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

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

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

Source: WH, 9-14-15

North High School
Des Moines, Iowa

4:06 P.M. CDT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you think, Arne?

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

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

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

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

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

Q    Maybe.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Arne, anything to add on that?

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

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  A lot.

SECRETARY DUNCAN:  How much is a lot?

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

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

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

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

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

Q    How are you doing, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT:  How are you, sir?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you think, Arne?

SECRETARY DUNCAN:  Amen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q    Five years.

THE PRESIDENT:  Five years?

Q    Five years.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good.  So keep it up.  (Applause.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE PRESIDENT:  What’s your name?

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

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

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

Arne?

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

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

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

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

Q    Okay.

THE PRESIDENT:  What’s your name?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

END

5:16 P.M. CDT

 

 

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University Musings July 12, 2015: The end of tenure? Scott Walker wins war against professors and why he is right

EDUCATION BUZZ

EDUCATION & UNIVERSITY MUSINGS

The end of tenure? Scott Walker wins war against professors and why he is right

July 12, 2015
On the eve of declaring his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signed the state’s $73 billion budget on Sunday, July 12, 2015 and won his fight against tenured professors at state and public…READ MORE

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

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

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

By Bonnie K. Goodman

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

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.

University Musings March 17, 2014: SAT returns to 1600 score in 2016, revised to represent high school curriculum

EDUCATION BUZZ

EDUCATION & UNIVERSITY MUSINGS

EDUCATION HEADLINES

SAT returns to 1600 score in 2016, revised to represent high school curriculum

By Bonnie K. Goodman

The College Board in charge of the SATs (Scholastic Aptitude Test) announced on Wednesday March 5, 2014 that they are redesigning the exam for the spring of 2016 to give all students an “equal opportunity” to do well…READ MORE

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

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Taking Action to Expand College Opportunity

Remarks by the President and First Lady at College Opportunity Summit

 Source: WH, 1-16-14

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

South Court Auditorium

Eisenhower Executive Office Building

11:37 A.M. EST

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

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

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

MR. SIMON:  Thank you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

END

12:15 P.M. EST

Full Text Obama Presidency May 31, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech Urging Congress to Prevent Student Loan Interest Rates from Rising in the White House Rose Garden

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

If Congress Doesn’t Act, Rates for New Federal Student Loans Will Double

]Source: WH, 5-31-13

President Barack Obama delivers remarks on student loansPresident Barack Obama delivers remarks on student loans in the Rose Garden of the White House, May 31, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

This morning, when President Obama called on Congress to prevent federal student loan rates from doubling on July 1, he returned to a familiar theme.

A year ago, we were in the same place — just a few weeks out from seeing the average student with these loans racking up an additional $1,000 in debt.

So speaking from the Rose Garden, the President asked the students and young people in attendance to speak out in favor of action on college affordability, just as they did in 2012….READ MORE

Remarks by the President on College Affordability

Source: WH, 5-31-13

Rose Garden

10:26 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning, everybody.  Have a seat.  Have a seat.  Welcome to the White House.  I know it’s a little warm.  (Laughter.)

One of my favorite things about this job is that I get to spend some time with remarkable young people from all across the country.  It inspires me.  It makes me feel good.  Those of you who have had to put on suits and ties and show up at the White House first thing on a Friday morning may not feel the same way I do — (laughter) — but I appreciate all of you being here.  You cleaned up very well.

And these students and graduates are here to talk about something that matters to millions of young people and their families, and that’s the cost of a college education.  Because this isn’t just critical for their futures, but it’s also critical for America’s future.

Over the past four and a half years, we’ve been fighting our way back from a financial crisis and an incredibly punishing recession — the worst since the Great Depression — and it cost millions of Americans their jobs and their homes, the sense of security that they’d spent their lives building up.

The good news is, today, our businesses have created nearly 7 million new jobs over the past 38 months.  500,000 of those jobs are in manufacturing.  We’re producing more of our own energy, we’re consuming less energy, and we’re importing less from other countries.  The housing market is coming back.  The stock market has rebounded.  Our deficits are shrinking at the fastest pace in 50 years.  People’s retirement savings are growing again.  The rise of health care costs are slowing.  The American auto industry is back.

So we’re seeing progress, and the economy is starting to pick up steam.  The gears are starting to turn again, and we’re getting some traction.  But the thing is, the way we measure our progress as a country is not just where the stock market is; it’s not just to how well the folks at the top are doing; it’s not just about the aggregate economic numbers.  It’s about how much progress ordinary families are making.  Are we creating ladders of opportunity for everybody who’s willing to work hard?  Are we creating not only a growing economy, but also the engine that is critical to long-lasting, sustained economic growth — and that is a rising, thriving middle class.  That’s our focus.  That’s what we’ve got to be concerned about every single day.  That’s our North Star.

And that means there are three questions we have to ask ourselves as a nation.  Number one:  How do we make America a magnet for good jobs in this competitive 21st century economy?  Number two:  How do we make sure that our workers earn the skills and education they need to do those jobs?  And number three:  How do we make sure those jobs actually pay a decent wage or salary, so that people can save for retirement, send their kids to college?

Those are the questions we’ve got to be asking ourselves every single day.  So we’re here today to talk about that second question.  How do we make sure our workers earn the skills and education they need to do the jobs that companies are hiring for right now, and are going to keep hiring for in the future?  We know that the surest path to the middle class is some form of higher education — a four-year degree, a community college degree, an advanced degree.  You’re going to need more than just a high school education to succeed in this economy.

And the young people here today, they get that.  They’re working through college; maybe just graduated.  And earning their degree isn’t just the best investment that they can make for their future — it’s the best investment that they can make in America’s future.

But like a lot of young people all across the country, these students have had to take on more and more and more debt to pay for this investment.  Since most of today’s college students were born, tuition and fees at public universities have more than doubled.  And these days, the average student who takes out loans to pay for four years of college graduates owing more than $26,000.  How many people are on track here for $26,000?

And that doesn’t just hold back our young graduates.  It holds back our entire middle class, because Americans now owe more on our student loans than we do on our credit cards.  And those payments can last for years, even decades, which means that young people are putting off buying their first car, or their first house — the things that grow our economy and create new jobs.  And I’ve said this before, I know this firsthand — Michelle and I, we did not finish paying off our student loans until about nine years ago.  And our student loans cost more than our mortgage.  Right when we wanted to start saving for Sasha and Malia’s college education, we were still paying off our own college education.

And we were lucky.  We had more resources than many.  So we cannot price the middle class or folks who are willing to work hard to get into the middle class out of a college education.  We can’t keep saddling young people with more and more and more debt just as they’re starting out in life.

Now, the good news is over the past four years, my administration has done a lot to address this.  Working with members of Congress, we’ve expanded student aid.  We’ve reformed the student loan system.  We’ve saved tens of billions of taxpayer dollars that were just going to big banks, and made sure that the money went to helping more young people afford college.

We made it easier to pay back those loans by passing a law that says you’ll only have to pay 10 percent of your monthly income towards your student — federal student loans once you graduate.  This is important to emphasize, by the way, because a lot of your peers, a lot of young people don’t know this.  Under existing law that we passed, you never have to pay more than 10 percent of your income in paying back your federal student loans, which means if you want to be a teacher, you want to go into a profession that does not pay a lot of money but gives you a lot of satisfaction, you are still capable of doing that and supporting yourself.

We unveiled a new college scorecard that gives parents and students the clear, concise information that you need to shop around for a school with the best value for you.  And I’ve made it clear that those colleges that don’t do enough to keep college costs down should get less taxpayer support.

So we’re doing what we can, but here’s the thing:  If Congress doesn’t act by July 1st, federal student loan rates are set to double.  And that means that the average student with those loans will rack up an additional $1,000 in debt.  That’s like a $1,000 tax hike.  I assume most of you cannot afford that.  Anybody here can afford that?  No.

Now, if this sounds like déjà vu all over again, that’s because it is.  We went through this last summer.  Some of you were here.  It wasn’t as hot.  (Laughter.)  I don’t think we did this event outside.  (Laughter.)  But we went through this.  And eventually, Congress listened to all the parents and young people who said “don’t double my rate.”  And because folks made their voices heard, Congress acted to keep interest rates low.  But they only did it for a year and that year is almost up.

So the test here is simple.  We’ve got to make sure that federal student loan rates don’t double on July 1st.  Now, the House of Representatives has already passed a student loan bill, and I’m glad that they took action.  But unfortunately, their bill does not meet that test.  It fails to lock in low rates for students next year.  That’s not smart.  It eliminates safeguards for lower-income families.  That’s not fair.  It could actually cost a freshman starting school this fall more over the next four years than if we did nothing at all and let the interest rates double on July 1st.

So the House bill isn’t smart and it’s not fair.  I’m glad the House is paying attention to it, but they didn’t do it in the right way.  So I’m asking young people to get involved and make your voices heard once again.  Last year, you convinced 186 Republicans in the House and 24 Republicans in the Senate to work with Democrats to keep student loan rates low.  You made something bipartisan happen in this town that is — that’s a powerful thing.  You guys were able to get Democrats and Republicans to vote for something that was important.

So this year, if it looks like your representatives have changed their minds, you’re going to have to call them up again or email them again or Tweet them again and ask them what happened, what changed?  You’re still taking out these loans.  You’re still facing challenges.

Remind them that we’re a people who help one another earn an education, because it benefits all of us.  During the Civil War, Lincoln had the foresight to set up a system of land grant colleges.  At the end of World War II, we set up the GI Bill so that people like my grandfather could come back from a war and get an education.  All these things created the greatest middle class on Earth.

My mom, a single mom, was able to get the support that she needed through loans and grants — even while she was also working and raising two kids — to get her degrees.  I’m only here, Michelle is only right over there in the East Wing because we got great educations.  We didn’t come from privilege.  And we want to make sure that the next generation has those same opportunities, because that has been good for the country as a whole.

It’s up to us now to carry forward that tradition.  Higher education cannot be a luxury for a privileged few.  It is an economic necessity that every family should be able to afford, every young person with dreams and ambition should be able to access.  And now is not the time for us to turn back on young people.  Now is not the time to slash the investments that help us grow.  Now is the time to reaffirm our commitment to you and the generation that’s coming behind you, and that if we work together to generate more jobs and educate more kids and open up new opportunities for everybody who’s willing to work and willing to push through those doors of opportunity, America can’t be stopped.

So I’m putting my faith in you.  Let’s work together.  Let’s get this done by July 1st.  Thank you, everybody.  God bless you.  God bless America.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

END
10:36 A.M. EDT

Full Text Campaign Buzz August 21, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Speech at a Campaign Event at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio — Shifts Aim to Mitt Romney-Paul Ryan Education Plan

CAMPAIGN 2012

CAMPAIGN BUZZ 2012

THE HEADLINES….

President Obama Shifts Aim to Mitt Romney-Paul Ryan Education Plan

Source: ABC News Radio, 8-21-12

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/GettyImages

President Obama kicked off a two-day campaign swing through Ohio and Nevada Tuesday by shifting the focus of his attacks from Medicare and taxes to education, slamming the Mitt Romney-Paul Ryan plan to cut student aid.
“Whether it’s a four-year college [or] a two-year program, higher education is not a luxury, it is an economic necessity that every family in America should be able to afford. And that’s what’s at stake in this election,” the president told supporters.

Obama’s education pitch, which he is outlining in visits to two colleges and a high school in critical battleground states, is part of a broader effort to show how the Romney-Ryan budget cuts would negatively impact Americans….READ MORE

Remarks by the President at a Campaign Event — Columbus, OH

Source: WH, 8-21-12 

Capital University
Columbus, Ohio

1:00 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, Ohio!  (Applause.)  Hello, Crusaders!  (Applause.)  Oh, it is good to be back in Columbus!  (Applause.)  The sun came out for us.  (Applause.)  It’s a good sign.

It is fun to be back in Ohio, and it is great to be here.  I just want to acknowledge a few people.  First of all, give Steven a big round of applause.  (Applause.)  He was explaining to me what it’s like being a BMX driver — rider.  And he said that — he said, well — I asked him, because I’d seen those guys in the Olympics, and I said, it seems like you guys fall a lot.  (Laughter.)  And he says, “No, no, I learned how to fall on my shoulder.”  I said, well, is that good?  He said, “Well, I broke my shoulder four times.”  (Laughter.)  But he looks okay to me.  He’s doing great.

A couple other people I want to acknowledge — your outstanding Mayor, Michael Coleman is in the house.  (Applause.) There he is.  And we’ve got congressional candidate — Joyce Beatty is here.  (Applause.)  And all of you are here.  (Applause.)

How many students do we have here?  (Applause.)  You guys are excited about school starting up?  (Applause.)  Everybody was saying yes except this one guy over here.  (Laughter.)  He was shaking his head.  Come on, man, it’s going to be great.  (Applause.)

Well, I am glad we’ve got some students here because I came to Columbus today to talk about what most of the students here are doing every day.  Your education is the single most important investment that you can make in your future.  And I’m proud of all the students who are here doing what it takes to make that investment — the long hours in the library — except for this guy.  (Laughter.)  Working in the lab, being in the classroom — even when your classes start a little earlier than you had planned — because your education has never been more important.

The degree that you earn from this university is the surest path that you will have to a good job and to higher earnings.  It’s the best tool you’ll have to achieve what is the core promise of this country — the idea that if you work hard, your work will be rewarded.  The basic bargain that says if you’re willing to put in the effort, you can do well enough to raise a family and have a home that you call your own, have some security, put a little away for retirement, and most importantly, make sure that your children, your grandchildren can do even better and dream even bigger than you did.  (Applause.)  That’s the hope that your parents had for you.  That’s the hope I have for Malia and Sasha.  That’s the hope that you’ll someday have for your own kids.

But here’s the thing.  This is about more than just your own success.  Now, more than ever, your success is America’s success, because when we invest in your future we’re investing in America’s future.  The fact is that countries that out-educate us today, they’ll be able to out-compete us tomorrow.  Businesses are mobile in the 21st century economy; they can locate anywhere. So they’re going to create jobs and they’re going to hire wherever they find the best educated, most highly skilled workers.  And I don’t want them to have to look any further than right here in Columbus, right here in Ohio, right here in the United States of America.  (Applause.)

And because the economy has changed, over the coming decade more than half of new jobs will require some form of higher education.  It may not be a four-year college degree, but you’re going to need to have gone to a community college or a technical school to get the skills you need to get hired — and this is not breaking news to any of you.  What’s also not breaking news is the fact that higher education has gotten a lot harder to afford; it’s gotten more expensive.  Over the past two years — excuse me, over the past two decades, tuition and fees at America’s colleges have more than doubled.

The average student who borrows to pay for college now graduates with about $26,000 worth of student loan debt.  (Laughter.)  What, that sounds low to you?  (Laughter.)

AUDIENCE:  Yes!

THE PRESIDENT:  I just said the average.  (Laughter.)  For a lot of young people it’s a lot higher, and that kind of debt means pretty tough choices when you’re first starting out.  It might mean putting off starting a family or buying a home, or putting off chasing that great idea that you’ve got for a small business.  When a big chunk of each paycheck goes towards paying off your loan debt, that’s not just tough for middle-class families that are trying to make it and young people who are trying to get started; it’s also painful for the entire economy because that means that money you might be spending on buying a new home or doing something else with it, it’s going to that check that you’re writing every single month.  It’s not going to the local business.

And I have to say, this is something Michelle and I know firsthand about.  I’m not speculating on this, because we’ve been in your shoes.  Neither of us came from wealthy families.  Both of us graduated from college and law school with a mountain of debt.  When we married, we got poor together.  (Laughter.)  We combined our liabilities into one big liability.  (Laughter.)  We paid more for our student loans than we paid on our mortgage each month, and that went on for years.  And then, once we had Malia and Sasha, we needed to start saving for their college educations but we were still paying off our college educations.

Now, keep in mind we were lucky enough to land good jobs, we had steady incomes, but we did not finish paying off our student loans until about eight years ago.  Think about that.  I’m not —

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  You got an education.

THE PRESIDENT:  I got an education and it worked out pretty good.  (Laughter and applause.)  But the point I’m making is, I’m only standing before you because of the chance that my education gave me.  So I can tell you, with some experience, that making higher education more affordable for our young people — it’s something I’ve got a personal stake in; it’s something that Michelle has a personal stake in.  We believe in it because we’ve been there and we know that unless you provide those rungs on the ladder of opportunity, young people who are more talented than we are may not get a shot.  That’s why I’ve made it a top priority of my presidency.  And, Ohio, that is something that is at stake in this election.  That’s part of the reason why November is so important.  (Applause.)

And I say this because putting a college education within reach for working families just doesn’t seem to be a big priority for my opponent.  A few months ago, just up the road, in Westerville, Governor Romney said, if you want to be successful, if you want to go to college or start a business, you can just — and I’m quoting here — “borrow money if you have to from your parents.”

AUDIENCE:  Booo —

THE PRESIDENT:  When a high school student in Youngstown asked him what he would do to make college more affordable for families like his, Governor Romney didn’t say anything about grants or loan programs that are critical to millions of students to get a college education.  He said nothing about work-study programs or rising college tuition.  He didn’t say a word about community colleges or how important higher education is to America’s future.  He said, the best thing you can do is shop around.

AUDIENCE:  Booo —

THE PRESIDENT:  The best thing I can do for you is to tell you to shop around.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  That’s it!

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s it.  That’s his plan.  That’s his answer to young people who are trying to figure out how to go to college and make sure that they don’t have a mountain of debt — shop around and borrow more money from your parents.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  What are we going to do?  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Now, I’ve just got to — I want to make sure everybody understands. Not everybody has parents who have the money to lend.  (Applause.)  That may be news to some folks, but it’s the truth.  (Laughter.)

So what Governor Romney is offering is not an answer.  There’s nothing a parent wants more than to give opportunities to their kids that they never had.  And it’s pretty painful for a lot of parents if they can’t do that.  But as we’re fighting back from the worst economic crisis of our lifetimes, you’ve got a lot of parents who are out there struggling just to make ends meet.  And I don’t accept the notion that we should deny any child the opportunity to get a higher education.  If they’ve been working hard, if they’ve got the grades, if they’ve got the determination to get a better future for themselves, I don’t want them to be prevented just because their families were hit hard by a recession.  (Applause.)

That’s not who we are.  That’s not what America is about.  We give everybody a fair shot.  Think about all the discoveries, all the businesses, all the breakthroughs that we would not have made if we told every young person who has got the drive and the will and the grades to go to college, “tough luck, too bad, you’re on your own.”  We’ve always made a commitment to put a good education within the reach of everybody who is willing to work for it.  That’s part of what makes us special.  That’s what keeps us at the forefront of business and science and technology and medicine.

And this dates back for decades.  Some of you know my grandfather fought in World War II.  When he came back, 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.  (Applause.)  My mother was able to raise me and my sister because she was able to get grants and work her way through school.  Michelle and I would not be here today without the help of scholarships and student loans.  And I know Steve wouldn’t be here either and neither would a lot of you.  (Applause.)

So in a 21st century economy, a college education should be available for everybody — not just the wealthy few.  Whether it’s a four-year college, a two-year program, higher education is not a luxury, it is an economic necessity that every family in America should be able to afford.  And that’s what’s at stake in this election.  It’s one of the reasons I’m running for President of the United States for a second term.  (Applause.)

AUDIENCE:  Four more years!  Four more years!

THE PRESIDENT:  And I want you to know that I have not just talked the talk; we have walked the walk.  (Applause.)  Since I took office, we have helped more than 3 million additional students afford a college education with grants that go farther than they did before.  The economic plan my opponent has would cut our investment in education by nearly 20 percent.

AUDIENCE:  Booo —

THE PRESIDENT:  It would cut those grants so deeply that 1 million of those students who we have helped would no longer get a scholarship at all.  It would cut financial aid for nearly 10 million students a year.

And keep in mind they’re not making these cuts to create jobs.  They’re not proposing these cuts to pay down the deficit. Governor Romney is proposing these cuts to pay for a new $5 trillion tax cut that’s weighted towards the wealthiest Americans.

AUDIENCE:  Booo —

THE PRESIDENT:  Does that sound like a better plan for America?  Does that sound like a better plan for you?

AUDIENCE:  No!

THE PRESIDENT:  A plan that says that we can’t afford to help the next generation earn an education, but we can afford massive new tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires?  A plan that says we can’t afford our young people — to offer our young people student loans because we’ve got to protect corporate loopholes?  It’s a vision that says we can’t help young people who are trying to make it because we’ve got to protect the folks who already have made it.

Michelle and I are going to be able to send Malia and Sasha to college.  We don’t need an extra tax break.  You do.  (Applause.)  Their vision is wrong for moving America forward.  It’s not a vision you’ve got to accept.  That’s why November is important, and that’s why I’m running for a second term as President.  (Applause.)

Governor Romney makes his time as an investor in the private sector the basis of his candidacy.  That’s how he says he’s going to fix the economy – “I was in the private sector.”  And his economic plan makes one thing clear:  He does not think investing in your future is worth it.  He doesn’t think that’s a good investment.  I do.  That’s what’s at stake in this election.  That’s the choice in November.  That’s why we fought to make sure the interest rate on federal student loans didn’t go up over the summer.  We won that fight.  (Applause.)

Some of these Republican members of Congress would have allowed those rates to double, costing more than 7 million students an extra thousand dollars a year.  I’ve said I want to extend the college tax credit that my administration created so more families can save up to $10,000 on their tuition over four years.  (Applause.)  They want to end that tax credit.  That’s the choice in this election.

In 2008, I promised we would reform a student loan system that was giving tens of billions of taxpayer dollars to big banks and lobbyists instead of students.  There are plenty of folks in Washington who fought tooth and nail to keep that system as it was.  We kept at it, we won that fight, we used it to double grant aid for students.  (Applause.)

My opponent now wants to go back to the way things were.  He wants to go backwards to the policies that got us into this mess in the first place.  We’re moving forward.  That’s the choice in this election.  That’s why I’m running for a second term.  (Applause.)

And, by the way, part of our job is also to make sure you don’t need a Ph.D. to apply for financial aid in the first place. So we’ve put in place this new consumer protection watchdog, the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, put in place — and it’s working with the Department of Education to develop a simple new factsheet on student loans and financial aid, so you can have all the information you need to make your own best choices about how to pay for college.  We call it “Know Before You Owe.”  Know before you owe.  (Applause.)  That’s a good idea.  But my opponent wants to get rid of this new consumer protection agency, and let for-profit colleges keep preying on veterans and working families.  That’s one of the choices in this election.

I’m want to make sure that America once again leads the world in educating our kids, training our workers.  I want to make sure more of our students are prepared for college by helping our secondary and elementary schools hire and reward the best teachers, especially in math and science.  (Applause.)  I want to give 2 million more Americans the chance to go to community college and learn the skills that local businesses are looking for right now.

I’ve put colleges and universities on notice — if they can’t stop tuition from going up, the funding they get from taxpayers will go down.  We want to give them some incentive to start lowering tuition.  (Applause.)  That’s the choice in this election.  That’s what we’re fighting for.  That’s what you’re going to be having to think about when you go to that voting booth in November.

Four years ago, I promised that we would end the war in Iraq.  (Applause.)  Thanks to the service and the sacrifice of our incredible men and women in uniform, that’s what we’ve done.  (Applause.)  Today, all our troops are out of Iraq.  We are beginning to bring our troops homes from Afghanistan.  But the key is making sure that they are getting the same good deal that my grandfather got when he came home from the war.  So we’ve made sure to keep the Post-9/11 GI Bill strong so that everybody who has served our country has the chance to earn a degree.

As long as I am Commander-in-Chief, I promise you we will care for our veterans and serve them as well as they’ve served us.  (Applause.)  If you fought for this country, you shouldn’t have to fight for a college education or for a job or for a roof over your heads when you come home.  (Applause.)  So that’s what we’re fighting for, Columbus.  That’s just one example, in the education arena, of what’s at stake.

Now, over the next two and a half months, the other side will spend more money than we have ever seen — ever.  I mean, they got folks writing $10 million checks, $20 million checks.  They should be contributing that to a scholarship fund to send kids to college.  (Applause.)  But instead, they are going to spend more money than we’ve ever seen on ads.  And the ads all say the same thing, which is, the economy is not where it needs to be and it’s all Obama’s fault.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  No!

THE PRESIDENT:  See, look — no, no, listen, they know their economic plan isn’t popular.  They know that gutting investments in education and science and infrastructure, and voucherizing Medicare, they know that doesn’t really sell well.  They know that it especially doesn’t sell well when you’re doing all those things not to reduce the deficit but to pay for massive new tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires.  They know that’s not going to poll well.  So they’re betting on the fact that you get so discouraged that you decide your vote doesn’t matter.

They’re betting every single $10 million check from a wealthy donor drowns out millions of voices at the ballot box.  They’re counting on young people sitting this one out.  They say well, you know what — Obama, he’s grayer now, he’s not as new and as fresh as he was in 2008, so young people aren’t going to turn out the same way.  They’re counting on you sitting on the sidelines and letting others make the choice for you.  See, they don’t have a plan to create jobs or strengthen the middle class, but this is their plan to win the election.

But I’m counting on something different.  I’m counting on you.  (Applause.)  I’m counting on the fact that when the American people focus and push aside all the noise and all the nonsense, and they remember the fact that all of us, whatever success we’ve achieved, we’ve achieved because we worked together, because we made sure everybody has a fair shot, and everybody is doing their fair share, and everybody is playing by the same set of rules.  I’m counting on the fact that when the American people focus on what’s at stake, you can’t be stopped.  And all the money the other side is spending doesn’t matter.

So I’m going to need your help — young people especially — I’m going to need your help.  (Applause.)  I need to make sure you’re registered to vote at your current address.  We’ve got staff and volunteers who are here who can help you do that before you leave today.  And when you leave, I’m asking you to grab 10 friends — make sure they’re registered, too.  And if you need more information, you can go visit the website GottaRegister.com.  That’s not Got-To, it’s Gotta.  (Laughter.)  G-o-t-t-a-register.com.

Let’s prove the cynics wrong.  Let’s show them your votes count.  Let’s show them your voice makes a difference.  Let’s show them America better start listening to the voice of the next generation of Americans.  (Applause.)

I need your help to keep this American Dream alive, this incredible experiment we have in democracy; this idea that no matter where you’re born, or who your parents are, or how much money you got, or no matter what you look like or what you believe in, you can go as far as your talents take you.  (Applause.)  That dream that we can still, together, achieve great things; that you can pursue the happiness that you hope for and your parents hope for; that here in America you can make it if you try.

Ohio, we’ve come too far to turn back now.  (Applause.)  We’ve got more students who dream to afford college.  We’ve got more good teachers to hire.  We’ve got more schools to rebuild.  We’ve got more good jobs to create.  We’ve got more homegrown energy to generate.  We’ve got more troops we’ve got to come home.  We’ve got more doors of opportunity to open for everybody who is willing to walk through them.  That’s why I’m asking for a second term as President.

And if you’re willing to stand with me, and vote for me, and organize with me, and knock on doors and make phone calls with me, we will finish what we started.  We will win Ohio.  We will win this election.  And we will remind the world why the United States of America is the greatest nation on Earth.  (Applause.)

God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.

END
1:27 P.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency July 7, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Weekly Address Pushes Congress to Create Jobs, Keep College in Reach for Middle Class

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY
& THE 112TH CONGRESS:

POLITICAL QUOTES
& SPEECHES

President Obama discusses legislation that does two important things: It keeps thousands of construction workers on the job rebuilding our infrastructure, and it stops interest rates on federal loans from doubling this year for more than seven million students.

President Barack Obama tapes the Weekly Address

President Barack Obama tapes the Weekly Address in Boardman, Ohio, White House Photo, Pete Souza, 7/6/12

Weekly Address: Pushing Congress to Create Jobs, Keep College in Reach for Middle Class

Source: WH, 7-7-12
President Obama discusses legislation he signed on Friday that does two important things: It keeps thousands of construction workers on the job rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure, and it stops interest rates on federal loans from doubling this year for more than seven million students. 

Transcript | Download mp4 | Download mp3

WEEKLY ADDRESS: Pushing Congress to Create Jobs, Keep College in Reach for Middle Class

In this week’s address, President Obama spoke to the American people from Ohio about a bill signed on Friday that does two important things: it keeps thousands of construction workers on the job rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure, and it stops interest rates on federal loans from doubling this year for more than seven million students.  The President urges Congress to do more to help our economic recovery and create jobs, including taking half the money we’re no longer spending on war and using it to build roads, bridges and wireless networks at home, and expanding financial aid to two million students while giving them the opportunity to learn the skills that businesses need right now.  It’s time for our elected officials to come together to help strengthen the middle class.

Remarks of President Barack Obama
As Prepared for Delivery
Boardman, OH
Saturday, July 7, 2012

Hi, everybody.  I’m here in Ohio, where I’ve spent the past couple days talking with folks about our central challenge as a country – not just reclaiming all the jobs lost to the recession, but reclaiming the economic security that so many Americans have lost over the last decade.

Our mission isn’t just to put people back to work – it’s to rebuild an economy where that work pays; an economy in which everyone who works hard has the chance to get ahead.

For months, I’ve been pushing Congress to pass several common-sense ideas that will help us do that.  And on Friday, I signed into law a bill that will do two things for the American people.

First, it will keep thousands of construction workers on the job rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure.

Second, it will keep interest rates on federal student loans from doubling this year – which would have hit more than seven million students with about a thousand dollars more on their loan payments.

Those steps will make a real difference in the lives of millions of Americans.  But make no mistake: we’ve got more to do.

The construction industry was hit brutally hard when the housing bubble burst.  So it’s not enough to just keep construction workers on the job doing projects that were already underway.

For months, I’ve been calling on Congress to take half the money we’re no longer spending on war and use it to do some nation-building here at home.  There’s work to be done building roads and bridges and wireless networks.  And there are hundreds of thousands of construction workers ready to do it.

The same thing is true for our students.  The bill I’m about to sign is vital for millions of students and their families.  But it’s not enough to just keep their student loan rates from doubling.

For months, I’ve been calling on Congress to reform and expand the financial aid that’s offered to students.  I’ve been asking them to help us give two million Americans the opportunity to learn the skills that businesses in their area are looking for – right now – through partnerships between community colleges and employers. In America, a higher education cannot be a luxury reserved for just a privileged few.  It’s an economic necessity that every American family should be able to afford.

Finally, I want to thank every American who took the time to sit down and write a letter, type out an e-mail, make a phone call or send a tweet hoping your voice would make a difference.  I promise you – your voice made all the difference.  And as long as I have the privilege of being your President, your voice will be heard in the White House.

Thanks and have a great weekend.

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.  


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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

Full Text Obama Presidency April 20, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Weekly Address Calls on Congress to Extend Law & Prevent Student Loan Rates from Doubling

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

President Obama is calling on Congress to act before student loan interest rates double for more than 7.4 million students, adding an average of $1,000 to their debt.

President Obama is calling on Congress to act before student loan  interest rates

President Barack Obama tapes the Weekly Address in the State Dining Room, White House Photo, Chuck Kennedy, 4/20/12

Weekly Address: Calling on Congress to Prevent Student Interest Rates from Doubling

Source: WH, 4-21-12

President Obama believes that we should be doing everything we can to put higher education within reach for every American – because at a time when the unemployment rate for Americans with at least a college degree is about half the national average, it’s never been more important. He is calling on Congress to act before student loan interest rates double for more than 7.4 million students, adding an average of $1,000 to their debt. Congress has a chance to take action on what should be an area of bipartisan agreement to prevent this unnecessary and damaging increase in interest rates and give our young people a chance to succeed in the jobs of today and tomorrow.

Transcript | Download mp4 | Download mp3

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

WEEKLY ADDRESS: Calling on Congress to Prevent Student Interest Rates from Doubling

In this week’s address, President Obama called on Congress to act before student loan interest rates double for more than 7.4 million students, adding an average of $1000 to their debt. Having a college education has never been more important, but it’s also never been more expensive.  While the Obama administration has taken historic steps to provide Americans with a fair shot at an affordable college education, Republicans in Congress have instead prioritized huge new tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires.  Congress has a chance to take action on what should be an area of bipartisan agreement to prevent this unnecessary and damaging increase in interest rates and give our young people a chance to succeed in the jobs of today and tomorrow.

Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
Saturday, April 21, 2012

Hi.  This week, I got the chance to sit down with some impressive students at Lorain County Community College in Ohio.  One of them was a woman named Andrea Ashley.  Two years ago, Andrea lost her job as an HR analyst.  Today, she’s getting certified in the fast-growing field of electronic medical records.  Before enrolling at Lorain, Andrea told me she was looking everywhere trying to find a new job.  But without a degree, she said that nobody would hire her.

Andrea’s story isn’t unique.  I’ve met so many Americans who are out there pounding the pavement looking for work only to discover that they need new skills.  And I’ve met a lot of employers who are looking for workers, but can’t find ones with the skills they’re looking for.

So we should be doing everything we can to put higher education within reach for every American – because at a time when the unemployment rate for Americans with at least a college degree is about half the national average, it’s never been more important.  But here’s the thing: it’s also never been more expensive.  Students who take out loans to pay for college graduate owing an average of $25,000.  For the first time, Americans owe more debt on their student loans than they do on their credit cards.  And for many working families, the idea of owing that much money means that higher education is simply out of reach for their children.

In America, higher education cannot be a luxury.  It’s an economic imperative that every family must be able to afford.  That’s why next week I’ll be visiting colleges across the country, talking to students about how we can make higher education more affordable – and what’s at stake right now if Congress doesn’t do something about it.  You see, if Congress doesn’t act, on July 1st interest rates on some student loans will double.  Nearly seven and half million students will end up owing more on their loan payments.  That would be a tremendous blow.  And it’s completely preventable.

This issue didn’t come out of nowhere.  For some time now, I’ve been calling on Congress to take steps to make higher education more affordable – to prevent these interest rates from doubling, to extend the tuition tax credit that has saved middle-class families millions of dollars, and to double the number of work-study jobs over the next five years.

Instead, over the past few years, Republicans in Congress have voted against new ways to make college more affordable for middle-class families, and voted for huge new tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires – tax cuts that would have to be paid for by cutting things like education and job-training programs that give students new opportunities to work and succeed.

We cannot just cut our way to prosperity.  Making it harder for our young people to afford higher education and earn their degrees is nothing more than cutting our own future off at the knees.  Congress needs to keep interest rates on student loans from doubling, and they need to do it now.

This is a question of values.  We cannot let America become a country where a shrinking number of people do really well, while a growing number of people struggle to get by.  We’ve got to build an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.  That’s how the middle class gets stronger.  That’s an economy that’s built to last.  And I’m not only going to take that case to college campuses next week – I’m going to take it to every part of the country this year.  Thanks, and have a great weekend.

Full Text January 27, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Speech on Rising Costs of College / University Tuition — Calls for Overhaul of Higher Education Financial Aid System

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

Remarks by the President on College Affordability, Ann Arbor, Michigan

University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, Michigan

10:00 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, Michigan!  (Applause.)  Oh, it is good to be back in Ann Arbor.  (Applause.)

Thank you, Christina, for that introduction.  I also want to thank your president, Mary Sue Coleman.  (Applause.)  The mayor of Ann Arbor, John Hieftje, is here.  (Applause.)  My outstanding Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, is in the house.  (Applause.) We have some outstanding members of Congress who are here as well, who are representing you each and every day.  Give them a round of applause — come on.  (Applause.)

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  I love you, President Obama!

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

So in terms of — boy, we’ve got all kinds of members of Congress here, so — (laughter.)

Where’s Denard?  (Applause.)  Denard Robinson is in the house.  (Applause.)  I hear you’re coming back, man.  (Applause.)  That is a good deal for Michigan.  (Applause.)

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Denard Robinson in 2012!  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Oh, oh, come on.  They’re trying to draft you for President.  (Laughter.)  He’s got to graduate before he runs for President.  (Laughter.)  There’s an age limit.  (Laughter.)

Well, it is wonderful to be here.  I want to thank all of you for coming out this morning.  I know for folks in college, this is still really early.  I remember those days.  It is good home — good to be in the home of the Sugar Bowl champion Wolverines.  (Applause.)  And with Denard Robinson coming back, this will be a team to be reckoned with.  I understand your basketball team is pretty good this year, too.  (Applause.)  All right — go, Blue!  (Applause.)  It’s always good to start with a easy applause line.  (Laughter.)

But the reason I’m here today — in addition to meeting Denard Robinson — (laughter) — is to talk with all of you about what most of you do here every day — and that is to think about how you can gain the skills and the training you need to succeed in this 21st century economy.  And this is going to be one of the most important issues that not just you face, but this entire country faces:  How can we make sure that everybody is getting the kind of education they need to personally succeed but also to build up this nation — because in this economy, there is no greater predictor of individual success than a good education.

Today, 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.  College is the single most important investment you can make in your future.  And I’m proud that all of you are making that investment.  (Applause.)

And the degree you earn from Michigan will be the best tool you have to achieve that basic American promise — the idea that if you work hard, if you are applying yourself, if you are doing the right thing, you can do well enough to raise a family and own a home and send your own kids to college, put away a little for retirement, create products or services — be part of something that is adding value to this country and maybe changing the world.  That’s what you’re striving for.  That’s what the American Dream is all about.

And how we keep that promise alive is the defining issue of our time.  I don’t want to be in a country where we only are looking at success for a small group of people.  We want a country where everybody has a chance.  (Applause.)  Where everybody has a chance.  We don’t want to become a country where a shrinking number of Americans do really well while a growing number barely get by.  That’s not the future we want.  Not the future I want for you, it’s not the future I want for my daughters.  I want this to be a big, bold, generous country where everybody gets a fair shot, everybody is doing their fair share, everybody is playing by the same set of rules.  That’s the America I know.  That’s the American I want to keep.  That’s the future within our reach.  (Applause.)

Now, in the State of the Union on Tuesday, I laid out a blueprint that gets us there.  Blueprint — it’s blue.  (Laughter and applause.)  That’s no coincidence.  I planned it that way, Michigan.  (Laughter.)  A blueprint for an economy that’s built to last.

It’s an economy built on new American manufacturing — because Michigan is all about making stuff.  (Applause.)  If there’s anybody in America who can teach us how to bring back manufacturing, it is the great state of Michigan.  (Applause.)

On the day I took office, with the help of folks like Debbie Stabenow, your senator, and Carl Levin and — (applause) — John Conyers — the American auto industry was on the verge of collapse.  And some politicians were willing to let it just die.  We said no.  We believe in the workers of this state.  (Applause.)  I believe in American ingenuity.  We placed our bets on the American auto industry, and today, the American auto industry is back.  Jobs are coming back — (applause) — 160,000 jobs.

And to bring back even more jobs, I want this Congress to stop rewarding companies that are shipping jobs and profits overseas, start rewarding companies who are hiring here and investing here and creating good jobs here in Michigan and here in the United States of America.  (Applause.)

So our first step is rebuilding American manufacturing.  And by the way, not all the jobs that have gone overseas are going to come back.  We have to be realistic.  And technology means that a larger and larger portion of you will work in the service sector as engineers and computer scientists.  (Applause.)  There you go.  We got the engineering school — there you go.  (Applause.)  And entrepreneurs.  So there’s going to be a lot of activity in the service sector.  But part of my argument, part of the argument of Michigan’s congressional delegation is that when manufacturing does well, then the entire economy does well.

The service sector does well if manufacturing is doing well, so we’ve got to make sure that America isn’t just buying stuff, but we’re also selling stuff — all around the world, products stamped with those three proud words:  Made In America.  (Applause.)

An economy built to last is also one where we control our energy needs.  We don’t let foreign countries control our energy supplies.  Right now, America is producing more of our own oil than we were eight years ago.  That’s good news.  (Applause.)  As a percentage, we’re actually importing less than any time in the last 16 years.

But — I think young people especially understand this — no matter how much oil we produce, we’ve only got 2 percent of the world’s oil reserves.  And that means we’ve got to focus on clean, renewable energy.  (Applause.)  We’ve got to have a strategy that, yes, is producing our own oil and natural gas.  But we’ve also got to develop wind and solar and biofuels.  (Applause.)

And that is good for our economy.  It creates jobs.  But it’s also good for our environment.  (Applause.)  It also makes sure that this planet is sustainable.  That’s part of the future that you deserve.

We’ve subsidized oil companies for a century.  That’s long enough.  Congress needs to stop giving taxpayer dollars to an oil industry that’s never been more profitable, and double down on a clean energy future that’s never been more promising.  (Applause.)

I don’t want to cede the wind or the solar or the battery industry to China or Germany because we were too timid, we didn’t have the imagination to make the same commitment here.  And I want those jobs created here in the United States of America.  And I also want us to think about energy efficiency, making sure — we’ve already doubled fuel efficiency standards on cars.  Part of Detroit coming back is creating more fuel-efficient cars here in Michigan — (applause) — and more fuel-efficient trucks.  And we’ve got to revamp our buildings to make them more fuel-efficient.

And we — if we are focused on this, we can control our energy future.  That’s part of creating an America that’s built to last.

And we’ve got to have an economy in which every American has access to a world-class higher education, the kind you are getting right here at the University of Michigan.  (Applause.)

My grandfather got the chance to go to college because this country decided that every returning veteran of World War II should be able to afford it.  My mother was able to raise two kids by herself because she was able to get grants and work her way through school.  I am only standing here today because scholarships and student loans gave me a shot at a decent education.  Michelle and I can still remember how long it took us to pay back our student loans.  (Laughter.)

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Tell the First Lady we wish her happy birthday!

THE PRESIDENT:  I will tell Michelle you said happy birthday.  (Applause.)

But I just want all of you to understand, your President and your First Lady were in your shoes not that long ago.  (Laughter.)  We didn’t come from wealthy families.  The only reason that we were able to achieve what we were able to achieve was because we got a great education.  That’s the only reason.  (Applause.)  And we could not have done that unless we lived in a country that made a commitment to opening up opportunity to all people.  (Applause.)

The point is, this country has always made a commitment to put a good education within the reach of all who are willing to work for it, and that’s part of what helped to create this economic miracle and build the largest middle class in history.
And this precedes even college.  I mean, we were — we helped to begin the movement in industrialized countries to create public schools, public high schools, understanding that as people are moving from an agricultural sector to an industrial sector, they were going to need training.

Now we’ve moved to an information age, a digitalized age, a global economy.  We’ve got to make that same commitment today.  (Applause.)

Now, we still have, by far, the best network of colleges and universities in the world.  Nobody else comes close.  Nobody else comes close.  (Applause.)  But the challenge is it’s getting tougher and tougher to afford it.  Since most of you were born, tuition and fees have more than doubled.  That forces students like you to take out more loans and rack up more debt.

In 2010, graduates who took out loans left college owing an average of $24,000.  That’s an average.  Are you waving because you owe $24,000 or — (laughter.)

Student loan debt has now surpassed credit card debt for the first time ever.  Think about that.  That’s inexcusable.  In the coming decade, 60 percent of new jobs will require more than a high school diploma.  Higher education is not a luxury.  It’s an economic imperative that every family in America should be able to afford.  And when I say higher education, I don’t just mean four-year colleges and universities; I also mean our community colleges and providing lifelong learning for workers who may need to retrain for jobs when the economy shifts.  All those things cost money, and it’s harder and harder to afford.  (Applause.)

So we’ve got to do something to help families be able to afford — and students to be able to afford — this higher education.  We’ve all got a responsibility here.

Thanks to the hard work of Secretary Duncan, my administration is increasing federal student aid so more students can afford college.  (Applause.)  And one of the things I’m proudest of, with the help of all these members of Congress, we won a tough fight to stop handing out tens of billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies to banks that issue student loans and shift that money to where it should go, directly to the students and to the families who need it.  (Applause.)

Tens of billions of dollars that were going to subsidies for banks are now going to students in the form of more grants and lower rates on loans.  We’ve capped student loan payments so that nearly 1.6 million students — including a bunch of you — are only going to have to pay 10 percent of your monthly income towards your loans once you graduate — 10 percent of your monthly income.  (Applause.)

So that’s what we’ve been doing.  Now Congress has to do more.  Congress needs to do more.  They need to stop the interest rates on student loans from doubling this July.  That’s what’s scheduled to happen if Congress doesn’t act.  That would not be good for you.  (Laughter.)  So you should let your members of Congress know:  Don’t do that.  Don’t do it.  Don’t do it.

They need to extend the tuition tax credit that we’ve put in place that’s saving some of you and millions of folks all across the country thousands of dollars.  And Congress needs to give more young people the chance to earn their way through college by doubling the number of work-study jobs in the next five years.  (Applause.)

So the administration has a job to do.  Congress has a job to do.  But it’s not just enough to increase student aid, and you can imagine why.  Look, we can’t just keep on subsidizing skyrocketing tuition.  If tuition is going up faster than inflation, faster than even health care is going up, no matter how much we subsidize it, sooner or later, we’re going to run out of money.  And that means that others have to do their part.  Colleges and universities need to do their part to keep costs down as well.  (Applause.)

Recently, I spoke with a group of college presidents who’ve done just that.  Here at Michigan, you’ve done a lot to find savings in your budget.  We know this is possible.  So from now on, I’m telling Congress we should steer federal campus-based aid to those colleges that keep tuition affordable, provide good value, serve their students well.  (Applause.)  We are putting colleges on notice — you can’t keep — you can’t assume that you’ll just jack up tuition every single year.  If you can’t stop tuition from going up, then the funding you get from taxpayers each year will go down.  We should push colleges to do better.  We should hold them accountable if they don’t.  (Applause.)

Now, states also have to do their part.  I was talking to your president — and this is true all across the country — states 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 — 40 states cut their higher education budget.  And we know that these state budget cuts have been the largest factor in tuition increases at public colleges over the past decade.

So we’re challenging states:  Take responsibility as well on this issue.  (Applause.)  What we’re doing is, today we’re going to launch a Race to the Top for college affordability.  We’re telling the states, if you can find new ways to bring down the cost of college and make it easier for more students to graduate, we’ll help you do it.  We will give you additional federal support if you are doing a good job of making sure that all of you aren’t loaded up with debt when you graduate from college.  (Applause.)
And, finally, today I’m also calling for a new report card for colleges.  Parents like getting report cards.  I know you guys may not always look forward to it.  (Laughter.)  But we parents, we like to know what you’re doing.  From now on, parents and students deserve to know how a college is doing — how affordable is it, how well are its students doing?  We want you to know how well a car stacks up before you buy it.  You should know how well a college stacks up.

We call this — one of the things that we’re doing at the Consumer Finance Protection Board that I just set up with Richard Cordray — (applause) — is to make sure that young people understand the financing of colleges.  He calls it, “Know Before You Owe.”  (Laughter.)  Know before you owe.  So we want to push more information out so consumers can make good choices, so you as consumers of higher education understand what it is that you’re getting.

The bottom line is that an economy built to last demands we keep doing everything we can to bring down the cost of college.  That goes along with strengthening American manufacturing.  It means we keep on investing in American energy.  It means we double down on the clean energy that’s creating jobs across this state and guaranteeing your generation a better future.  (Applause.)

And you know what else it means?  It means that we renew the American values of fair play and shared responsibility.  (Applause.)  Shared responsibility.

I talked about this at the State of the Union.  We’ve got to make sure that as we’re paying for the investments of the future that everybody is doing their part, that we’re looking out for middle-class families and not just those at the top.  The first thing that means is making sure taxes don’t go up on 160 million working Americans at the end of next month.  (Applause.)  People can’t afford to lose $40 out of every paycheck.  Not right now.  Students who are working certainly can’t afford it.

Your voices encouraged and ultimately convinced Congress to extend the payroll tax cut for two months.  Now we’ve got to extend it for the whole year.  I need your help to get it done again.  Tell them to pass this tax cut, without drama, without delay.  (Applause.)  Get it done.  It’s good for the economy.  (Applause.)

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Four more years!

THE PRESIDENT:  Okay.  (Laughter and applause.)

Now, in the longer run, we’re also going to have to reduce our deficit.  We’ve got to invest in our future and we’ve got to reduce our deficit.  And to do both, we’ve got to make some choices.  Let me give you some examples.

Right now, we’re scheduled to spend nearly $1 trillion more on what was intended to be a temporary tax cut for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  That’s not fair.

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s not fair.  A quarter of all millionaires pay lower tax rates than millions of middle-class households.

AUDIENCE:  Booo —

THE PRESIDENT:  Not fair.  Warren Buffett pays a lower tax rate than his secretary.  I know because she was at the State of the Union.  She told me.  (Laughter.)  Is that fair?

AUDIENCE:  No!

THE PRESIDENT:  Does it make sense to you?

AUDIENCE:  No!

THE PRESIDENT:  Do we want to keep these tax cuts for folks like me who don’t need them?  Or do we want to invest in the things that will help us in the long term — like student loans and grants — (applause) — and a strong military — (applause) — and care for our veterans — (applause) — and basic research?  (Applause.)

Those are the choices we’ve got to make.  We can’t do everything.  We can’t reduce our deficit and make the investments we need at the same time, and keep tax breaks for folks who don’t need them and weren’t even asking for them — well, some of them were asking for them.  I wasn’t asking for them.  (Laughter.)  We’ve got to choose.

When it comes to paying our fair share, I believe we should follow the Buffett Rule:  If you make more than $1 million a year — and I hope a lot of you do after you graduate — (laughter) — then you should pay a tax rate of at least 30 percent.  (Applause.)  On the other hand, if you decide to go into a less lucrative profession, if you decide to become a teacher — and we need teachers — (applause) — if you decide to go into public service, if you decide to go into a helping profession — (applause) — if you make less than $250,000 a year — which 98 percent of Americans do — then your taxes shouldn’t go up.  (Applause.)

This is part of the idea of shared responsibility.  I know a lot of folks have been running around calling this class warfare.  I think asking a billionaire to pay at least as much as his secretary in taxes is just common sense.  (Applause.)  Yesterday, Bill Gates said he doesn’t think people like him are paying enough in taxes.  I promise you, Warren Buffett is doing fine, Bill Gates is doing fine, I’m doing fine.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Koch Brothers.

THE PRESIDENT:  They’re definitely doing fine.  (Laughter.)

We don’t need more tax breaks.  There are a lot of families out there who are struggling, who’ve seen their wages stall, and the cost of everything from a college education to groceries and food have gone up.  You’re the ones who need that.  You’re the ones who need help.  And we can’t do both.

There have been some who have been saying, well, the only reason you’re saying that is because you’re trying to stir people up, make them envious of the rich.  People don’t envy the rich.  When people talk about me paying my fair share of taxes, or Bill Gates or Warren Buffett paying their fair share, the reason that they’re talking about it is because they understand that when I get a tax break that I don’t need, that the country can’t afford, then one of two things are going to happen:  Either the deficit will go up and ultimately you guys are going to have to pay for it, or alternatively, somebody else is going to foot the bill — some senior who suddenly has to pay more for their Medicare, or some veteran who’s not getting the help that they need readjusting after they have defended this country, or some student who’s suddenly having to pay higher interest rates on their student loans.

We do not begrudge wealth in this country.  I want everybody here to do well.  We aspire to financial success.  But we also understand that we’re not successful just by ourselves.  We’re successful because somebody started the University of Michigan.  (Applause.)  We’re successful because somebody made an investment in all the federal research labs that created the Internet.  We’re successful because we have an outstanding military — that costs money.  We’re successful because somebody built roads and bridges and laid broadband lines.  And these things didn’t just happen on their own.

And if we all understand that we’ve got to pay for this stuff, it makes sense for those of us who’ve done best to do our fair share.  And to try to pass off that bill onto somebody else, that’s not right.  That’s not who we are.  (Applause.)  That’s not what my grandparents’ generation worked hard to pass down.  That’s not what your grandparents and your great-grandparents worked hard to pass down.  We’ve got a different idea of America, a more generous America.  (Applause.)

Everybody here is only here because somebody somewhere down the road decided we’re going to think not just about ourselves, but about the future.  We’ve got responsibilities, yes, to ourselves but also to each other.  And now it’s our turn to be responsible.  Now it’s our turn to leave an America that’s built to last.  And I know we can do it.  We’ve done it before and I know we can do it again because of you.

When I meet young people all across this country, with energy and drive and vision, despite the fact that you’ve come of age during a difficult, tumultuous time in this world, it gives me hope.  You inspire me.  You’re here at Michigan because you believe in your future.  You’re working hard.  You’re putting in long hours — hopefully some at the library.  (Laughter.)  Some of you are balancing a job at the same time.  You know that doing big things isn’t always easy, but you’re not giving up.

You’ve got the whole world before you.  And you embody that sense of possibility that is quintessentially American.  We do not shrink from challenges.  We stand up to them.  And we don’t leave people behind; we make sure everybody comes along with us on this journey that we’re on.  (Applause.)

That’s the spirit right now that we need, Michigan.  (Applause.)  Here in America, we don’t give up.  We look out for each other.  We make sure everybody has a chance to get ahead.  And if we work in common purpose, with common resolve, we can build an economy that gives everybody a fair shot.  And we will remind the world just why it is that the United States of America is the greatest nation on Earth.  (Applause.)

Thank you, everybody.  God bless you.  God bless the United States of America.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

END           10:33 A.M. EST

Full Text October 26, 2011: President Barack Obama Unveils in Speech Student Loan Debt-Relief Plan

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

President Obama talks students loans at University of Colorado Denver

President Barack Obama waves to the crowd after arriving at the University of Colorado Denver campus, in Denver, Colo., Oct. 26, 2011. The President delivered remarks on the steps the Administration is taking to increase college affordability by making it easier to manage student loan debt. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Source: WH, 10-26-11
In this globally competitive, knowledge-based economy, higher education has never been more important. Simply put, America cannot lead in the 21st century without the best educated, most competitive workforce in the world. Nations that out-educate us today will out-compete us tomorrow, which is why some form of higher education is an absolute must.

We also know that college costs have never been higher — or more difficult to manage. The Administration has already provided aid to millions of students with historic investments in programs like Pell Grants and the American Opportunity Tax Credit. But we realize that many borrowers are struggling to both pay off their loans and make ends meet every month. And fear of being saddled with debt in the long run may deter many potential students from enrolling in college. They need help now.

That’s why today, President Obama announced new efforts to make college more affordable by helping millions of borrowers better manage their federal student loan debt. We’re taking executive action with two measures that will bring relief to borrowers by lowering their monthly loan payments — at no cost to taxpayers.

First, for some students we are proposing to cap student loan repayment at 10 percent of a borrower’s discretionary income, starting next year. For many who worry about managing their debt while working in lower-paying fields — including teachers, nurses, public defenders, and social workers — this could reduce their payments by hundreds each month.

We also want to provide immediate relief to borrowers already repaying their loans. While the pay-as-you-earn proposal would only apply to some current students and recent graduates, millions more borrowers may already be eligible for our current income-based repayment plan, which caps payments at 15 percent of a borrower’s discretionary income. We know there are folks who are struggling in repayment now — and for them the current Income Based Repayment (IBR) plan may be a great option. To learn more about this plan to see if it makes sense for you, visit www.studentaid.ed.gov/ibr….

President Obama has made historic investments in making college more affordable for millions of students. But many people who took out loans to pay for their education are struggling to make monthly payments on those loans, making our tough economic times a little bit more challenging. We can’t wait to help these people keep up with their student loans.

Today, the Obama Administration announced steps we are taking to help borrowers better manage their student loan debt by moving forward with a new “Pay As You Earn” proposal that will reduce monthly payments for more than 1.6 million people. Starting in 2014, borrowers will be able to reduce their monthly student loan payments from 15 percent to 10 percent of their discretionary income. But President Obama realizes that many students need relief sooner than that. The new “Pay As You Earn” proposal will fast track the initiative to begin next year.

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

Remarks by the President on College Affordability

Auraria Events Center
University of Colorado – Denver Campus
Denver, Colorado

10:25 A.M. MDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you!  Well, it is great to be back in Colorado.  (Applause.)  And it is great to be here at CU Denver. (Applause.)

I tend to have some pretty good memories about Denver.  (Applause.)  We had a little gathering here a few years ago, at Mile High.  (Applause.)  So coming here gets me fired up.  Even when it’s snowing outside, I’m fired up.  (Applause.)  I don’t know where else you can go sledding in Halloween.  (Laughter.)  It’s like, what’s up with the snow this soon?  I mean, is this actually late?  This is late for Denver, huh?

I want to start by thanking Mahala for the wonderful introduction and for sharing her story, which I know resonates with a lot of young people here.  I want to thank your outstanding Governor, who’s here — John Hickenlooper is in the house.  (Applause.)  There he is.  The Mayor of Denver, Michael Hancock, is in the house.  (Applause.)  The Lieutenant Governor, Joe Garcia, is in the house.  (Applause.)  And one of the finest public servants, somebody you were wise enough to elect and then reelect as United States Senator — Michael Bennet is in the house.

You guys do a good job when it comes to elected officials in Colorado, I just want you to know.  (Applause.)  You have a good eye for talent.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  We love you!

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

Now, I’ve been doing a lot of traveling lately.  And the reason I’ve been hitting the road so much is because the folks I’m talking to in cities and small towns and communities all across America, they’re — let’s face it, they’re making a little more sense than the folks back in Washington.  (Applause.)

Here in Colorado, you’ve got folks who are spending months  — some, years — looking for work.  We’ve got families who are making tough sacrifices just to pay the bills, or the mortgage, or college tuition.  And Americans know we need to do something about it.  (Applause.)  And I know this is especially hard for a lot of young people.

You guys came of age at a time of profound change.  Globalization and technology have all made the world much more competitive.  Although this offers unmatched opportunity — I mean, the way that the world is now linked up and synched up means that you can start a business that’s global from your laptop.  But it also means that we are going to have to adapt to these changes.

And for decades, too many of our institutions — from Washington to Wall Street — failed to adapt, or they adapted in ways that didn’t work for ordinary folk — for middle-class families, for those aspiring to get into the middle class.  We had an economy that was based more on consuming things and piling up debt than making things and creating value.  We had a philosophy that said if we cut taxes for the very wealthiest, and we gut environmental regulations, and we don’t enforce labor regulations, and somehow if we let Wall Street just write the rules, that somehow that was going to lead to prosperity.  And instead what it did was culminate in the worst financial crisis and the deepest recession since the Great Depression.

For the last three years, we’ve worked to stabilize the economy, and we’ve made some progress.  An economy that was shrinking is now growing, but too slowly.  We’ve had private sector job growth, but it’s been offset by layoffs of teachers and police and firefighters, of the public sector.  And we’ve still got a long way to go.

And now, as you young people are getting ready to head out into the world, I know you’re hearing stories from friends and classmates and siblings who are struggling to find work, and you’re wondering what’s in store for your future.  And I know that can be scary.  (Applause.)  So the —

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  — Mother Earth — backs of our children and our future.

THE PRESIDENT:  All right.  Thank you, guys.  We’re looking at it right now, all right?  No decision has been made.  And I know your deep concern about it.  So we will address it.

So here’s what I also know — and I know that’s true for folks who are concerned about the environment, folks who are concerned about foreign policy, but also folks who are concerned about the economy.

When I look out at all of you, I feel confident because I know that as long as there are young people like you who still have hope and are still inspired by the possibilities of America, then there are going to be better days for this country.  (Applause.)  I know that we are going to come through this stronger than before.

And when I wake up every single morning, what I’m thinking about is how do we create an America in which you have opportunity, in which anybody can make it if they try, no matter what they look like, no matter where they come from, no matter what race, what creed, what faith.  (Applause.)  And the very fact — the very fact that you are here, investing in your education, the fact that you’re going to college, the fact that you’re making an investment in your future tells me that you share my faith in America’s future.  (Applause.)  You inspire me — your hopes and your dreams and your opportunities.

And so the truth is the economic problems we face today didn’t happen overnight, and they won’t be solved overnight.  The challenges we face on the environment, or on getting comprehensive immigration reform done — on all these issues we are going to keep on pushing.  And it’s going to take time to restore a sense of security for middle-class Americans.  It’s going to take time to rebuild an economy that works for everybody — not just those at the top.  (Applause.)  But there are steps we can take right now to put Americans back to work and give our economy a boost.  I know it.  You know it.  The American people know it.

You’ve got leaders like Michael Bennet and Mark Udall and Diana DeGette that are looking out for you.  But the problem is there are some in Washington — (audience interruption) — there are some in Washington who don’t seem to share this same sense of urgency.  Last week, for the second time this month, Republicans in the Senate blocked a jobs bill from moving forward.

AUDIENCE:  Booo —

THE PRESIDENT:  Now, this is a jobs bill that would have meant nearly 400,000 teachers and firefighters and first responders back on the job.  (Applause.)  It was the kind of proposal that in the past has gotten Democratic and Republican support.

It was paid for by asking those who have done the best in our society, those who have made the most, to just do a little bit more.  And it was supported by an overwhelming majority of the American people.  But they still said no.  And it doesn’t make sense.  How can you say no to creating jobs at a time when so many people are looking for work?  It doesn’t make any sense.

So the truth is the only way we can attack our economic challenges on the scale that’s necessary — the only way we can put hundreds of thousands of people, millions of people, back to work is if Congress is willing to cooperate with the executive branch and we are able to do some bold action — like passing the jobs bill.  That’s what we need.  (Applause.)

And that’s why I am going to keep forcing these senators to vote on common-sense, paid-for jobs proposals.  And I’m going to need you to help send them the message.  You don’t need to tell Michael Bennet — he’s already on the page.  (Laughter.)  But I’m going to need you guys to be out there calling and tweeting and all the stuff you do.  (Laughter.)

But, listen, we’re not going to wait, though.  We’re not waiting for Congress.  Last month, when I addressed a joint session of Congress about our jobs crisis, I said I intend to do everything in my power right now to act on behalf of the American people — with or without Congress.  (Applause.)  We can’t wait for Congress to do its job.  So where they won’t act, I will.  (Applause.)

And that’s why, in recent weeks, we’ve been taking a series of executive actions.  We decided we couldn’t stop — we couldn’t just wait for Congress to fix No Child Left Behind.  We went ahead and decided, let’s give states the flexibility they need to meet higher standards for our kids and improve our schools.  (Applause.)

We said we can’t wait for Congress to help small businesses.  We’re going to go ahead and say to the federal government, pay small businesses faster if they’re contractors so they’ve got more money and they can start hiring more people.  (Applause.)

We said we’re not going to wait for Congress to fix what’s going on in our health care system.  We eliminated regulations that will save hospitals and patients billions of dollars.  (Applause.)  And yesterday we announced a new initiative to make it easier for veterans to get jobs, putting their skills to work in hospitals and community centers.  (Applause.)

On Monday, we announced a new policy that will help families whose home values have fallen, to refinance their mortgages and to save up to thousands of dollars a year.

All these steps aren’t going to take the place of the needed action that Congress has to get going on — they’re still going to have to pass this jobs bill, they’ve got to create jobs, they’ve got to grow the economy — but these executive actions we’re taking can make a difference.

And I’ve told my administration we’re going to look every single day to figure out what we can do without Congress.  What can we do without them?  (Applause.)  Steps that can save you money, and make government more efficient and responsive, and help heal this economy.  So we’re going to be announcing these steps on a regular basis.  And that’s why I came to Denver today — to do something that will be especially important to all of you here at CU Denver and millions of students — and former students — all across America.  (Applause.)

Now, I mentioned that we live in a global economy, where businesses can set up shop anywhere where there’s an Internet connection.  So we live in a time when, over the next decade, 60 percent of new jobs will require more than a high school diploma. And other countries are hustling to out-educate us today, so they can out-compete us tomorrow.  They want the jobs of the future.  I want you to have those jobs.  (Applause.)  I want America to have those jobs.  (Applause.)  I want America to have the most highly skilled workers doing the most advanced work.  I want us to win the future.  (Applause.)

So that means we should be doing everything we can to put a college education within reach for every American.  (Applause.)  That has never been more important.  It’s never been more important, but, let’s face it, it’s also never been more expensive.  There was a new report today, tuition gone up again, on average — much faster than inflation; certainly much faster than wages and incomes.

Over the past three decades, the cost of college has nearly tripled.  And that is forcing you, forcing students, to take out more loans and rack up more debt.  Last year, graduates who took out loans left college owing an average of $24,000.  Student loan debt has now surpassed credit card debt, for the first time ever.

Now, living with that kind of debt means making some pretty tough choices when you’re first starting out.  It might mean putting off buying a house.  It might mean you can’t start a business idea that you’ve got.  It may mean that you’ve got to wait longer to start a family, or certainly it means you’re putting off saving for retirement because you’re still paying off your student loans.

And when a big chunk of every paycheck goes towards student loans instead of being spent on other things, that’s not just tough for middle-class families, it’s painful for the economy and it’s harmful to our recovery because that money is not going to help businesses grow.

And let me say this — this is something Michelle and I know about firsthand.  I’ve been in your shoes.  We did not come from a wealthy family.  (Applause.)  I was raised mostly by a single mom and my grandparents.  And Michelle, she had sort of a “Leave it to Beaver” perfect family, but — (laughter) — she did.  They’re wonderful.  (Laughter.)  But her dad was a blue-collar worker, and her mom stayed at home.  But then when she did go to work, she worked as a secretary.  So our folks didn’t have a lot of money.  We didn’t even own our own home; we rented most of the time that we were growing up.

So by the time we both graduated from law school, we had, between us, about $120,000 worth of debt.  We combined and got poorer together.  (Laughter.)  So we combined our liabilities, not our assets.  (Laughter.)  So we were paying more for our student loans than we paid on our mortgage each month.

Look, obviously we were lucky to have gotten a great education and we were able to land good jobs with a steady income.  But it still took us almost 10 years to finally pay off all our student debt.  And that wasn’t easy, especially once we had Malia and Sasha, because now we’re supposed to be saving for their college, but we’re still paying for ours.  (Laughter.)

So the idea is, how do we make college more affordable, and how do we make sure you are burdened with less debt?  Now, college — keep in mind, college isn’t just one of the best investments you can make in your future.  It’s one of the bets investments America can make in our future.  (Applause.)  So we want you in school.  We want you in school.  But we shouldn’t saddle you with debt when you’re starting off.

So that’s why, since taking office, we’ve made it a priority to make college more affordable, reduce your student loan debt.  Last year we fought to eliminate these taxpayer subsidies that were going to big banks.  They were serving as middlemen in the student loan program — some of you may have heard about this.  So even though the loans were guaranteed by the federal government, we were still paying banks billions of dollars to be pass-throughs for the student loan program.

And we said, well, that’s not a good idea.  (Laughter.)  That’s not a good — now, of course, there were some in Washington who opposed me on this — that’s surprising.  (Laughter.)  I know — shocking.  (Laughter.)  So you had some Republicans in Congress who fought us tooth and nail to protect the status quo and to keep these tax dollars flowing to the big banks instead of going to middle-class families.  One of them said changing it would be “an outrage.”  The real outrage was letting banks keep these subsidies while students were working three jobs just to try to get by.  That was the outrage.  (Applause.)  And that’s why we ended the practice once and for all, to put a college education within reach of more Americans.

Then in last year’s State of the Union address, I asked Congress to pass a law that tells 1 million students they won’t have to pay more than 10 percent of their income toward student loans.  And we won that fight, too — (applause) — and that law will take effect by the time — that law is scheduled to take effect by the time freshmen graduate.

But we decided, let’s see if we can do a little bit more.  So today, I’m here to announce that we’re going to speed things up.  (Applause.)  We’re going to make these changes work for students who are in college right now.  (Applause.)  We’re going to put them into effect not three years from now, not two years from now — we’re going to put them into effect next year,  (Applause.)  Because our economy needs it right now and your future could use a boost right now.  (Applause.)

So here is what this is going to mean.  Because of this change, about 1.6 million Americans could see their payments go down by hundreds of dollars a month — and that includes some of the students who are here today.  (Applause.)  What we’re also going to do is we’re going to take steps to consolidate student loans so that instead of paying multiple payments to multiple lenders every month — and let me tell you, I remember this.  I remember writing like five different checks to five different loan agencies — and if you lost one that month, you couldn’t get all the bills together, you missed a payment, and then suddenly you were paying a penalty.  We’re going to make it easier for you to have one payment a month at a better interest rate.  (Applause.)  And this won’t cost — it won’t cost taxpayers a dime, but it will save you money and it will save you time.  (Applause.)

And we want to start giving students a simple fact sheet.  We’re going to call it “Know Before You Owe” — (applause) — “Know Before You Owe” — so you have all the information you need to make your own decisions about how to pay for college.  And I promise you, I wish Michelle and I had had that when we were in your shoes.

So these changes will make a difference for millions of Americans.  It will save you money.  It will help more young people figure out how to afford college.  It can put more money in your pocket once you graduate.  And because you’ll have some certainty, knowing that it’s only a certain percentage of your income that is going to pay off your student loans, that means you will be more confident and comfortable to buy a house or save for retirement.  And that will give our economy a boost at a time when it desperately needs it.  (Applause.)  So this is not just important to our country right now, it’s important to our country’s future.

When Michelle and I tuck our girls in at night, we think about how we are only where we are because somewhere down the line, somebody decided we’re going to give everybody a chance.  It doesn’t matter if you’re not born wealthy; it doesn’t matter if your dad is disabled or doesn’t own his own home; it doesn’t matter if you’re a single mom who had to take food stamps — you’re still going to get a shot.  You’re still going to get an education.  (Applause.)  This country gave us a chance.  And because our parents and their generation worked and sacrificed, they passed on opportunity to us.  And they didn’t do it alone.  It was something that we as a country did together.

And now it’s our turn — because the dream of opportunity is what I want for you, and I want for my daughters, and I want them for your children.  I want them for all young people, because no matter how tough times are, no matter how many obstacles stand in our way, we are going to make the dream that all Americans share real once again.  And that starts right now.  It starts with you. (Applause.)  It starts with you.

I am going to keep doing everything in my power to make a difference for the American people.  But, Denver, I need your help.  (Applause.)  Some of these folks in Washington still aren’t getting the message.  I need your voices heard.  I especially need your young — young people, I need you guys involved.  I need you active.  I need you communicating to Congress.  I need you to get the word out.  Like I said, tweet them.  Tweet them — they’re all tweeting all over the place.  (Laughter.)  You tweet them back.  Whatever works for you.

Tell them, do your job.  Tell them, the President has ideas that in the past have been supported by Democrats and Republicans — there’s no reason not to support them just to play politics.  (Applause.)  It’s time to put country ahead of party.  It’s time to put the next generation ahead of the next election.  (Applause.)  It’s time for all of us in Washington to do our job. It’s time for them to do their job.  (Applause.)  Too many people out there are hurting.  Too many people are out there hurting for us to sit around and doing nothing.

And we are not a people who just sit around and wait for things to happen.  We’re Americans; we make things happen.  We fix problems.  (Applause.)  We meet our challenges.  We don’t hold back, and we don’t quit.  (Applause.)  And that’s the spirit we need right now.

So, Denver, let’s go out and meet the moment.  Let’s do the right thing, and let’s go, once again, show the world just why it is the United States of America is the greatest nation on Earth. (Applause.)

God bless you.  God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)  Thank you.

END
10:51 A.M. MDT

FACT SHEET: “Help Americans Manage Student Loan Debt”

Source: WH, 10-25-11

The Administration has made historic investments in Pell Grants and the American Opportunity Tax Credit to help make college more affordable for millions of current and future students. While college remains an excellent investment for most students, debt may discourage some potential students from enrolling, keeping them from getting the skills they need to compete in the global economy. Some borrowers may struggle to manage their bills and support their families.  The need for enough income to make large monthly payments may discourage some graduates from starting a new job-creating business or entering teaching or another lower-paying public service career.

Today, the President announced a series of additional steps that the Administration will take to make college more affordable and to make it even easier for students to repay their federal student loans:

Help Americans Manage Student Loan Debt by Capping Monthly Payments to What They Can Afford 

  • Allow borrowers to cap their student loan payments at 10% of discretionary income.  In the 2010 State of the Union, the President proposed – and Congress quickly enacted – an improved income-based repayment (IBR) plan, which allows student loan borrowers to cap their monthly payments at 15% of their discretionary income. Beginning July 1, 2014, the IBR plan is scheduled to reduce that limit from 15% to 10% of discretionary income.
  • Today, the President announced that his Administration is putting forth a new “Pay As You Earn” proposal to make sure these same important benefits are made available to some borrowers as soon as 2012. The Administration estimates that this cap will reduce monthly payments for more than 1.6 million student borrowers.

For example:

  • A nurse who is earning $45,000 and has $60,000 in federal student loans. Under the standard repayment plan, this borrower’s monthly repayment amount is $690. The currently available IBR plan would reduce this borrower’s payment by $332 to $358.  President Obama’s improved ‘Pay As You Earn’ plan will reduce her payment by an additional $119 to a more manageable $239 — a total reduction of $451 a month.
  • A teacher who is earning $30,000 a year and has $25,000 in Federal student loans.  Under the standard repayment plan, this borrower’s monthly repayment amount is $287 .  The currently available IBR plan would reduce this borrower’s payment by $116, to $171.  Under the improved ‘P ay As You Earn’ plan, his monthly payment amount would be even more manageable at only $114.   And, if this borrower remained a teacher or was employed in another public service occupation, he would be eligible for forgiveness under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program after 10 years of payments .
  •  Continues to provide help for those already in the workforce. Recent graduates and others in the workforce who are still struggling to pay off their student loans can immediately take advantage of the current income-based repayment plan that caps payments at 15% of the borrower’s discretionary income to help them manage their debt. Currently, more than 36 million Americans have federal student loan debt, but fewer than 450,000 Americans participate in income-based repayment. Millions more may be eligible to reduce their monthly payments to an amount affordable based on income and family size. The Administration is taking steps to make it easier to participate in IBR and continues to reach out to borrowers to let them know about the program .

Borrowers looking to determine whether or not income-based repayment is the right option for them should visit http://studentaid.ed.gov/ibr.

The CFPB also released the Student Debt Repayment Assistant, an online tool that provides borrowers, many of whom may be struggling with repayment, with information on income-based repayment, deferments, alternative payment programs, and much more.  The Student Debt Repayment Assistant is available at ConsumerFinance.gov/students/repay

Improve Ease of Making Payments and Reduce Default Risk by Consolidating Loans

  • Provide a discount on consolidation loans.  While all new federal student loans are now Direct Loans thanks to the historic reforms in the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act, there are still $400 billion outstanding in old Federal Family Education Loans.  These loans offer fewer repayment options and are unnecessarily expensive for taxpayers.  In addition, about 6 million borrowers have at least one Direct Loan and at least one FFEL loan, which requires them to submit two separate monthly payments, a complexity that puts them at greater risk of default.

To ensure borrowers are not adversely impacted by this transition and to facilitate loan repayment while reducing taxpayer costs, the Department of Education is encouraging borrowers with split loans to consolidate their guaranteed FFEL loans into the Direct Loan program. Borrowers do not need to take any action at this time.  Beginning in January 2012, the Department will reach out to qualified borrowers early next year to alert them of the opportunity.

This special consolidation initiative would keep the terms and conditions of the loans the same, and most importantly, beginning in January 2012, allow borrowers to make only one monthly payment, as opposed to two or more payments, greatly simplifying the repayment process. Borrowers who take advantage of this special, limited-time consolidation option would also receive up to a 0.5 percent reduction to their interest rate on some of their loans, which means lower monthly payments and saving hundreds in interest.  Borrowers would receive a 0.25 percent interest rate reduction on their consolidated FFEL loans and an additional 0.25 percent interest rate reduction on the entire consolidated FFEL and DL balance.

For example:

  • A borrower about to enter repayment with two $4,500 FFEL Stafford loans (at 6.0%) and a $5,500 Direct Stafford loan (at 4.5%). Under Standard Repayment, the borrower can expect to pay a total of $4,330 in interest until the loans are paid in full. If this borrower consolidates their FFEL loans under this initiative they would save $376 in interest payments, and make only one payment per month, instead of two.
  • A borrower in repayment with a $32,000 FFEL Consolidation loan (at 6.25%) and a $5,500 Direct Unsubsidized Stafford loan (at 6.8%). Under Standard Repayment, the borrower can expect to pay a total of $13,211 in interest until the loans are paid in full. If this borrower consolidates the FFEL loan under this initiative they would save $964 in interest payments, and make only one payment per month instead of two.

Provide Consumers with Better Information to Make College Selection Decisions

“Know Before You Owe” Financial Aid Shopping Sheet.

  • The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Department of Education have teamed up to launch a new “Know Before You Owe” project aimed at creating a model financial aid disclosure form, which colleges and universities could use to help students better understand the type and amount of aid they qualify for and easily compare aid packages offered by different institutions. This “Financial Aid Shopping Sheet” makes the costs and risks of student loans clear upfront – before students have enrolled – outlining their total estimated student loan debt, monthly loan payments after graduation and additional costs not covered by federal aid.  Ultimately, this provides students and their families with useful information that can help them make a more informed decision about where to attend college and help them better understand the debt burden they may be left with.

The CFPB is soliciting feedback on how to further improve the form, especially looking for input from college students and their families. They can go to the CFPB’s website ( http://consumerfinance.gov/students/knowbeforeyouowe ) where an online ranking tool will provide the public with an opportunity to weigh in on the financial aid shopping sheet.

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