicants live in?  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  It’s an interesting question, and sounds like it’s got some sympathy.  What’s absolutely true is that what it means to be middle class in New York is going to be different than what it means to be middle class in Wyoming, just in terms of how far your dollar goes.  And I think it is a relevant question.

It is a challenging problem because if you start getting into calibrating cost of living just in a state like New York, a big state that has such diversity in terms of cost of living, then it might get so complicated that it would be difficult to administer.  But why don’t I just say this:  I think it is a important question, and I’m going to talk to Secretary Arne Duncan about it and find out what kind of research and work we’ve done on that issue to see if we can potentially make a difference.

Now, one way of handling this would not be at the federal level but potentially at the state level.  So you could manage something at the state level, where people may have a better sense of the differences in cost of living in a state, and say, we’ll make some adjustments for students who are coming from higher-cost areas versus lower-cost areas.  That might be easier to do than to try to administer it at the federal level from Washington for all 50 states.

But I’ll check with the Department of Education.  And I’ll make sure my team gets your email so that you get a personal answer from the Secretary.  (Applause.)

I’ve got one last question and I want to make sure it’s a student.  Are you a student?

Q    Maybe.

THE PRESIDENT:  Maybe?  No, that doesn’t count if he said maybe.  (Laughter.)

You are?

Q    I am.

THE PRESIDENT:  Okay, this young man right here.  (Laughter.)  I just wanted to make sure.  He might have been a young-looking professor.  (Laughter.)

Q    Mr. President, I’m Danny.  I’m from here — I’m a student here.  I’m from the community college.  My question is — you spoke about increasing financial aid for college students.  However, I feel that with the competitive job market, a bachelor’s will not be enough to secure a job.  My question is will any of these funds go towards grad school programs?  Or will it be strictly limited to undergraduate education?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first of all, a good undergraduate education means you are much more employable and you’re much more likely to get a job.  Each additional chunk of education that you get — if done well, if you’re getting good value — is going to enhance your marketability.  And we see that in the statistics.  That’s not just talk.

The fact is that the average American who has more than a college education or greater is a third less likely to be unemployed than somebody who just graduated from high school.  So don’t underestimate the power of an undergraduate education.  It can make a difference.

Now, what’s true is that if you, for example, in computer sciences want to get a master’s in computer science or a Ph.D. in computer science, presumably that will make you even more marketable.  And we want to make sure that financial aid is also available for graduate students.  And the way programs currently exist, that financial aid does exist, although typically you get fewer subsidies and a less favorable interest rate for graduate education.

We’re probably not going to be able to completely solve that, and here’s the reason why.  I got a lot of scholarships and grant money for my undergraduate education, so I didn’t have a lot of debt when I got out.  I then decided to go to law school. And I went to a very good law school that was very expensive.  Most of my debt when I graduated was from law school; I had about $60,000 worth of debt.  But the truth was I was able to — if I wanted to, at least — earn so much money coming out of law school that I really didn’t need a subsidy.  I could pay it back. It took me a little longer to pay it back than some of my friends because I went into public service and I didn’t try to maximize my income.  But if I had been a partner at a law firm pulling down half a million dollars a year, there’s no reason why I should necessarily have gotten a subsidy for that.

The one area where I think we can make a big difference goes back to the very first question that was asked of me when it came to schools of nursing.  Across the board in graduate school, what we want to do is to provide incentives for folks who need specialized education but are willing to give back something to the community, to the country — doctors who are willing to serve in underserved communities, nurses who are willing to serve in underserved communities, lawyers who are willing to work in the State’s Attorney’s Office or as a public defender.

So the more we can do around programs for graduate studies where we say to you, if you’re willing to commit to five years working in a place that doesn’t have a doctor and you’re studying to be a doctor, we’re going to forgive you a bunch of those loans — I’d like to see more programs like that.  And I’ve asked the Secretary of Education to see how we can make those more accessible to more students.

Well, listen, everybody, this has been a great conversation. (Applause.)  And let me just say that you will be hearing more about this debate over the course of the next year.  We will be talking to your university president.  We’ll be talking to the chancellor of the entire system.  We’ll be talking to faculty.  We’ll be talking to students.  If you have ideas or questions that were not somehow addressed, then we’d like to hear from you. And go to whitehouse.gov.  There’s a whole section where we can get comments, ideas.  And I promise you we actually pay attention when you guys raise questions.

And for those of you who are still sorting out student aid  — if you’re still in high school, for example, and you’re thinking about going to college and you don’t know exactly what makes sense for you, we do have a website called studentaid.gov that can be very helpful to you in identifying what you should be thinking about when it comes to financing your college education.

But we’re going to do everything we can to make sure that not only are you able to succeed without being loaded up with debt, but hopefully, you’re going to be able to afford to send your kids to college as well.

Thank you for your great hospitality.  I appreciate it.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

END
1:55 P.M. EDT

Political Headlines August 23, 2013: President Barack Obama’s College Affordability Bus Tour Roundup

POLITICAL HEADLINES

https://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/pol_headlines.jpg?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Regional Roundup: College Affordability Bus Tour 

 Source: WH, 8-23-13

President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the University at Buffalo, the State University of New YorkPresident Barack Obama delivers remarks at the University at Buffalo, the State University of New York, during the college affordability bus tour in Buffalo, N.Y., Aug. 22, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Yesterday, as part of his plan to deliver a better bargain for the middle class, President Obama kicked off a two-day bus tour across New York and Pennsylvania in which he announced an ambitious agenda to tackle rising college costs, make college more affordable, and improve value for students and families.

In his first stop at the University at Buffalo, the President laid out the three key steps that we need to take to ensure that college remains affordable and a viable ladder of economic opportunity for the middle class and those working to get there. First, connect financial aid to school performance, second support academic innovation and finally, keep the cost of higher education within the reach of all young Americans….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency August 22, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech on College Affordability, College Cost Cutting Plan, Syracuse NY

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on College Affordability, Syracuse NY

Source:  WH, 8-22-13

Henninger High School
Syracuse, New York

6:25 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, Syracuse!  (Applause.)  It is good to be in Syracuse!  (Applause.)

Can everybody give Emilio a big round of applause for a great introduction?  (Applause.)  I think Emilio’s parents are probably here.  Where are Emilio’s parents?  Wave your hands.  There they are right there.  He did pretty good, didn’t he?  We’re very proud of him.  We might have to run him for something.

In addition to Emilio, I want to mention a couple other people.  You already heard from Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who’s doing a great job every day.  (Applause.)  You’ve got Mayor Stephanie Miner here.  (Applause.)  There she is.  Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is here.  (Applause.)  Your Congressman, Dan Maffei, is here.  (Applause.)  The superintendent of the Syracuse City School District, Sharon Contreras, is here.  (Applause.)  Your principal, Robert DiFlorio, is here.  (Applause.)  And most importantly, a bunch of students are here.  (Applause.)

My understanding is there are students from all five Syracuse high schools here.  You got Corcoran in the house.  (Applause.)  You got Fowler in the house.  (Applause.)  Nottingham.  (Applause.)  The Institute of Technology.  (Applause.)  And our host, Henninger, is here.  (Applause.)  We’re all one family.

Now, I especially want to thank the students because I know that you’re still on summer vacation.  You’ve got a few more days.  So taking the time to be here when you’ve still got a little bit, that last little bit of summer break, that’s a big deal, and I’m very honored to be here with you.

I am on a road trip — by the way, if people have seats, feel free to take a seat.  I’m going to be talking for a while.  If you’ve got no seats, then don’t sit down — (laughter) — because you will fall down.  (Laughter.)

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  We love you!

THE PRESIDENT:  I love you back.  (Applause.)

So I’m here on a road trip through New York into  Pennsylvania.  This morning, I was at the University at Buffalo. Tomorrow, I’ll be at Binghamton University and Lackawanna College in Scranton.  But I wanted to come to Syracuse — (applause) — because you’re doing something fantastic here, with programs like “Say Yes” — (applause) — Smart Scholars Early College High School — these are programs that are helping Syracuse kids get ready for college, and making sure that they can afford to go.

And this is a community effort.  All of you are coming together and you have declared that no child in the city of Syracuse should miss out on a college education because they can’t pay for it.  (Applause.)  And so we’re hoping more cities follow your example, because what you’re doing is critical not just to Syracuse’s future, but to America’s future.  And that’s what I want to talk about briefly here today.

Over the past month, I’ve been visiting towns across the country, talking about what we need to do to secure a better bargain for the middle class and everybody who’s working hard to get into the middle class — to make sure everybody who works hard has a chance to succeed in the 21st century economy.

And we all understand that for the past four and a half years, we had to fight our way back from a brutal recession, and millions of Americans lost their jobs and their homes and their  savings.  But what the recession also did was it showed this emerging gap in terms of the life prospects of a lot of Americans.

What used to be taken for granted — middle-class security

— has slipped away from too many people.  So, yes, we saved the auto industry.  We took on a broken health care system.  (Applause.)  We reversed our addiction to foreign oil.  We changed our tax code that was tilted too far in favor of the wealthy at the expense of working families.  And so we’ve made progress.  Our businesses have created 7.3 million new jobs over the last 41 months.  (Applause.)  We’ve got more renewable energy than ever.  We are importing less oil than in a very long time.

We sell more goods made in America to the rest of the world than ever before.  Health care costs are growing at the slowest rate in 50 years.  Our deficits are falling at the fastest rate in 60 years.

So there’s good news out there.  And thanks to the grit and the resilience of the American people, we’ve been able to clear away the rubble from the financial crisis, and start laying the foundation for a better economy.  But as any middle-class family will tell you, we are not —

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  (Inaudible.)

THE PRESIDENT:  I hear you.  I got you.

AUDIENCE:  Booo —

THE PRESIDENT:  No, no, no, that’s fine.  Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait.  We’re okay.  We’re okay.  That’s okay.  Hold on a second.  Hold on.  Hold on.  Hello, everybody, hello.  Hold on.  Hold on a minute.  Hold on a minute.  Hold on.  So, now — hold on a second.  (Applause.)  Can I just say that as hecklers go, that young lady was very polite.  (Laughter.)  She was.  And she brought up an issue of importance, and that’s part of what America is all about.  (Applause.)

But what America is also all about is making sure that middle-class families succeed, and that people who work hard can get into the middle class.  And what I was saying was is that we’re not where we need to be yet.  We’ve still got more work to do.  Because even before the most recent financial crisis, we had gone through a decade where folks at the top were doing better and better; most families were working harder and harder just to get by.  And we’ve seen growing inequality in our society and less upward mobility in our society.

The idea used to be that here in America anybody could make it.  But part of that was because we put these ladders of opportunity for people.  And, unfortunately, what’s happened is it’s gotten tougher for a lot of folks.  So we’ve got to reverse these trends.  This has to be Washington’s highest priority — how do we make sure everybody gets a fair shake.  That’s got to be our priority.  (Applause.)

Unfortunately, you may have noticed that in Washington, rather than focusing on a growing economy and creating good, middle-class jobs, there’s a certain faction of my good friends in the other party who’ve been talking about not paying the bills that they’ve already run up; who’ve been talking about shutting down the government if they can’t take away health care that we’re putting in place for millions of Americans.

Those are not ideas that will grow our economy.  They’re not going to create good jobs.  They’re not going to strengthen the middle class — they’ll weaken the middle class.  So we can’t afford the usual Washington circus of distractions and political posturing.  We don’t need that.  What we’ve got to do is to build on the cornerstones of what it means to be middle class in America — a good job, good wages, a good education, a home, affordable health care, a secure retirement.  That’s what we need to focus on.  (Applause.)

And we’ve got to create as many pathways as possible for people to succeed as long as they’re willing to work hard.  That’s what’s always made America great.  We don’t judge ourselves just by how many billionaires we produce.  We’ve got to focus on our ability to make sure that everybody who works hard has a chance to pursue their own measure of happiness.

And in that project, in that work, there aren’t a lot of things that are more important than making sure people get a good education.  That is key to upward mobility.  That is key to a growing economy.  That is key to a strong middle class.  (Applause.)

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  We love you!

THE PRESIDENT:  Love you back.  (Laughter.)

Now, everybody here knows that.  That’s why you’re here.  That’s why a lot of your families are making big sacrifices to send kids to college.  You understand that in the face of global competition, a great education is more important than ever.  A higher education is the single best investment you can make in your future.  (Applause.)  Single best.  And I’m proud of all of the students who are working toward that goal.

And in case any of you are wondering whether it’s a good investment, think about these statistics:  The unemployment rate for Americans with at least a college degree is about a third lower than the national average.  The incomes of people with at least a college degree are more than twice what the incomes are of Americans who don’t have a high school diploma.  So more than ever before, some form of higher education — two year, four year, technical college — that’s the path into the middle class.

But the main reason I’m here is to talk about the fact that we’ve seen a barrier and a burden to too many American families, and that’s the soaring cost of higher education.  (Applause.)  The fact is, college has never been more necessary, but it’s also never been more expensive.

Think about this:  Over the past three decades, the average tuition at a four-year public college has risen by more than 250 percent.  The typical family income has gone up 16 percent.  So I wasn’t a math major, but let’s just think about it — college costs, 250 percent; incomes, 16 percent.  What that means is, is that more and more, it’s getting harder and harder for students to be able to afford that college education.  And families are making bigger and bigger sacrifices — including a lot of parents who are putting off their own retirement, their own savings, because they’re trying to help their kids afford a college education.

In the meantime, over the past few years, you’ve got too many states that have been cutting back on their higher education budgets.  Colleges have not been cutting back on their costs, and so what you end up with is taxpayers putting in more money, students and families picking up the tab, but young people are still ending up with more debt.

The average student who borrows for college now graduates owing more than $26,000.  And a lot of young people owe a lot more than that.  I’ve heard from a lot of these young people, and they’re frustrated because they’re saying to themselves, we’ve done everything our society told us we were supposed to do, but crushing debt is crippling our ability to get started in our lives after we graduate.  It’s crippling our self-reliance and the dreams that we had.

At a time when higher education has never been more important or more expensive, too many students face a choice they should not have to make:  Either they say no to college, or they pay the price of going to college and ending up with debt that they’re not sure will pay off.  And that’s not a choice that we should ask young people to make.  That’s not a choice we should accept.

If you think about what built this country, this is a country that’s always been at the cutting edge of making a good education available to more people.  My grandfather, when he came back from World War II, he went — he had the chance to go to college on the GI Bill.  My mother got through school while raising two kids because she got some help.  (Applause.)

Michelle and I, we didn’t come from rich folks.  We did not come from privileged backgrounds.  So we’re only where we are today because scholarships and student loans gave us a shot at a good education.  And we know a little bit about paying back student loans, because we each graduated from college and law school with a mountain of debt.  And even with good jobs, I didn’t pay it off and she didn’t pay off her loans until I was almost a U.S. senator.  I was in my 40s.

So over the past four years, what we’ve done is to try to take some steps to make college more affordable.  First thing we did — we enacted historic reforms to the student loan system.  What was happening was student loans were going through banks; banks were making billions of dollars.  We said why don’t we just give the loans directly to the students, cut out the banks, then we can help more students.  (Applause.)

Then we set up a consumer watchdog that’s already helping families and students sort through all the financial options so they really understand them and they’re not ripped off by shady lenders.  And we’re providing more tools and resources for students and families trying to finance college.  And, by the way, high school seniors, you guys want to start figuring this stuff out — go to studentaid.gov.  That’s a website — studentaid.gov.  And it will give you a sense of what’s available out there.

We took action to cap loan repayments at 10 percent of monthly income for a lot of borrowers who are trying to pay their debt but do so in a responsible way.  (Applause.)

So, overall, we’ve made college more affordable for millions of students and families through tax credits and grants and student loans.  And just a few weeks ago, Democrats and Republicans worked together to keep student loan rates from doubling, and that saves a typical undergraduate more than $1,500 for this year’s loans.  (Applause.)

So, now, that’s all a good start.  But it’s not enough.  The system we have right now is unsustainable, because if it keeps on going up 250 percent a year, your incomes are only going up 16 percent — not 250 percent a year — over a decade — but your incomes are only going up 16 percent, it’s just at a certain point, it will break the bank.  There won’t be enough federal aid to make up for the difference.  And families, at a certain point, aren’t going to be able to send their kids to school.

And state legislatures, they can’t just keep cutting support for public college and universities.  Colleges can’t just keep raising tuition year after year, and pushing these state cutbacks on to students and families, and federal taxpayers are not going to be able to make up all the difference.

Our economy can’t afford the trillion dollars — $1 trillion in outstanding student loan debt.  Because when young people have that much debt, that means they can’t buy a home.  It means they can’t start the business that maybe they’ve got a great idea for. And we can’t price the middle class and everybody working to get into the middle class out of a college education.  (Applause.)    It will put our young generation of workers at a competitive disadvantage for years.

So if a higher education is still the best ticket to upward mobility in America — and it is — then we’ve got to make sure it’s within reach.  We’ve got to make sure that we are improving economic mobility, not making it worse.  Higher education should not be a luxury.  It is a necessity, an economic imperative that every family in America should be able to afford.  (Applause.)

So what are we going to do about it?  Today what I’ve done is propose major new reforms that will shake up the current system.  We want to create better incentives for colleges to do more with less and to deliver better value for our students and their families.

And some of these reforms will require action from Congress, which is always difficult.  (Laughter.)  Some of these changes, though, I can make on my own.  (Applause.)  And we want to work with colleges to keep costs down.  States are going to need to make higher education a higher priority in their budgets.  And by the way, we’re going to ask more from students as well if they’re receiving federal aid.

And some of these reforms won’t be popular for every — with everybody, because some folks are making out just fine under the status quo.   But my concern is not to look out just for the institutions; I want to look out for the students who these institutions exist to serve.  (Applause.)  And I think — I’ve got confidence that our country’s colleges and universities will step up to the plate if they’re given the right incentives.  They, too, should want to do the right thing for students.

So let me be specific.  Here are three things we’re going to do.  Number one, I’m directing my administration to come up with a new ratings system for colleges that will score colleges on opportunity -– whether they’re helping students from all kinds of backgrounds succeed; and on outcomes — whether students are graduating with manageable debt; whether they’re actually graduating in the first place; whether they have strong career potential when they graduate.  That’s the kind of information that will help students and parents figure out how much value a particular college truly offers.

Right now all these ranking systems, they rank you higher if you charge more and you let in fewer students.  But you should have a better sense of who’s actually graduating students and giving you a good deal.  (Applause.)

So down the road we’re going to use these ratings, we hope by working with Congress, to change how we allocate federal aid for colleges.  And we’re going to deliver on a promise that I made last year — colleges that keep their tuition down are the ones that will see their taxpayer funding go up.  We’ve got to stop subsidizing schools that are not getting good results, start rewarding schools that deliver for the students and deliver for America’s future.  That’s our goal.  (Applause.)

Our second goal:  We want to encourage more colleges to embrace innovation, to try new ways of providing a great education without breaking the bank.  A growing number of colleges across the country are testing some new approaches, so they’re finding new ways, for example, to use online education to save time and money.

Some are trying what you’re doing right here in Syracuse -– creating partnerships between high schools and colleges, so students can get an early jump on their degree.  They can graduate faster.  That means they’re paying less in tuition.  I want to see more schools and states get in the game, so more students can get an education that costs less but still maintains high quality.  And we know it can be done.  It’s just we got to get everybody doing it, not just a few schools or a few cities around the country.  That’s the second goal.  (Applause.)

Somebody screamed, and I thought somebody fell, but they were just excited.  (Laughter.)

Number three:  We’re going to make sure that if you’ve taken on debt to earn your degree that you can manage and afford it.  Nobody wants to take on debt, but even if we do a good job controlling tuition costs, some young people are still going to have to take out some loans.  But we think of that as a good investment because it pays off in time -– as long as it stays manageable, as long as you can pay it back.

And remember, again, Michelle and I, we went through this.  It took us a long time to pay off our student loans.  But we could always manage it.  It didn’t get out of hand.  And I don’t want debt to keep young people — some of who are here today — from going into professions like teaching, for example, that may not pay as much money, but are of huge value to the country.  (Applause.)

And I sure don’t want young people not being able to buy a home, or get married, or start a business because they’re so loaded down with debt.  So what we’ve done is two years ago, I capped loan repayments at 10 percent of a student’s income after college.  We called it “pay as you earn.”  And so far this, along with a few other programs, has helped more than 2.5 million students.

But right now, a lot of current and former students aren’t eligible, so we want to work with Congress to fix that so that we got a lot more people who are eligible for this program.  And then the problem is a lot of young people don’t know this program exists.  So we’re going to do a better job advertising this program so that you will never have to pay more than 10 percent of your yearly income in servicing your debt.

And if you’re involved in public service or non-for-profits, then at some point that debt gets forgiven because you’re giving back to society in other ways.  (Applause.)  So we’re going to launch a campaign to help borrowers learn more about their options.  We want every student to have the chance to pay back their loans in a way that doesn’t stop them from pursuing their dreams.

So if we move forward on these three points — increasing value, making sure that young people and their parents know what they’re getting when they go to college; encouraging innovation so that more colleges are giving better value; and then helping people responsibly manage their debt — then we’re going to help more students afford college.  We’re going to help more students graduate from college.  We’ll help more students get rid of their debt so they can get started on their lives.  (Applause.)

And it’s going to take some hard work.  But the people of Syracuse know something about hard work.  (Applause.)  The American people know something about hard work.  (Applause.)

And we’ve come a long way together over these past four years.  I intend to keep us moving forward on this and every other issue.  We’re going to keep pushing to build a better bargain for the middle class and everybody who’s fighting to join the middle class.  And we’re going to keep fighting to make sure that this country remains a country where hard work and studying and responsibility are rewarded.  We’re going to make sure that no matter who you are, or where you come from, or who you love, or what your last name is — (applause) — in the United States you can make it if you try.  (Applause.)

Thank you, Syracuse!  God bless you, and God bless America.

END
6:50 P.M. EDT

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