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.

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

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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

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

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

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on College Affordability — Buffalo, NY

Source: WH, 8-22-13

 

State University of New York Buffalo
Buffalo, New York

11:23 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, Buffalo!  (Applause.)  Hello, Bulls! (Applause.)  Well, it is good to be back in Buffalo, good to be back in the north.  (Applause.)

I want to begin by making sure we all thank Silvana for the wonderful introduction.  Give her a big round of applause.  (Applause.)  Her mom and dad are here somewhere.  Where are they? I know they’re pretty proud.  There they are right there.  Give mom and dad a big round of applause.  (Applause.)

A number of other people I want to acknowledge here — first of all, our Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, who’s doing a great job.  (Applause.)  One of the finest governors in the country, your Governor, Andrew Cuomo, is here.  (Applause.)  Your outstanding Mayor, Brian Higgins, is here.  Give him a big round of applause.

AUDIENCE:  Congressman!

THE PRESIDENT:  What?

AUDIENCE:  The Mayor is Byron Brown!

THE PRESIDENT:  Byron Brown.  That’s — I’m sorry, Byron.  (Applause.)  What I meant was — your Congressman, Brian Higgins, is here.  (Applause.)  Your Mayor, Byron Brown, is here.  (Applause.)  This is what happens when you get to be 52 years old.  (Laughter.)  When I was 51 everything was smooth.  (Laughter.)  But your Congressman and your Mayor are doing outstanding work.  We just rode on the bus over from the airport, and they were telling me that Buffalo is on the move.  That was the story.  (Applause.)

A couple other people I want to acknowledge — SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher, is here, doing a great job.  (Applause.)  University president Satish Tripathi is here.  (Applause.)   And we’ve got all the students in the house.  Thank all the students for being here.  (Applause.)

Now, today is a check-in day at the dorms.  So I want to thank all the students for taking a few minutes from setting up your futons and — (laughter) — your mini-fridges just to come out here.  I hear that the last sitting President to speak here was Millard Fillmore.  (Applause.)  And he was actually chancellor of the university at the same time — which sounds fun, but I’ve got enough on my plate.  (Laughter.)

This is our first stop on a two-day road trip through New York and Pennsylvania.  (Applause.)  And after this I head to Syracuse — (applause) — yay, Syracuse — to speak with some high schoolers.  Tomorrow I’m going to visit SUNY Binghamton and Lackawanna College in Scranton.  But I wanted to start here at University at Buffalo.  (Applause.)

And I wanted to do it for a couple reasons.  First, I know you’re focused on the future.  As I said, talking to the Mayor, he was describing a new medical school — (applause) — and new opportunities for the high-tech jobs of tomorrow.  So there’s great work being done at this institution.  I also know that everybody here must be fearless because the football team kicks off against Number 2, Ohio State, next weekend.  (Applause.)  Good luck, guys.  (Laughter.)  It’s going to be a great experience.  (Laughter.)  It’s going to be a great experience.  It could be an upset.  (Applause.)

And third, and most importantly, I know that the young people here are committed to earning your degree, to helping this university to make sure that every one of you “Finishes in Four” — (applause) — makes sure that you’re prepared for whatever comes next.  And that’s what I want to talk about here today.

Over the last month, I’ve been visiting towns across the country, talking about — yes, feel free to sit down.  Get comfortable.  (Laughter.)

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  We love you!

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  I love you, too.  (Applause.)

Over the last month I’ve been out there talking about what we need to do as a country to make sure that we’ve got a better bargain for the middle class and everybody who’s working hard to get into the middle class -– a national strategy to make sure that everybody who works hard has a chance to succeed in this 21st century economy.  (Applause.)

Now, I think all of us here know that for the past four and a half years, we’ve been fighting back from a brutal recession that cost millions of Americans their jobs and their homes and their savings.  But what the recession also did was it showed that for too long we’ve seen an erosion of middle-class security.
So, together, we saved the auto industry.  Together, we took on a broken health care system.  (Applause.)  We invested in new technologies.  We started reversing our addiction to foreign oil. We changed a tax code that was tilted to far in favor of the wealthy at the expense of working families.  (Applause.)

And add it all up, today our businesses have created 7.3 million new jobs over the last 41 months.  (Applause.)  We now generate more renewable energy than ever before.  We sell more goods made in America to the rest of the world than ever.  (Applause.)  Health care costs are growing at the slowest rate in 50 years.  Our deficits are falling at the fastest rate in 60 years.  (Applause.)

Here in Buffalo, the Governor and the Mayor were describing over a billion dollars in investment, riverfront being changed, construction booming — signs of progress.  (Applause.)

So thanks to the grit and the resilience of the American people, we’ve cleared away the rubble from the financial crisis. We’ve started to lay the foundation for a stronger, more durable economic growth.

But as any middle-class family will tell you, as folks here in Buffalo will tell you, we’re not where we need to be yet.  Because even before the crisis hit — and it sounds like Buffalo knows something about this — we were living through a decade where a few at the top were doing better and better, most families were working harder and harder just to get by.  Manufacturing was leaving, jobs moving overseas, losing our competitive edge.  And it’s a struggle for a lot of folks.

So reversing this trend should be, must be, Washington’s highest priority.  It’s my highest priority.  (Applause.)  I’ve got to say it’s not always Washington’s highest priority.  Because rather than keeping focus on a growing economy that creates good middle-class jobs, we’ve seen a faction of Republicans in Congress suggest that maybe America shouldn’t pay its bills that have already been run up, that we shut down government if they can’t shut down Obamacare.

AUDIENCE:  Booo —

THE PRESIDENT:  That won’t grow our economy.  That won’t create jobs.  That won’t help our middle class.  We can’t afford in Washington the usual circus of distractions and political posturing.  We can’t afford that right now.

What we need is to build on the cornerstones of what it means to be middle class in America, focus on that — a good job with good wages, a good education, a home of your own, affordable health care, a secure retirement.  (Applause.)  Bread-and-butter, pocketbook issues that you care about every single day; that you’re thinking about every single day.  And we’ve got to create more pathways into the middle class for folks who are willing to work for it.  That’s what’s always made America great.  It’s not just how many billionaires we produce, but our ability to give everybody who works hard the chance to pursue their own measure of happiness.  That’s what America is all about.  (Applause.)

Now, there aren’t many things that are more important to that idea of economic mobility -– the idea that you can make it if you try –- than a good education.  All the students here know that.  That’s why you’re here.  (Applause.)  That’s why your families have made big sacrifices -– because we understand that in the face of greater and greater global competition, in a knowledge-based economy, a great education is more important than ever.

A higher education is the single best investment you can make in your future.  And I’m proud of all the students who are making that investment.  (Applause.)  And that’s not just me saying it.  Look, right now, the unemployment rate for Americans with at least a college degree is about one-third lower than the national average.  The incomes of folks who have at least a college degree are more than twice those of Americans without a high school diploma.  So more than ever before, some form of higher education is the surest path into the middle class.

But what I want to talk about today is what’s become a barrier and a burden for too many American families -– and that is the soaring cost of higher education.  (Applause.)

This is something that everybody knows you need — a college education.  On the other hand, college has never been more expensive.  Over the past three decades, the average tuition at a public four-year college has gone up by more than 250 percent — 250 percent.  Now, a typical family’s income has only gone up 16 percent.  So think about that — tuition has gone up 250 percent; income gone up 16 percent.  That’s a big gap.

Now, it’s true that a lot of universities have tried to provide financial aid and work-study programs.  And so not every student — in fact, most students are probably not paying the sticker price of tuition.  We understand that.  But what we also understand is that if it’s going up 250 [percent] and your incomes are only going up 16 [percent], at some point, families are having to make up some of the difference, or students are having to make up some of the difference with debt.

And meanwhile, over the past few years, states have been cutting back on their higher education budgets.  New York has done better than a lot of states, but the fact is that we’ve been spending more money on prisons, less money on college.  (Applause.)  And meanwhile, not enough colleges have been working to figure out how do we control costs, how do we cut back on costs.  So all this sticks it to students, sticks it to families, but also, taxpayers end up paying a bigger price.

The average student who borrows for college now graduates owing more than $26,000.  Some owe a lot more than that.  And I’ve heard from a lot of these young people who are frustrated that they’ve done everything they’re supposed to do –- got good grades in high school, applied to college, did well in school — but now they come out, they’ve got this crushing debt that’s crippling their sense of self-reliance and their dreams.  It becomes hard to start a family and buy a home if you’re servicing $1,000 worth of debt every month.  It becomes harder to start a business if you are servicing $1,000 worth of debt every month, right?  (Applause.)

And meanwhile, parents, you’re having to make sacrifices, which means you may be dipping into savings that should be going to your retirement to pay for your son or daughter’s — or to help pay for your son or daughter’s education.

So at a time when a higher education has never been more important or more expensive, too many students are facing a choice that they should never have to make:  Either they say no to college and pay the price for not getting a degree — and that’s a price that lasts a lifetime — or you do what it takes to go to college, but then you run the risk that you won’t be able to pay it off because you’ve got so much debt.

Now, that’s a choice we shouldn’t accept.  And, by the way, that’s a choice that previous generations didn’t have to accept. This is a country that early on made a commitment to put a good education within the reach of all who are willing to work for it. And we were ahead of the curve compared to other countries when it came to helping young people go to school.  (Applause.)

The folks in Buffalo understand this.  Mayor Brown was talking about the city of Buffalo and the great work that is being done through the program called “Say Yes,” to make sure that no child in Buffalo has to miss out on a college education because they can’t pay for it.  (Applause.)

But even though there’s a great program in this city, in a lot of places that program doesn’t exist.  But a generation ago, two generations ago, we made a bigger commitment.  This is the country that gave my grandfather the chance to go to college on the GI Bill after he came back from World War II.  (Applause.)  This is the country that helped my mother get through school while raising two kids.  (Applause.)  Michelle and I, we’re only where we are today because scholarships and student loans gave us a shot at a great education.  (Applause.)

And we know a little bit about trying to pay back student loans, too, because we didn’t come from a wealthy family.  So we each graduated from college and law school with a mountain of debt.  And even though we got good jobs, we barely finished paying it off just before I was elected to the U.S. Senate.

AUDIENCE:  Whew!

THE PRESIDENT:  Right?  I mean, I was in my 40s when we finished paying off our debt.  And we should have been saving for Malia and Sasha by that time.  But we were still paying off what we had gotten — and we were luckier because most of the debt was from law school.  Our undergraduate debt was not as great because tuition had not started shooting up as high.

So the bottom line is this — we’ve got a crisis in terms of college affordability and student debt.  And over the past four years, what we’ve tried to do is to take some steps to make college more affordable.  So we enacted historic reforms to the student loan system, so taxpayer dollars stop padding the pockets of big banks and instead help more kids afford college.  (Applause.)

Because what was happening was the old system, the student loan programs were going through banks; they didn’t have any risk because the federal government guaranteed the loans, but they were still taking billions of dollars out of the program.  We said, well, let’s just give the loans directly to the students and we can put more money to helping students.

Then we set up a consumer watchdog.  And that consumer watchdog is already helping students and families navigate the financial options that are out there to pay for college without getting ripped off by shady lenders.  (Applause.)  And we’re providing more tools and resources for students and families to try to finance college.  And if any of you are still trying to figure out how to finance college, check it out at StudentAid.gov.  StudentAid.gov.

Then, we took action to cap loan repayments at 10 percent of monthly income for many borrowers who are trying to responsibly manage their federal student loan debt.  (Applause.)  So overall, we’ve made college more affordable for millions of students and families through tax credits and grants and student loans that go farther than they did before.  And then, just a few weeks ago, Democrats and Republicans worked together to keep student loan rates from doubling.  (Applause.)  And that saves typical undergraduates more than $1,500 for this year’s loans.

So that’s all a good start, but it’s not enough.  The problem is, is that even if the federal government keeps on putting more and more money in the system, if the cost is going up by 250 percent, tax revenues aren’t going up 250 percent — and so some point, the government will run out of money, which means more and more costs are being loaded on to students and their families.

The system’s current trajectory is not sustainable.  And what that means is state legislatures are going to have to step up.  They can’t just keep cutting support for public colleges and universities.  (Applause.)  That’s just the truth.  Colleges are not going to be able to just keep on increasing tuition year after year, and then passing it on to students and families and taxpayers.  (Applause.)   Our economy can’t afford the trillion dollars in outstanding student loan debt, much of which may not get repaid because students don’t have the capacity to pay it.  We can’t price the middle class and everybody working to get into the middle class out of a college education.  We’re going to have to do things differently.  We can’t go about business as usual.

Because if we do, that will put our younger generation, our workers, our country at a competitive disadvantage for years.  Higher education is still the best ticket to upward mobility in America, and if we don’t do something about keeping it within reach, it will create problems for economic mobility for generations to come.  And that’s not acceptable.  (Applause.)

So whether we’re talking about a two-year program, a four-year program, a technical certificate, bottom line is higher education cannot be a luxury.  It’s an economic imperative:  Every family in America should be able to afford to get it.  (Applause.)

So that’s the problem.  Now, what are we going to do about it?  Today, I’m proposing major new reforms that will shake up the current system, create better incentives for colleges to do more with less, and deliver better value for students and their families.  (Applause.)

And some of these reforms will require action from Congress, so we’re going to have to work on that.  (Laughter.)  Some of these changes I can make on my own.  (Applause.)  We are going to have to — we’re going to be partnering with colleges to do more to keep costs down, and we’re going to work with states to make higher education a higher priority in their budgets.  (Applause.)

And one last thing — we’re going to have to ask more of students who are receiving federal aid, as well.  And I’ve got to tell you ahead of time, these reforms won’t be popular with everybody, especially those who are making out just fine under the current system.  But my main concern is not with those institutions; my main concern is the students those institutions are there to serve -– because this country is only going to be as strong as our next generation.  (Applause.)

And I have confidence that our country’s colleges and universities will step up — just like Chancellor Zimpher and the folks at SUNY are trying to step up — and lead the way to do the right thing for students.

So let me be specific.  My plan comes down to three main goals.  First, we’re going to start rating colleges not just by which college is the most selective, not just by which college is the most expensive, not just by which college has the nicest facilities — you can get all of that on the existing rating systems.  What we want to do is rate them on who’s offering the best value so students and taxpayers get a bigger bang for their buck.  (Applause.)

Number two, we’re going to jumpstart new competition between colleges –- not just on the field or on the court, but in terms of innovation that encourages affordability, and encourages student success, and doesn’t sacrifice educational quality.  (Applause.)  That’s going to be the second component of it.

And the third is, we’re going to make sure that if you have to take on debt to earn your college degree that you have ways to manage and afford it.  (Applause.)

So let me just talk about each of these briefly.

Our first priority is aimed at providing better value for students — making sure that families and taxpayers are getting what we pay for.  Today, I’m directing Arne Duncan, our Secretary of Education, to lead an effort to develop a new rating system for America’s colleges before the 2015 college year.  Right now, private rankings like U.S. News and World Report puts out each year their rankings, and it encourages a lot of colleges to focus on ways to — how do we game the numbers, and it actually rewards them, in some cases, for raising costs.  I think we should rate colleges based on opportunity.  Are they helping students from all kinds of backgrounds succeed — (applause) — and on outcomes, on their value to students and parents.

So that means metrics like:  How much debt does the average student leave with?  How easy it is to pay off?  How many students graduate on time?  How well do those graduates do in the workforce?  Because the answers will help parents and students figure out how much value a college truly offers.

There are schools out there who are terrific values.  But there are also schools out there that have higher default rates than graduation rates.  And taxpayers shouldn’t be subsidizing students to go to schools where the kids aren’t graduating.  That doesn’t do anybody any good.  (Applause.)

And our ratings will also measure how successful colleges are at enrolling and graduating students who are on Pell grants. And it will be my firm principle that our ratings have to be carefully designed to increase, not decrease, the opportunities for higher education for students who face economic or other disadvantages.  (Applause.)

So this is going to take a little time, but we think this can empower students and families to make good choices.  And it will give any college the chance to show that it’s making serious and consistent improvement.  So a college may not be where it needs to be right now on value, but they’ll have time to try to get better.

And we want all the stakeholders in higher education — students, parents, businesses, college administrators, professors — to work with Secretary Duncan on this process.  And over the next few months, he’s going to host a series of public forums around the country to make sure we get these measures right.  And then, over the next few years, we’re going to work with Congress to use those ratings to change how we allocate federal aid for colleges.  (Applause.)

We are going to deliver on a promise we made last year, which is colleges that keep their tuition down and are providing high-quality education are the ones that are going to see their taxpayer funding go up.  It is time to stop subsidizing schools that are not producing good results, and reward schools that deliver for American students and our future.  (Applause.)

And we’re also going to encourage states to follow the same principle.  Right now, most states fund colleges based on how many students they enroll, not based on how well those students do or even if they graduate.  Now, some states are trying a better approach.  You got Tennessee, Indiana, Ohio — they’re offering more funding to colleges that do a better job of preparing students for graduation and a job.  Michigan is rewarding schools that keep tuition increases low.  So they’re changing the incentive structure.

And I’m challenging all states to come up with new and innovative ways to fund their colleges in a way that drives better results.  (Applause.)

Now, for the young people here, I just want to say that just as we’re expecting more from our schools that get funding from taxpayers, we’re going to have to expect more from students who get subsidies and grants from taxpayers.  (Applause.)  So we’re going to make sure students who receive federal financial aid complete their courses before receiving grants for the next semester.  (Applause.)

We’ll make sure to build in flexibility so we’re not penalizing disadvantaged students, or students who are holding down jobs to pay for school.  Things happen.  But the bottom line is we need to make sure that if you’re getting financial aid you’re doing your part to make progress towards a degree.  And, by the way, that’s good for you, too, because if you take out debt and you don’t get that degree, you are not going to be able to pay off that debt and you’ll be in a bind.  (Applause.)

All right, second goal:  We want to encourage more —

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  We love you, Obama!

THE PRESIDENT:  (Laughter.)  Thank you.

The second thing we want to do is to encourage more colleges to embrace innovative new ways to prepare our students for a 21st century economy and maintain a high level of quality without breaking the bank.

So let me talk about some alternatives that are already out there.  Southern New Hampshire University gives course credit based on how well students master the material, not just on how many hours they spend in the classroom.  So the idea would be if you’re learning the material faster, you can finish faster, which means you pay less and you save money.  (Applause.)  The University of Wisconsin is getting ready to do the same thing.

You’ve got Central Missouri University — I went there, and they’ve partnered with local high schools and community colleges so that their students can show up at college and graduate in half the time because they’re already starting to get college credits while they’re in high school or while they’re in a two-year college, so by the time they get to a four-year college they’re saving money.  (Applause.)

Universities like Carnegie Mellon, Arizona State, they’re starting to show that online learning can help students master the same material in less time and often at lower cost.  Georgia Tech, which is a national leader in computer science, just announced it will begin offering an online master’s degree in computer science at a fraction of the cost of a traditional class, but it’s just as rigorous and it’s producing engineers who are just as good.

So a lot of other schools are experimenting with these ideas to keep tuition down.  They’ve got other ways to help students graduate in less time, at less cost, while still maintaining high quality.  The point is it’s possible.  And it’s time for more colleges to step up with even better ways to do it.  And we’re going to provide additional assistance to states and universities that are coming up with good ideas.

Third thing, even as we work to bring down costs for current and future students, we’ve got to offer students who already have debt the chance to actually repay it.  (Applause.)  Nobody wants to take on debt — especially after what we’ve seen and families have gone through during this financial crisis.  But taking on debt in order to earn a college education has always been viewed as something that will pay off over time.  We’ve got to make sure, though, that it’s manageable.

As I said before, even with good jobs, it took Michelle and me a long time to pay off our student loans — while we should have been saving for Malia and Sasha’s college educations, we were still paying off our own.  So we know how important it is to make sure debt is manageable, so that it doesn’t keep you from taking a job that you really care about, or getting married, or buying that first home.

There are some folks who have been talking out there recently about whether the federal student loan program should make or cost the government money.  Here’s the bottom line — government shouldn’t see student loans as a way to make money; it should be a way to help students.  (Applause.)

So we need to ask ourselves:  How much does a federal student loan cost students?  How can we help students manage those costs better?  Our national mission is not to profit off student loans; our national mission must be to profit off having the best-educated workforce in the world.  That should be our focus.  (Applause.)

So, as I mentioned a little bit earlier, two years ago, I capped loan repayments at 10 percent of a student’s post-college income.  We called it Pay-As-You-Earn.  And it, along with some other income-driven repayment plans, have helped more than 2.5 million students so far.

But there are two obstacles that are preventing more students from taking advantage of it.  One is that too many current and former students aren’t eligible, which means we’ve got to get Congress to open up the program for more students.  (Applause.)  And we’re going to be pushing them to do that.

The other obstacle is that a lot of students don’t even know they’re eligible for the program.  So starting this year, we’re going to launch a campaign to help more borrowers learn about their repayment options and we’ll help more student borrowers enroll in Pay-As-You-Earn.  So if you went to college, you took out debt, you want to be a teacher, and starting salary for a teacher is, let’s say, $35,000, well, only 10 percent of that amount is what your loan repayment is.  Now, if you’re making more money, you should be paying more back.  But that way, everybody has a chance to go to college; everybody has a chance to pursue their dreams.

And that program is already in place.  We want more students to take advantage of it.  We’re really going to be advertising it heavily.

Now, if we move forward on these three fronts –- increasing value, encouraging innovation, helping people responsibly manage their debt –- I guarantee you we will help more students afford college.  We’ll help more students graduate from college.  We’ll help more students get rid of that debt so they can a good start in their careers.  (Applause.)

But it’s going to take a lot of hard work.  The good news is, from what I hear, folks in Buffalo know something about hard work.  (Applause.)  Folks in America know something about hard work.  And we’ve come a long way together these past four years. We’re going to keep moving forward on this issue and on every other issue that’s going to help make sure that we continue to have the strongest, most thriving middle class in the world.  We’re going to keep pushing to build a better bargain for everybody in this country who works hard, and everybody who’s trying to get into that middle class.  (Applause.)

And we’re going to keep fighting to make sure that this remains a country where, if you work hard and study hard and are responsible, you are rewarded, so that no matter what you look like and where you come from, what your last name is, here in America you can make it if you try.  (Applause.)

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

END
11:54 A.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency June 21, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Speech on College Affordability and Student Loan Interest Rates — Urges Congress to Act to Renew Rates

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

IN FOCUS: PRESIDENT OBAMA VS. CONGRESS OVER STUDENT LOAN INTEREST RATE RENEWAL

President Barack Obama delivers a statement on college affordability (June 21, 2012)
President Barack Obama, with Education Secretary Arne Duncan, delivers a statement on college affordability and interest rates on student loans, in the East Room of the White House, June 21, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

Obama, GOP Clash over Student Loans: President Obama on Thursday demanded that lawmakers act to prevent interest rates on student loans from doubling on July 1, saying it was “mind-boggling” that the stalemate has lasted this long.
“This should be a no-brainer. It should not be difficult. It should have gotten done weeks ago,” the president told students, parents and educators at the White House. “There’s still 10 days for Congress to do the right thing. I understand that members of both parties say they want to get this done and there are conversations taking place, but they haven’t done it yet. And we’ve got to keep the pressure on.”
Both Republicans and Democrats believe the subsidized Stafford loan rates should not be doubled from the current 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent and agree the current rates should be extended for at least another year. But the sides cannot agree to how to pay for the $6 billion bill…. – ABC News Radio, 6-21-12

  • Obama, GOP Clash over Student Loans: President Obama on Thursday demanded that lawmakers act to prevent interest rates on student loans from doubling on July 1, saying it was “mind-boggling” that the stalemate has lasted this long…. – WTMA, 6-21-12
  • Obama urges students, parents to pressure Congress on student loans issue: With slightly more than a week left before student loan rates double for millions of Americans on July 1, President Obama on Thursday urged students and their parents to continue to press for congressional action. It was the second time in as many…. – WaPo, 6-21-12
  • Obama urges Congress to stop interest rates on student loans: President Obama is urging Congress to stop interest rates on student loans from doubling on July 1, calling it a ‘”no-brainer.” If Congress doesn’t act, interest rates on new loans will double from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent come July…. – WaPo, 6-21-12
  • Obama, GOP fight over student loans as young people struggle: The clock is ticking down to the day when new student loan interest rates are expected to double, and President Obama made his latest appeal to Congress today to extend the current low rate. If Congress doesn’t act by July 1, the interest…. – CBS News, 6-21-12
  • Political squabbling over student loans continues: With time running out for Congress to prevent a doubling of interest rates on federal student loans, the White House and Republican leaders exchanged accusations Thursday on who was to blame for the lack of an agreement…. – CNN, 6-21-12
  • Obama accuses GOP of ‘playing chicken’ with loan program: President Obama said today that Republicans are “playing chicken” with a low-interest student loan program, and urged college students to pressure the GOP in advance of a July 1 deadline. “We cannot afford to price the…. – USA Today, 6-21-12
  • Obama’s day: More on student loans: President Obama focuses on the student loan issue. After a series of meetings in the morning, Obama will deliver remarks urging Congress to renew a low interest student loan program…. – USA Today, 6-21-12

President Obama Again Pushes Congress to Act on Student Loans

Source: WH, 6-21-12

Time is running out for Congress to take actions to stop the rates on federal student loans from doubling on July 1.

That’s why President Obama spoke today from the East Room of the White House about the importance of keeping college affordable.

“If Congress does not get this done in a week, the average student with federal student loans will rack up an additional $1,000 in debt over the coming year,” he said. “If Congress fails to act, more than 7 million students will suddenly be hit with the equivalent of a $1,000 tax hike. And that’s not something that you can afford right now.”

In his remarks, the President also stressed the importance of taking this step for the broader economy. It’s not just that those students will suddenly have less money to spend — it’s that we need to have the best educated workforce in the world, and keeping higher education affordable helps to make that possible.

Remarks by the President on College Affordability

East Room

1:36 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you, everybody.  Thank you.  Everybody have a seat.  (Applause.)  Well, it is good to see all of you.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  We love you!

THE PRESIDENT:  I love you guys back.  (Laughter.)  I have to say, the — I don’t know about the choice of music coming in here, though.  (Laughter.)  I love my Marine Band, but this is kind of a young demographic for the piano cocktail hour.  (Laughter.)

So some of the most fun I’ve had as President is when I get a chance to talk with you, college students, about the importance of earning a higher education in today’s economy.  And I’ll admit that the East Room isn’t as rowdy as Carmichael Arena at UNC, or — we got any UNC folks here in the house?  There we go.  Coors Center at CU Boulder — any — no?  Okay.  (Laughter.)  I have to say that most of you are much more dressed up than usually when I see you in your own natural habitats.  (Laughter.)

But our message today is serious.  Right now, the unemployment rate for Americans with a college degree or more is about half the national average.  They earn twice as much as those who don’t have a high school diploma.  So whether it’s at a four-year college, or a community college, or a technical program, some form of higher education, something beyond high school has never been more important.  It’s the surest path to finding a good job, earning a good salary, making it into the middle class.

And at the same time, over the last two decades, the cost of college has doubled — it’s actually more than doubled.  And that means — and I don’t have to tell you, because you’re probably tallying it up right now — the cost for you to take out loans has increased, and you are more likely to rack up more debt.  The average student who borrows to pay for college now graduates with about $26,000 of debt from their student loans.  Americans as a whole now owe more on student loans than they do on their credit cards.  And that is wrong, because we cannot afford to price the middle class and folks who aspire to go into the middle class, we can’t price them out of the college education market.  We can’t stand by when millions of young people are already saddled with debt just as you’re starting off.

Your parents, your grandparents, oftentimes they were in a position where when they got that first job, the first thing they’re thinking about is, how do I save to buy a home and start a family.  And if you’re already dealing with a big bunch of debt before you even get started, that’s a problem.  And it’s mind-boggling that we’ve had this stalemate in Washington that threatens to make the situation even worse.

So the reason you’re all here, the reason all these fine-looking young people behind me are here is that in just over a week the interest rates on federal student loans are scheduled to double.  I’ve been talking about this now for what — a month and a half, two months, three months, five months — I’ve lost track. (Laughter.)  We’ve been talking about it for a long time.  If Congress does not get this done in a week, the average student with federal student loans will rack up an additional $1,000 in debt over the coming year.  If Congress fails to act, more than 7 million students will suddenly be hit with the equivalent of a $1,000 tax hike.  And that’s not something that you can afford right now.

Now, as I said, if this warning sounds familiar, we’ve been talking about this for months.  Congress has had the time to fix this for months.  It’s part of the reason why everybody here looks impatient.  (Laughter.)  This issue didn’t come out of nowhere; it’s been looming for months.  But we’ve been stuck watching Congress play chicken with another deadline.  So we’re  nine days away from thousands of American workers having to walk off their job because Congress hasn’t passed a transportation bill.  We’re 10 days away from nearly 7.5 million students seeing their loan rates double because Congress hasn’t acted.  This should be a no-brainer.  It should not be difficult.  It should’ve gotten done weeks ago.

Now, the good news is there are folks in Congress trying to do the right thing.  Last month, Democrats in the Senate put forward a plan that would have kept these rates in place without adding a dime to the deficit.  Unfortunately, Senate Republicans got together and blocked it.  Over in the House, the Republicans said they’d keep these rates down only if we agreed to cut things like preventive health care for women, which obviously wouldn’t fix the problem, but would create a new problem.

This is — even as they were voting in lockstep for an economic plan that would cut financial aid for nine million college students by an average of $1,000 and give a $150,000 tax cut to wealthy Americans.  So I recognize that there’s been some effort to change the subject from this rate hike.

One Congressman warned that this is all about giving college students “free college education” — which doesn’t make much sense, because the definition of a loan is it’s not free — (laughter) — you have to pay it back.  Others have said we’re just talking about student loans to distract from the economy.  That doesn’t make much sense because this is the economy.

This is all about the economy.  This is all about whether or not we are going to have the best-trained, best-educated workforce in the world.  That improves our economy.  And higher education cannot be a luxury reserved just for a privileged few. It’s an economic necessity for every family, and every family should be able to afford it.

So you guys, during this period when you’ve been in college have been some of the toughest economic times since the 1930s,  and there are still a lot of challenges ahead globally.  And we can’t control every economic headwind that we face, but this is something we can control.  This is something we can do something about.  Stopping student rates from doubling at the end of the month is something we can do right now to make a difference in the lives of all the American people.

There’s still 10 days for Congress to do the right thing.  I understand that members of both parties say they want to get this done, and there are conversations taking place, but they haven’t done it yet.  And we’ve got to keep the pressure on.

That’s where all of you come in.  Over the past few months, there are so many students and parents who have been working hard to shine a light on this issue.  You’ve rallied on campuses, in your communities.  You’ve called, you’ve emailed, you’ve tweeted your representatives in Washington.  So you’ve played your part in making sure your voice is heard and your democracy is responsive.

My main message is, as you guys embark on this day of action, I want to make sure you keep this going.  Don’t stop until it’s actually done.  There is nothing more powerful than millions of voices that are calling for change, and all of your voices can make a difference.  So keep telling Congress to do what’s right, to get this done.  Tell them now is not the time to double interest rates on your student loans.  Tell them to double down on an investment in a strong and secure middle class — and that means your education.  Tell them now is the time to double down on an America where everybody who works hard has a fair shot at success.

And for those who are not here and are watching, if you tweet, use the hashtag #dontdoublemyrate — (laughter) — #dontdoublemyrate.  But I tell you, when I look out at this group right here, you give me confidence in America.  You make me optimistic, not only because you’re getting a great education, but also because all of you are participating and making sure that this democracy works the way it’s supposed to.  We need outstanding engineers, and we need outstanding nonprofit leaders, and we need outstanding entrepreneurs, but we also need outstanding citizens.  And that’s what you guys are displaying by your presence and your activities.

So, keep it up.  Let’s get this done.  Thanks, everybody.  (Applause.)

END
1:47 P.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency April 25, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Speech on College Affordability & Student Loans Interest Rates Doubling at the University of Iowa

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

President Obama Speaks to Students in Iowa about Student Loan Rates

Source: WH, 4-25-12<

President Barack Obama Listens to Senior Marissa Boles During a Roundtable Discussion

President Barack Obama listens to senior Marissa Boles during a roundtable discussion with students currently receiving Stafford federal student loans at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, April 25, 2012. Also participating in the discussion were students Blake Anderson, center, Myranda Burnett, Jordan Garrsion-Nickerson and Martin Lopez. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

President Obama wrapped up a three-city tour in Iowa today by speaking to students at the University of Iowa about the best tool they’ve got for achieving the American promise: a college education.

This country has always made a commitment to put a good education within the reach of everybody who’s willing to work for it. That’s part of what made us special. That’s what kept us at the forefront of business and science and technology and medicine. That’s a commitment that we need to reaffirm today.

Now, here’s the challenge we’ve got. Since most of you were born, tuition and fees at America’s colleges have more than doubled. And that forces students like you to take out more loans and rack up more debt. The average student who borrows to pay for college now graduates with about $25,000 in student loan debt. And in this state, it’s even higher. Americans now owe more on their student loans than they owe on credit cards.

And living with that debt means you’ve got to make some pretty tough choices. It might mean putting off buying a first home or chasing that great startup idea that you’ve got. Maybe you’ll have to wait a little bit longer to start a family or save for retirement. And when a big chunk of every paycheck goes towards loan debt, that’s not just tough on you, that’s not just tough on middle-class families — that’s not good for our economy, because that money that could be going into businesses is going just to service debt.

To make matters worse, interest rates on federal Stafford loans are set to double in July, saddling more than 7 million students with an additional $1,000 in debt. Congress has the power to stop this from happening, however, and as he did in North Carolina and Colorado earlier this week, the President asked students to tell their members of Congress one thing: Don’t Double My Rate.

Raise your voice and reach out to your networks if you agree that student loan rates should not double on July 1.


Learn more:

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

Remarks by the President on College Affordability

University of Iowa
Iowa City, Iowa

1:28 P.M. CDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, Hawkeyes!  (Applause.)  It is good to be back in Iowa!  (Applause.)  Can folks please give it up for Blake for that outstanding introduction?  (Applause.)  And I want to thank the University of Iowa Pep Band for firing everybody up. (Applause.)

There is some good hospitality here, and I should know.  I spent a little time here in Iowa, spent a little time here in Iowa City.  I’m glad that my hometown of Chicago will get to return the hospitality when your football team kicks off its season at Soldier Field.  (Applause.)

I want to thank a couple guests — first of all, your Congressman, Dave Loebsack, is here.  (Applause.)  Attorney General Tom Miller.  (Applause.)  State Treasurer Mike Fitzgerald.  (Applause.)  Your Mayor, Matt Hayek.  (Applause.)   The President of the University of Iowa, Sally Mason.  (Applause.)

So I have come to the University of Iowa to talk a little bit about you and some of the issues you guys are dealing with every single day.  Now, I believe that college isn’t just the best investment that you can make in your future — it’s the best investment you can make in your country’s future.  And I’m proud of all of you for making that investment — because it’s never been more important.  (Applause.)

In today’s economy, there’s no greater predictor of individual success than a good education.  That’s at the top.  Right now, the unemployment rate for Americans with a college degree or more is about half the national average.  Their incomes are twice as high as those who don’t have a high school diploma. A higher education is the single clearest path to the middle class.

I know that those of you who are about to graduate are wondering what’s in store for your future — because not even four years ago, just as the global economy was about to enter into freefall, you were still trying to find your way around campus, and now, four years later, you’re looking at what it means when you leave this campus.

The good news is, today our economy is recovering.  That’s the good news.  (Applause.)  But I’ll be honest with you.  It has not yet fully healed from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.  Our businesses have added more than 4 million jobs over the past two years.  (Applause.)  But there’s still a lot of Americans who are out there looking for a job or at least finding a job that pays the bills and helps cover the mortgage.  There’s still too many families who don’t have that security, that basic middle-class security that started slipping away even before this crisis hit.

But what I want all of you to know is that the degree you earn from Iowa will be the best tool you have to achieve that basic American promise — the idea that if you work hard, if you give it your all, if you’re responsible, then you can do well enough to raise a family and own a home, send your own kids to college, put a little away for retirement.  It’s the idea that each generation is going to have a little more opportunity than the last.  (Applause.)  That’s at the heart of the American Dream.

And I can tell you, as a parent now, when I see Malia and Sasha doing well, there’s nothing more important to me.  And that’s true for American families everywhere, and it’s the hope your parents have for you.  That’s the hope you’ll have some day for your own kids.  And keeping that promise alive is the defining issue of our time.  I don’t want this a country — I don’t want this to be a country where a shrinking number of people are doing really, really well, and then a growing number are barely able to get by.  I don’t want that future for you.  I don’t want it for my daughters.  I don’t want it for America.  (Applause.)

I want this forever to be a country where everybody gets a fair shot, and everybody is doing their fair share, and everybody is playing by the same set of rules.  (Applause.)  That’s the America I know.  That’s the America I love.  And that’s the America within our reach if we work for it.  (Applause.)

And this is personal for me —

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  We love you, Barack!

THE PRESIDENT:  I love you back.  (Applause.)  I love you guys, and I believe in you guys — that’s the most important thing.  I believe in you.  And I believe in your future.  (Applause.)

And I think about my own life.  My grandfather had the chance to go to college because this country decided that every returning veteran of World War II should be able to afford it through the GI Bill.  (Applause.)  My mom was a single mom — my dad wasn’t around — and she raised two kids by herself with some help from my grandparents because she was able to get grants and work her way through school.  And I’m only here today, and Michelle is only where she is today, because scholarships and student loans gave us a shot at a great education.  That’s how we succeeded.  (Applause.)

This country has always made a commitment to put a good education within the reach of everybody who’s willing to work for it.  That’s part of what made us special.  That’s what kept us at the forefront of business and science and technology and medicine.  That’s a commitment that we need to reaffirm today.

Now, here’s the challenge we’ve got.  Since most of you were born, tuition and fees at America’s colleges have more than doubled.  And that forces students like you to take out more loans and rack up more debt.  The average student who borrows to pay for college now graduates with about $25,000 in student loan debt.  And in this state, it’s even higher.  Americans now owe more on their student loans than they owe on credit cards.

And living with that debt means you’ve got to make some pretty tough choices.  It might mean putting off buying a first home or chasing that great startup idea that you’ve got.  Maybe you’ll have to wait a little bit longer to start a family or save for retirement.  And when a big chunk of every paycheck goes towards loan debt, that’s not just tough on you, that’s not just tough on middle-class families — that’s not good for our economy, because that money that could be going into businesses is going just to service debt.

And as I said, this is personal for me.  I know something about this, because Michelle and I, we went through it.  And it wasn’t that long ago.  We’ve been in your shoes.  We didn’t come from wealthy families.  We needed loans and we needed grants to get our way through.  (Applause.)

And that meant that when Michelle and I graduated from college and law school, we had a mountain of debt.  When we got married, we got poorer together.  (Laughter.)  So we combined our assets and they were zero.  (Laughter.)  Then we combined our liabilities and they were a lot.  (Laughter.)  So we ended up paying more for our student loans in the first few years that we were married than we paid on our mortgage each month when we finally bought a small condo.  And we were lucky to land good jobs with a steady income, but we only finished paying off our student loans about eight years ago.  Think about that.  I’m the President of the United States — (laughter) — it was only about eight years ago that we finished paying off our student loans.  (Applause.)

And let me tell you, it wasn’t easy making those payments, because once we had Malia and Sasha, we’re trying to save for their college education even as we’re paying off our own college educations.

So this is personal.  This is at the heart of who we are. We’ve got to make college more affordable for more young people. We can’t put the middle class at a disadvantage.  We can’t price out folks who are trying to make sure that they not only succeed for themselves but help the country succeed.  We can’t price the middle class out of a college education.  (Applause.)  We can’t do it — especially when most new jobs in America will require more than a high school diploma.  Higher education whether it’s at a four-year institution or a two-year program at a community college — it can’t be a luxury.  It’s an economic imperative every family in America should be able to afford.

Before I came out here I had a chance to meet not just with Blake but with a number of other students, and we had a little roundtable.  And the stories they told me were so familiar.  One young man — single mom, she had lost her job.  He was already about $30,000 in debt.  He was only halfway through here at University of Iowa.  Another young woman, her dad had been laid off at Maytag.  They were trying to figure out how to make ends meet.  She’s about to graduate.

Now, what I told them is, you’re making the right decision, because over the lifetime of earnings you will more than earn back this investment you’re making.  But making it more affordable would sure help.  It would sure help.  (Applause.)

Now, I’m going to have a specific request for you.  I’m going to need your help, Iowa, but let me briefly tell you what we’ve already done to try to make college more affordable, because I’m not just interested in talking the talk, I want to walk the walk.  (Applause.)

So before I took office, we had a student loan system where tens of billions of taxpayer dollars were going to banks who were the middlemen on the federal student loan program.  So they were getting billions of dollars in profits managing a loan program where they had no risk because it was all federally guaranteed loans.  So we changed that.

And there were folks in Washington who fought tooth and nail to protect the status quo.  One of them said it would be “an outrage” to change the system where banks are managing this thing.  But the real outrage was letting them serve as middlemen and siphon off profits, while students were working two or three jobs just to get by.  So we kept at it, and we fought and we fought, and today we don’t have middlemen.  That money is going directly where it should have been to — the first place.  It’s going to help more young people afford college.  (Applause.)

And then last fall, I acted to cap student loan payments faster, so that nearly 1.6 million students who make their payments on time only have to pay 10 percent of their monthly income toward loans once they graduate, which means if you decide to become a teacher or a social worker or a guidance counselor, something that doesn’t pay a lot of money, you can still afford to do it because you’ll never have to pay more than 10 percent of your income in order to stay current on your loan.  (Applause.)

And then we decided, you know what, you guys need more information about this whole process.  We want students to have access to a simple fact sheet on student loans and financial aid, so you can have all the information you need to make your own choices about how to pay for college.  So some of you know we set up this new Consumer Finance Protection Bureau to look out for consumers — (applause) — and so they’re now putting out a fact sheet called “Know Before You Owe.”  Know before you owe — which is something Michelle and I could have used when we were in your shoes.

And then what we said was it’s not enough just to increase student aid.  We’ve also got to stop subsidizing skyrocketing tuition, or we’ll run out of money.  So the schools themselves have to keep their tuition lower.  (Applause.)  So we put out the challenge to colleges and universities.  And I’ve told Congress, steer federal aid to those schools that are doing a good job keeping tuition affordable and providing good value, and serving their students well.  And we’ve put colleges on notice:  If you can’t stop tuition from skyrocketing, the funding you get from taxpayers is going to go down.  We’re going to put money into the schools that are doing a better job.  (Applause.)  And we’re going to hold schools accountable.

Of course, as public universities like this one know, states and state legislatures also have to do their part by making higher education a higher priority in their budgets.  (Applause.) Last year, over 40 states cut their higher education spending.

AUDIENCE:  Booo —

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes, that’s not good.  These budget cuts are one of the biggest reasons why tuition goes up at public colleges and have been over the last decade.  So we’re challenging states: Take responsibility.  If you can find new ways to bring down the cost on college, make it easier for students to graduate, then we’ll help you do it at the federal level.

So that’s what we’ve already done — helped more families, more young people afford a higher education; offer incentives to states and colleges and universities to keep costs down.  That’s what we’ve been doing.  Now comes the tricky part — we got to get Congress to do their part.  And that’s where you come in.  (Applause.)

There are a couple of things I’d like Congress to be doing this year.  First, they need to extend the tuition tax credit that we put in place when I first came into office, because it’s saving middle-class families thousands of dollars.  They get a tax break when they are helping their kids go to college.  That’s important.  (Applause.)

Second, we need Congress to safeguard aid for low-income students, so that today’s freshmen and sophomores know they’re going to be able to count on it.  We’ve got to make sure the Pell grants are there for people who need them.

Number three, we’ve got to give more young people the chance to earn their way through college by doubling the number of work/study jobs over the next five years.  That’s an achievable goal.  (Applause.)  And then most immediately — and this is where I really need you guys — Congress needs to act right now to prevent interest rates on federal student loans from shooting up and shaking you down.  That’s where you come in.  (Applause.)
You see, five years ago, Congress cut the rates on federal student loans in half.  That was a good thing to do.  But on July 1st of this year, which means about two months from now, that rate cut will expire.  And if it expires, interest rates on these loans will double overnight.  And for each year that Congress doesn’t act, the average student with these loans will rack up an additional $1,000 in debt.  That’s basically a $1,000 tax hike on more than 7 million students around America, including 250,000 students right here in Iowa.

Now, let me see.  I’ll do a quick poll — this may be unscientific.  How many people can afford to pay an extra $1,000 right now?

AUDIENCE:  No!

THE PRESIDENT:  I don’t think so.  Stopping this from happening should be a no-brainer.  (Coughs.)  It makes me sick just thinking about it.  (Laughter and applause.)  Helping more young people afford college should be at the forefront of America’s agenda.  And it shouldn’t be a Republican or Democratic issue.  This is an American issue.  (Applause.)  The Stafford loans we’re talking about were named after a Republican senator; Pell grants named after a Democratic senator.  When Congress cut these rates five years ago, a majority of Democrats voted for it, but 77 Republicans in the House of Representatives voted for it too.

Now, the good news is, the Senate introduced a bill last night that would keep student loan rates from doubling.  That’s the good news.  (Applause.)  And what’s also good news is some Republican senators look like they might support it.  And I’m ready to work with them to make it happen.  That’s good.  (Applause.)

But I’ve got to tell you, the Republicans who run the House of Representatives have not yet said whether or not they’ll stop your rates from doubling.  And they’ve hinted that the only way they’d do it is if they cut things like aid for low-income students.  So let me scratch my head there for a second.  Think about that.  We’re going to help some students by messing with other students.  That’s not a good answer.  How many people think that’s a good answer?

AUDIENCE MEMBERS:  No!

THE PRESIDENT:  No, I didn’t think so.  One of these members of Congress — sometimes I like just getting these quotes, because I’m always interested in how folks talk about this issue. You’ve got one member of Congress who compared these student loans — I’m not kidding here — to a “stage-three cancer of socialism.”

AUDIENCE:  Booo —

THE PRESIDENT:  Stage-three cancer?  (Laughter.)  I don’t know where to start.  What do you mean?  (Laughter.)  What are you talking about?  (Applause.)  Come on.  Just when you think you’ve heard it all in Washington, somebody comes up with a new way to go off the deep end.  (Laughter.)

And then, you’ve got the spokesman for the Speaker of the House who says, we’re — meaning me, my administration — we’re just talking about student loans to distract people from the economy.  Now, think about that for a second.  Because these guys don’t get it — this is the economy.  (Applause.)  This is the economy.  This is about your job security.  This is about your future.  If you do well, the economy does well.  This is about the economy.  (Applause.)

What economy are they talking about?  You are the economy.  If you’ve got skills, if you’ve got talents, if you’re starting a business, if companies are locating here in Iowa because it’s got a well-trained workforce, that’s the economy.  That’s how we’re going to compete.  Making sure our next generation earns the best education possible is exactly America’s business.  (Applause.)  Making sure that education is available to everybody and not just the few — that is America’s business.  Our future depends on it. (Applause.)

And then, some of them suggest that students like you have to pay more so we can help bring down the deficit.  Now, think about that.  These are the same folks who ran up the deficits for the last decade.  They voted to keep giving billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies to big oil companies who are raking in record profits.  They voted to let millionaires and billionaires keep paying lower tax rates than middle-class workers.  They voted to give folks like me, the wealthiest Americans, an average tax cut of at least $150,000 — and that tax cut would be paid for by cutting things like education, and job training programs that give students and workers opportunities to get what they need to succeed.

Now, does that make any sense?  Does that sound like folks who are really concerned with the deficit?

AUDIENCE:  No!

THE PRESIDENT:  How can we want to maintain tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans who don’t need them and weren’t even asking for them?  I don’t need one.  I needed help back when I was your age.  I don’t need help now.  (Applause.)  I don’t need an extra thousand dollars or a few thousand dollars.  You do.

We need to make sure everybody pays their fair share.  How can we continue to subsidize an oil industry that’s making record profits instead of investing in things like clean energy that will help shape our future?  (Applause.)  Do we want to jack up interest rates on millions of students?  Or do we want to keep investing in the things that help us in the long term — things like education and science, and a strong military, and care for our veterans?  Because we can’t have it both ways.  We can’t do all things on the cheap.

And one thing I want to be clear about — because when I talk like this, sometimes the other side, they get all hot and bothered, and they say, he’s getting — he’s engaging in class warfare.  This isn’t about class warfare.  We want every American to succeed.  That’s the point.  I want all of you to be rich.  (Applause.)  I want all of you to be successful.  We aspire to it.  That’s what Americans do.  We work and we hustle, and we study, and we take risks — to succeed.  And we don’t expect a handout.  But we also understand we’re in this thing together, and America is not about just a few people doing well, it’s about everybody having a chance to do well.  That’s what the American Dream is all about.  (Applause.)

You look at this auditorium — everybody who’s here, you’re here because somebody made a commitment to you.  First, your parents.  But it wasn’t just your parents — the folks who decided, you know what, we’re going to set up a public university.  It was the folks who made a decision early on in this republic that said we believe that all men are created equal, that everybody is endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights — those were commitments that were made by previous generations to future generations.

So somebody here had a parent or a grandparent who said, maybe I can’t go to college, but some day my son can.  (Applause.)  Maybe I can’t start my own business, but some day I can picture my daughter starting her own business.  Maybe I’m an immigrant, but I believe that this is the country, this is the place where no matter who you are, no matter what you look like, no matter where you come from, no matter what your last name is, you can make it if you try.  (Applause.)  That’s what we believe. (Applause.)

That is what we believe.  You and me, all of us — we’re only here because someone, somewhere, felt a responsibility not just to themselves, but to this country’s future.  And now it’s our turn to be responsible.  Now it’s our turn to keep that promise alive.  That’s where I need your help.

I’m asking everybody here, anybody who’s watching, anybody who’s following online — send your member of Congress a message. Tell them you’re not going to set your sights lower.  Tell them you’re not going to settle for something less.  Call them, email them, write on their Facebook page, tweet.  (Laughter.)  We’ve got a hashtag — #dontdoublemyrate.  (Laughter and applause.)  Dontdoublemyrate.  Dontdoublemyrate.  (Applause.)

We asked students at North Carolina, then at University of Colorado to do this yesterday — they got it trending worldwide for a while.  Let’s see if you guys can do even better.  (Applause.)  See how the Hawkeyes can do.  Because we’ve got to keep the heat on Congress until this gets done.  And I need your help to do it.  I need you to be heard.  I need you to be counted.

Now is not the time to double the interest rates on our student loans.  Now is not the time to double interest rates.  Now is the time to double down on starting investments that build a strong and secure middle class.  Now is the time to double down on building an America that’s built to last.

If we work together, with clear eyes and a common purpose, I guarantee you we’ll meet our challenges.  We will rise to this moment.  And the reason I know that is because I believe in you. I believe in you.  (Applause.)  And it’s because of you that we will remind everybody just why it is that this is the greatest nation on Earth.

Thank you, Iowa.  God bless you.  God bless the United States of America.

END
2:57 P.M. CDT

Full Text Obama Presidency April 24, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Speech Woos Student Voters & Pushes Congress to Prevent Low-Rate Student Loans from Doubling

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

President Obama Asks Students to Tell Congress: #DontDoubleMyRate

Source: WH, 4-24-12

 

President Obama was at the University of North Carolina this afternoon asking students to tell their members of Congress one thing: Don’t double my rates.

Five years ago, Congress cut the rates on federal student loans in half. That was a good thing to do. But on July 1st — that’s a little over two months from now — that rate cut expires.  And if Congress does nothing, the interest rates on those loans will double overnight…. And just to give you some sense of perspective — for each year that Congress doesn’t act, the average student with these loans will rack up an additional $1,000 in debt — an extra thousand dollars.  That’s basically a tax hike for more than 7 million students across America — more than 160,000 students here in North Carolina alone.

President Obama said that stopping this from happening — and helping more young people afford college — should be a no-brainer because in today’s economy, a college degree is an economic imperative:

In today’s economy, there is no greater predictor of individual success than a good education.  Right now, the unemployment rate for Americans with a college degree or more is about half the national average.  Their incomes are twice as high as those who don’t have a high school diploma.

And a college education –whether from a two-year or four-year school – shouldn’t be something that only some families can afford. A good education should be within reach for all students willing to work for it. But tuition and fees at America’s colleges have more than doubled since today’s college students were born, and students are taking on more debt to pay for it.

President Obama has worked to help more young people and their families afford a higher education. His Administration is offering incentives for states, colleges, and universities to keep costs down. And now he’s calling on Congress to do their part, and he’s asking students to help make sure they do.

But I’m asking everyone else who’s watching or following online — call your member of Congress. Email them. Write on their Facebook page. Tweet them — we’ve got a hashtag. Here’s the hashtag for you to tweet them:  #dontdoublemyrate. All right?  I’m going to repeat that — the hashtag is #dontdoublemyrate.

… Your voice matters. Stand up. Be heard. Be counted. Tell them now is not the time to double the interest rate on your student loans. Now is the time to double down on smart investments that build a strong and secure middle class. Now is the time to double down on an America that’s built to last.  


Learn more:

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

Remarks by the President on College Affordability — University of North Carolina

University of North Carolina
Chapel Hill, North Carolina

1:13 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you!  (Applause.)  Hello, North Carolina!  (Applause.)  What’s up, Tar Heels?  (Applause.)

Now, first of all, I want to thank Domonique for that unbelievable introduction.  Wasn’t she good?  (Applause.)  You can tell she will be an outstanding teacher.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  I love you, President Obama!

THE PRESIDENT:  I love you back, I do.  (Applause.)  Love North Carolina.  I love North Carolina.  (Applause.)  I do.  Every time I come down to this state I just love it that much more.  (Applause.)  I said a while back, the thing about North Carolina is even the folks who don’t vote for me are nice to me.  (Laughter.)  I can’t say that about everyplace.  (Laughter.)

Now, I want to issue a quick spoiler alert:  Later today, I am getting together with Jimmy Fallon — (applause) — and the Dave Matthews Band — (applause) — right here on campus.  We’re going to tape Jimmy’s show for tonight — so I want everybody to tune in, make sure it has high ratings.  (Laughter.)  It’s a Dave Matthews fan right here.

We’ve got some wonderful people who are here who are doing a great job for you guys.  First of all, your Governor, Bev Perdue, is in the house.  Give her a big round of applause.  (Applause.)  There she is.  We’ve got your Congressman, Dave Price — Congressman David Price.  (Applause.)  Congressmen GK Butterfield.  (Applause.)  Congressman Brad Miller.  (Applause.)  Your Mayor, Mark Kleinschmidt.  (Applause.)  Chancellor of UNC, Holden Thorp.  (Applause.)

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Four more years!  Four more years!

THE PRESIDENT:  It is great to be back on the Lady Tar Heels’ home court.  (Applause.)  This is an arena with some serious hoops history.  I know the men’s team used to play here back in the day.  I just want to remind you right off the bat — I picked UNC to win it all in March Madness.  (Applause.)  Want to point out.  And if Kendall hadn’t gotten hurt — (laughter)  — who knows where we might have been.

I saw McAdoo, by the way, at the airport.  He came by and said hello, which I was excited — so I just want you to know I have faith in you guys.  (Applause.)

Now, it’s always good to begin with some easy applause lines — talk about the Tar Heels.  (Laughter.)  But the reason I came to Chapel Hill today is to talk about what most of you do here every single day — and that’s study, I assume.  (Laughter.)  Higher education is the single most important investment you can make in your future.  (Applause.)  So I’m proud of all of you for doing what it takes to make that investment — for the long hours in the library — I hope — (laughter) — in the lab, in the classroom.  This has never been more important.

Whether you’re here at a four-year college or university, or you’re at a two-year community college, in today’s economy, there’s no greater predictor of individual success than a good education.  (Applause.)  Right now, the unemployment rate for Americans with a college degree or more is about half the national average.  The incomes of folks with a college degree are twice as high as those who don’t have a high school diploma.  A higher education is the clearest path into the middle class.  (Applause.)

Now, I know that those of you who are about to graduate are wondering about what’s in store for your future.  Not even four years ago, just as the global economy was about to enter into freefall, you were still trying to find your way around campus.  And you’ve spent your years here at a time when the whole world has been trying to recover, but has not yet fully recovered from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, the worst economic crisis in most of our lifetimes — and that includes your teachers.

Our businesses have added more than 4 million jobs over the past two years, but we all know there’s still too many Americans out there looking for work or trying to find a job that pays enough to cover the bills and make the mortgage.  We still have too many folks in the middle class that are searching for that security that started slipping away years before the recession hit.

So we’ve still got a lot of work to do to rebuild this economy so that it lasts, so that it’s solid, so that it’s firm.  But what I want you to know is that the degree you earn from UNC will be the best tool you have to achieve that basic American promise — the idea that if you work hard, you can do well enough to raise a family and own a home, send your own kids to college, put a little away for retirement.  (Applause.)  That American Dream is within your reach.  (Applause.)

And there’s another part of this dream, which is the idea that each generation is going to know a little bit more opportunity than the last generation.  That our kids — I can tell you now as a parent — and I guarantee you, your parents feel this about you — nothing is more important than your kid’s success.  You want them to do better than you did.  (Applause.)   You want them to shoot higher, strive more, and succeed beyond your imagination.

So keeping that promise alive is the defining issue of our time.  I don’t want this to be a country where a shrinking number of Americans are doing really, really well, but a growing number of people are just struggling to get by.  That’s not my idea of America.  (Applause.)  I don’t want that future for you.  I don’t want that future for my daughters.  I want this forever to be a country where everybody gets a fair shot and everybody is doing their fair share, and everybody is playing by the same set of rules.  (Applause.)  That’s the America I know and love.  That’s the America within our reach.

I think back to my grandfather.  He had a chance to go to college because this country decided every returning veteran of World War II should be able to afford it, should be able to go to college.  (Applause.)  My mother was able to raise two kids by herself because she was able to get grants and work her way through school.  (Applause.)  I am only standing here today, Michelle is only who she is today — (applause) — because of scholarships and student loans.  That gave us a shot at a great education.  We didn’t come from families of means, but we knew that if we worked hard we’d have a shot.

This country has always made a commitment to put a good education within the reach of all who are willing to work for it.  That’s what makes us special.  That’s what made us an economic superpower.  That’s what kept us at the forefront of business and science and technology and medicine.  And that’s a commitment we have to reaffirm today in 2012.  (Applause.)

Now, everybody will give lip service to this.  You’ll hear a lot of folks say, yes, education is important — it’s important.  (Laughter.)  But it requires not just words but deeds.  And the fact is, that since most of you were born, tuition and fees at America’s colleges have more than doubled.  And that forces students like you to take out a lot more loans.  There are fewer grants.  You rack up more debt.  Can I get an “amen”?

AUDIENCE:  Amen!

THE PRESIDENT:  Now, the average student who borrows to pay for college now graduates with about $25,000 in student loan debt.  That’s the average — some are more.  Can I get an “amen” for that?

AUDIENCE:  Amen!

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes — because some folks have more debt than that.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Amen!  (Laughter and applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Americans now owe more on their student loans than they do on their credit cards.  And living with that kind of debt means that this generation is not getting off to the same start that previous generations — because you’re already loaded up with debt.  So that means you’ve got to make pretty tough choices when you are first starting out.  You might have to put off buying a house.  It might mean that you can’t go after that great idea for a startup that you have, because you’re still paying off loans.  Maybe you’ve got to wait longer to start a family, or save for retirement.

When a big chunk of every paycheck goes towards loan debt, that’s not just tough on you, that’s not just tough for middle-class families, it’s not just tough on your parents — it’s painful for the economy, because that money is not going to help businesses grow.  I mean, think about the sooner you can start buying a house, that’s good for the housing industry.  The sooner you can start up that business, that means you’re hiring some folks — that grows the economy.

And this is something Michelle and I know about firsthand.  I just wanted everybody here to understand this is not — I didn’t just read about this.  (Laughter and applause.)  I didn’t just get some talking points about this.  I didn’t just get a policy briefing on this.  Michelle and I, we’ve been in your shoes.  Like I said, we didn’t come from wealthy families.

So when we graduated from college and law school, we had a mountain of debt.  When we married, we got poorer together.  (Laughter and applause.)  We added up our assets and there were no assets.  (Laughter.)  And we added up our liabilities and there were a lot of liabilities, basically in the form of student loans.  We paid more in student loans than we paid on our mortgage when we finally did buy a condo.  For the first eight years of our marriage, we were paying more in student loans than what we were paying for our mortgage.  So we know what this is about.

And we were lucky to land good jobs with a steady income. But we only finished paying off our student loans — check this out, all right, I’m the President of the United States — (applause) — we only finished paying off our student loans about eight years ago.  (Laughter.)  That wasn’t that long ago.  And that wasn’t easy, especially because when we had Malia and Sasha, we’re supposed to be saving up for their college educations, and we’re still paying off our college educations.

So we have to make college more affordable for our young people.  That’s the bottom line.  (Applause.)  And like I said, look, not everybody is going to go to a four-year college or university.  You may go to a community college.  You may go to a technical school and get into the workforce.  And then, it may turn out that after you’ve had kids and you’re 35, you go back to school because you’re retraining for something new.  But no matter what it is, no matter what field you’re in, you’re going to have to engage in lifelong learning.  That’s the nature of the economy today.  And we’ve got to make sure that’s affordable.

That’s good for the country; it’s good for you.  At this make-or-break moment for the middle class, we’ve got to make sure that you’re not saddled with debt before you even get started in life.  (Applause.)  Because I believe college isn’t just one of the best investments you can make in your future — it’s one of the best investments America can make in our future.  This is important for all of us.  (Applause.)

We can’t price the middle class out of a college education.  Not at a time when most new jobs in America will require more than a high school diploma.  Whether it’s at a four-year college or a two-year program, we can’t make higher education a luxury.  It’s an economic imperative.  Every American family should be able to afford it.  (Applause.)

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Amen!

THE PRESIDENT:  So that’s why I’m here.  Now, before I ask for your help — I’ve got something very specific I’m going to need you to do.  But, North Carolina, indulge me.  I want to briefly tell you what we’ve already done to help make college more affordable, because we’ve done a lot.

Before I took office, we had a student loan system where tens of billions of taxpayer dollars were going to banks, not students.  They were processing student loan programs except the student loans were federally guaranteed so they weren’t taking any big risks, but they were still taking billions of dollars out of the system.  So we changed it.

Some in Washington fought tooth and nail to protect the status quo, where billions of dollars were going to banks instead of students.  And they wanted to protect that.  They wanted to keep those dollars flowing to the banks.

One of them said — and I’m going to quote here because it gives you a sense of the attitudes sometimes we’re dealing with in Washington.  They said, it would be “an outrage” — if we changed the system so that the money wasn’t going through banks and they weren’t making billions of dollars of profits off of it — said it was “an outrage.”

And I said, no, the real outrage is letting these banks keep these subsidies without taking any risks while students are working two or three jobs just to get by.  That’s an outrage.  That’s an outrage.  (Applause.)

So we kept at it, we kept it at — we won that fight.  Today, that money is going where it should be going — should have been going in the first place — it’s going directly to students.  We’re bypassing the middleman.  That means we can raise Pell grants to a higher level.  More people are eligible. More young people are able to afford college because of what we did.  (Applause.)  Over 10 years, that’s going to be $60 billion that’s going to students that wasn’t going to students before.  (Applause.)

Now, then, last fall, I acted to cap student loan payments faster, so that nearly 1.6 million students who make their payments on time will only have to pay 10 percent of their monthly income towards loans once they graduate.  (Applause.)  Now, this is useful — this is especially helpful for young people who decide, like Domonique, to become teachers, or maybe they go into one of the —

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Social work.

THE PRESIDENT:  — social work or one of the helping professions.  (Applause.)  And they may not get paid a lot of money, but they’ve got a lot of debt.  And so being able to cap how much per month you’re paying as a percentage of your income gives you a little bit more security knowing you can choose that profession.

And then we wanted every student to have access to a simple factsheet on student loans and financial aid, so you can have all the information you need to make your own choices about how to pay for college.  And we set up this new consumer watchdog called the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau — (applause) — and so they’re now putting out this information.  We call it “Know Before You Owe.”  Know before you owe.  It’s something Michelle and I wish we had had when we were in your shoes — because sometimes we got surprised by some of this debt that we were racking up.

So that’s what we’ve done.  But it’s not enough just to increase student aid.  We can’t keep subsidizing skyrocketing tuition or we’ll run out of money.  And colleges and universities, they’ve got to do their part also to keep college costs down.  (Applause.)  So I’ve told Congress to steer federal aid to those schools that keep tuition affordable, that provide good value, that serve their students well.  And we’ve put colleges on notice:  If you can’t stop tuition from just going up every single year a lot faster than inflation, then funding you get from taxpayers, at least at the federal level, will go down — because we need to push colleges to do better, and hold them accountable if they don’t.  (Applause.)

Now, public universities know well, and Governor Perdue knows well — states also have to do their part by making higher education a higher priority in their budgets.  (Applause.)  I know that Bev is fighting hard to make tuition affordable for North Carolina families.  That’s a priority for her.  But last year, over 40 states cut their higher education spending.  And these budget cuts have been among the largest factors in tuition increases at public colleges over the past decade.  So we’re challenging states to take responsibility.  We told them, if you can find new ways to bring down the cost of college and make it easier for students to graduate, then we’ll help you do it.

But I want everybody here, as you’re thinking about voting, make sure you know where your state representative and your state senator stands when it comes to funding higher education.  (Applause.)  They’ve got to be responsible.  They’ve got to be accountable as well to prioritize higher education.  (Applause.)

All right.  So helping more families, helping more young people afford a higher education; offering incentives for states and colleges and universities to keep their costs down — that’s what we’ve been doing.  Now Congress has to do their part.

They need to extend the tuition tax credit that we put in place back when I came into office.  It’s saving middle-class families thousands of dollars.  (Applause.)  Congress needs to safeguard aid for low-income students, like Pell grants, so that today’s freshmen and sophomores know that they’ll be able to count on it.  (Applause.)  That’s what Congress has to do.  Congress needs to give more young people the chance to earn their way through college by doubling the number of work/study jobs over the next five years.  (Applause.)  That’s what Congress needs to do.

And then there’s one specific thing — and now this is where you come in — there’s one specific thing that Congress needs to do right now to prevent the interest rates on student loans, federal student loans, from shooting up and shaking you down.  So this is where you come in.  I want to explain this, so everybody listen carefully.

Five years ago, Congress cut the rate on federal student loans in half.  That was a good thing to do.  But on July 1st — that’s a little over two months from now — that rate cut expires.  And if Congress does nothing, the interest rates on those loans will double overnight.

So I’m assuming a lot of people here have federal student loans.  The interest rates will double unless Congress acts by July 1st.  And just to give you some sense of perspective — for each year that Congress doesn’t act, the average student with these loans will rack up an additional $1,000 in debt — an extra thousand dollars.  That’s basically a tax hike for more than 7 million students across America — more than 160,000 students here in North Carolina alone.  Anybody here can afford to pay an extra $1,000 right now?

AUDIENCE:  No!  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  I didn’t think so.  So stopping this from happening should be a no-brainer.  Helping more of our young people afford college, that should be at the forefront of America’s agenda.  It shouldn’t be a Republican or a Democratic issue.  (Applause.)  This is an American issue.

The Stafford loans we’re talking about, they’re named after a Republican senator.  The Pell grants that have helped millions of Americans earn a college education, that’s named after a Democratic senator.  When Congress cut those rates five years ago, 77 Republicans in the House of Representatives voted for it — along with a couple hundred Democrats — (laughter) — including the Democrats who are here.  (Applause.)

So this shouldn’t be a partisan issue.  And yet, the Republicans who run Congress right now have not yet said whether or not they’ll stop your rates from doubling.  We’re two months away.  Some have hinted that they’d only do it if we cut things like aid for low-income students instead.  So the idea would be, well, all right, we’ll keep interest rates low if we take away aid from other students who need it.  That doesn’t make sense.

One Republican congresswoman said just recently — I’m going to quote this because I know you guys will think I’m making it up — (laughter).

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  We trust you.  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  No, no, no.  She said she had “very little tolerance for people who tell me they graduate with debt because there’s no reason for that.”

AUDIENCE:  Booo —

THE PRESIDENT:  I’m just quoting here.  I’m just quoting.  She said, students who rack up student loan debt are just sitting on their butts, having opportunity “dumped in your lap.”

AUDIENCE:  Booo —

THE PRESIDENT:  I mean, I’m reading it here, so I didn’t
make this up.  Now, can you imagine saying something like that?  Those of you who have had to take out student loans, you didn’t do it because you’re lazy.  You didn’t do it lightly.  You don’t like debt.  I mean, a lot of you, your parents are helping out, but it’s tough on them.  They’re straining.  And so you do it because the cost of college keeps going up and you know this is an investment in your future.

So if these folks in Washington were serious about making college more affordable, they wouldn’t have voted for a budget that could cut financial aid for tens of millions of college students by an average of more than $1,000.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Absolutely!  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  They certainly wouldn’t let your student loan rates double overnight.  So when you ask them, well, why aren’t you making this commitment?  They say, well, we got to bring down the deficit.  Of course, this is the deficit they helped run up over the past decade.  (Applause.)  Didn’t pay for two wars.  Didn’t pay for two massive tax cuts.  And now this is the reason why you want students to pay more?

They just voted to keep giving billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies to big oil companies that are raking in record profits.

AUDIENCE:  Booo —

THE PRESIDENT:  They just voted to let millionaires and billionaires keep paying lower tax rates than middle-class workers and their secretaries.

AUDIENCE:  Booo —

THE PRESIDENT:  They even voted to give an average tax cut of at least $150,000 to folks like me, the wealthiest Americans — a tax cut paid for by cutting things like education and job training programs that give students new opportunities to work and succeed.

Now, that’s their priorities.  And that doesn’t make any sense.  Do we want to keep tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans who don’t need them and didn’t ask for them?  Or do we want to make sure that they’re paying their fair share?  (Applause.)   Do we want to keep subsidizing big oil, or do we want to make sure we’re investing in clean energy?  (Applause.)  Do we want to jack up interest rates on millions of students, or do we want to keep investing in things that will help us and help them in the long-term — things like education and science, and a strong military and care for our veterans?  (Applause.)  We can’t do both.  We can’t have it both ways.  We’ve got to make a choice about what our priorities are.  (Applause.)

You know, I’ve said this before, but I’m just going to keep on repeating it:  In America, we admire success.  We aspire to it.  I want everybody to be rich.  I want everybody to work and hustle and start businesses and study your tails off to get there.  (Laughter.)  But America is not just about a few people doing well.  America is about giving everybody a chance to do well.  (Applause.)  Everybody — not just a few — everybody.  (Applause.)  That’s what built this country.  That’s what the American Dream is all about.

A lot of us had parents or grandparents who said, maybe I can’t go to college, but some day my son, he’ll go to college and I’ll be so proud of him.  A lot of us had parents or grandparents who said, maybe I can’t start my own business, but maybe some day my daughter, she’s going to start her own business, she’s going to work for herself.  (Applause.)  A lot of us had parents or grandparents who said, I may be an immigrant, but I believe that this is a country where no matter what you look like and where you come from, no matter what your name is, you can make it if you try.  (Applause.)

North Carolina, that’s who we are.  That’s our values. That’s what we’re about.  So, no, “set your sights lowe” — that’s not an education plan.  “You’re on your own” — that’s not an economic plan.  We can’t just cut our way to prosperity.

Previous generations made the investments necessary for us to succeed, to build a strong middle class, to create the foundation for America’s leadership in science and technology and medicine and manufacturing.  And now it’s our turn.  We’ve got to do the right thing.  I want one of you to discover the cure for cancer, or the formula for fusion, or the next game-changing American industry.  (Applause.)  And that means we’ve got to support those efforts.

So if you agree with me, I need your help.  I need you to tell your member of Congress, we’re not going to set our sights lower.  We’re not going to settle for something less.  Now, all of you are lucky, you already have three congressmen who are on board.  So don’t — you don’t need to call them.  (Laughter and applause.)  They’re already doing the right thing.  But I’m asking everyone else who’s watching or following online — call your member of Congress.  Email them.  Write on their Facebook page.  Tweet them — we’ve got a hashtag.  (Laughter.)  Here’s the hashtag for you to tweet them:  #dontdoublemyrate.  (Applause.)  All right?  I’m going to repeat that — the hashtag is #dontdoublemyrate.  You tweet — everybody say it just so everybody remembers it.

AUDIENCE:  Don’t double my rate.

THE PRESIDENT:  Don’t double my rate — it’s pretty straightforward.

Your voice matters.  So stand up.  Be heard.  Be counted.  Tell them now is not the time to double interest rates on your student loans.  Now is the time to double down on smart investments to build a strong and secure middle class.  Now is the time to double down on building an America that lasts.

AUDIENCE:  Absolutely!

THE PRESIDENT:  You — absolutely.  (Applause.)

You and me, all of us here, every single one of us — we’re here only because somebody, somewhere, felt responsibility not just for themselves, but they felt responsibility for something larger.  It started with them feeling responsible for their families.  So your parents sacrificed, your grandparents sacrificed to make sure you could succeed.  But then they thought bigger than that.  They thought about their neighborhood, they thought about their community, they thought about their country.  Now —

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  The planet.

THE PRESIDENT:  They thought about the planet.  And now it’s our turn to be responsible.  It’s our turn to keep that promise alive.

And no matter how tough these times have been, no matter how many obstacles that may stand in our way, I promise you, North Carolina, there are better days ahead.  (Applause.)  We will emerge stronger than we were before.  Because I believe in you.  I believe in your future.  I believe in the investment you’re making right here at North Carolina.  (Applause.)  That tells me that you share my faith in America’s future.  And that’s what drives me every single day — your hopes, your dreams.  And I’m not quitting now because, in America, we don’t quit.  (Applause.)  We get each other’s backs.  We help each other get ahead.

And if we work together, we’ll remind the world just why it is that America’s the greatest nation on Earth.  (Applause.)

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

END
1:48 P.M. EDT

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