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

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama continues promise to help Americas youth realize their dreams

By Bonnie K. Goodman

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

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

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Weekly Address: Everyone Should Be Able To Afford Higher Education

Source: WH, 8-16-14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks everybody. Good luck on the year ahead.

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

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

A World-Class Education for Every Student in America

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

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

Remarks by the President on Preparing for College

Source: WH, 3-7-14

Watch the Video

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

President Obama Speaks on College Opportunity

Coral Reef Senior High School
Miami, Florida

3:05 P.M. EST

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AUDIENCE:  Booo —

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

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

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

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

AUDIENCE:  Wooo —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

END
3:25 P.M EST

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 April 28, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Weekly Address Discusses Executive Order Helps Veterans and Servicemembers Make Informed Decisions about Higher Education

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

President Obama discusses a new Executive Order designed to crack down on the bad actors who prey on our veterans and service members considering higher education.

President Barack Obama tapes the Weekly Address
President Barack Obama tapes the Weekly Address, White House Photo, Chuck Kennedy, 4/27/12

Weekly Address: Helping our Veterans and Servicemembers Make Informed Decisions about Higher Education

Source: WH, 4-28-12

President Obama discusses a new Executive Order designed to crack down on the bad actors who prey on our veterans and service members considering higher education.

Transcript | Download mp4 | Download mp3

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

WEEKLY ADDRESS: Helping our Veterans and Servicemembers Make Informed Decisions about Higher Education

In this week’s address, President Obama told the American people about a new Executive Order he signed on Friday to crack down on bad actors that prey on our veterans and service members considering higher education.  Unfortunately these brave men and women are often bombarded by schools that provide false or misleading information about things like interest rates on loans, credit transfers, and job placement programs.  The President’s new Executive Order makes it easier for veterans and service members to make informed decisions about financial aid and paying for college and also takes a number of steps to fight deceptive practices by some institutions.  President Obama will always make sure that those who serve this country get every opportunity they deserve.

Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
Saturday April 28, 2012

On Friday, I traveled to Ft. Stewart in Georgia to meet with soldiers from the Third Infantry Division.

These men and women have fought with bravery and honor in some of the most dangerous places on the planet.  Some of them didn’t make it back.  But those who did are now fighting a different kind of battle here at home.  They’re looking for new jobs, new opportunities, and new ways to serve.

For many, that means going back to school – and America has a long tradition of making sure our veterans and our men and women in uniform can afford to do that.  After World War II, we helped a generation of Americans – including my grandfather – go to school on the GI Bill.  Now, thanks to the 9/11 GI Bill and the Tuition Assistance program, last year we supported more than half a million veterans and over 300,000 service members who are pursuing a higher education.

That’s progress.  But it’s not enough to just help our veterans and service members afford school – we need to make sure they have all the tools they need to make an informed decision when it comes to picking the right program.

The sad truth is that there are people out there who are less interested in helping our men and women in uniform get ahead and more interested in making a buck.  They bombard potential students with emails and pressure them into making a quick decision.  Some of them steer recruits towards high-interest loans and mislead them about credit transfers and job placement programs.  One of the worst examples was a college recruiter who visited a Marine barracks and enrolled Marines with brain injuries so severe that some of them couldn’t recall what courses the recruiter had signed them up for.

That’s appalling.  It’s disgraceful.  And even though the vast majority of schools do the right thing, we need to guard against the bad actors who don’t.

That’s why, on Friday, I signed an Executive Order making life a whole lot more secure for our service members, veterans and their families – and a whole lot tougher for anyone who tries to prey on them.

We’re making sure veterans and service members get a simple fact sheet called “Know Before You Owe” that lays out all the information they need about financial aid and paying for college.  We’re requiring schools to offer counseling to help students finish their degree even if they have to move or deploy.  And we’re stepping up our efforts to fight dishonest recruiters by strengthening rules about who can come on base and making it easier to file complaints.

When our men and women in uniform succeed, our country succeeds.  They have our back – now it’s our turn to have theirs.  And as long as I’m President, I’m going to make sure that anyone who serves this country gets every opportunity they deserve.

Thank you, and have a great weekend.

Full Text Obama Presidency April 27, 2012: President Barack Obama Signs Executive Order Executive Order Helping Veterans and Service Members Make Informed Decisions about Higher Education at Fort Stewart

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

President Obama Signs Executive Order Supporting Service Members, Veterans, Military Spouses, and Their Families

Source: WH, 4-27-12
President Barack Obama signs an Executive Order at Fort Stewart  (April 27, 2012)
President Barack Obama signs an Executive Order at Fort Stewart in Georgia, April 27, 2012. The Executive Order will help ensure all of America’s service members, veterans, spouses, and other family members have the information they need to make informed educational decisions and are protected from aggressive and deceptive targeting by educational institutions. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

Earlier today, I had the great privilege of joining the President and First Lady — along with an amazing 10,000 soldiers, military families, and veterans — at an extraordinary event in Fort Stewart, Georgia, home to the Army’s famed 3rd Infantry Division.

The President and First Lady traveled to Fort Stewart to meet with soldiers and families — and to sign an Executive Order (EO) that will positively impact the educational benefits and opportunities for our nation’s heroes and their families — for a long time to come.

We know from travels throughout the country — and through feedback from veterans, our troops and their families – that education is a big deal. Opportunities provided through educational programs such as the Post 9/11 GI Bill open doors.

And I know that on a personal level. Like many servicemembers, I have used the benefits of the Post- 9/11 GI Bill to further my education — and that of my children.

At Fort Stewart, the President renewed his commitment to fully fund the post-9/11 GI Bill.  With that bill — and the Tuition Assistance program — more than 550,000 veterans and 325,000 service members pursued education last year. Additionally, nearly 38,000 military spouses used their Military Spouse Career Advancement Account (MyCAA) benefit to advance their education.

But sometimes…navigating through the maze of schools and opportunities can be a challenge. Many service members, veterans and families know exactly what I mean.

They go online to try and find the best school that fits their goals; they end up on a website that looks official; they get promised to get connected with a program looks promising. Unfortunately — and all-too-often — our troops and families find themselves dealing with folks who aren’t interested in helping them find the BEST program — but they are happy to take their money. Our service men and women may get forced into making a quick decision. And sometimes recruiters from these schools show up on bases.

As the President said, one of the worst examples of this is a college recruiter who visited Camp Lejeune and enrolled Marines impacted by Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) — the nature and severity of their injuries were so significant, that the affected Marines couldn’t remember the courses the recruiter signed them up for — but that didn’t stop the recruiter.

That’s just wrong.

But practices like that — and so many others — will be coming to an end as a result of today’s order signed by the President.

In short, the EO is designed to combat unscrupulous practices used by schools to gain access to the military/veteran education benefits; it protects the full range of military/veteran education benefits programs, including Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits, the Tuition Assistance program, and MyCAA; and, its provisions focus on ensuring students have the proper information, support, and protections they need to make informed decisions about their educational options.

Here’s what the EO delivers for our veterans, military service members, spouses and their families:

  • Provide students with educational and financial information to make informed decisions. The EO  will require institutions to provide prospective military and veteran students with the Administration’s Financial Aid Shopping Sheet (“Know Before You Owe”) to help students understand the total cost and quality of their education, including: tuition and fees, the availability of federal financial aid, estimated student loan debt upon graduation, and  information about student outcomes like graduation rates.
  • End fraudulent and aggressive recruiting techniques on and off military installations. The EO will require that VA and DoD improve their oversight of improper recruiting practices so that they are consistent with the regulations already in place at ED for title IV Federal student aid programs. The Principles of Excellence will also establish and strengthen solicitation rules to reduce access to military bases for bad actors.
  • Ensure support services for service-members and veterans. The EO will provide military and veteran students with clear educational plans, academic and financial aid counseling services with staff that are familiar with VA and DOD programs, and the ability to more easily re-enroll and receive a refund if they must leave school for service-related reasons.
  • Develop and collect service member- and veteran-specific student outcome data. The EO will require DoD, VA, and ED to develop student outcome measures, such as completion rates, and collect data to be made available on Ed’s College Navigator website. DoD, VA, and Ed will also improve data collection regarding which schools veterans are selecting to use their education benefits.
  • Create a centralized complaint system for students receiving military and veterans’ educational benefits. The EO require DoD and VA, in consultation with ED, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), and DOJ, to create a centralized complaint system for students receiving military and veterans’ educational benefits to register complaints against educational institutions. Additionally, VA’s State Approving Agencies will receive and process these complaints and share these complaints with appropriate federal and state agencies.
  • Begin the process to trademark the term “GI Bill.” The EO will require the VA to initiate a process to trademark the term “GI Bill” and other steps to curb websites and programs that deceptively market veterans’ educational benefits.

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama walk on stage  after being introduced at Fort Stewart (April 27, 2012)
President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama walk on stage after being introduced at Fort Stewart in Georgia, April 27, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Today’s signing by the President is a BIG step forward in preserving — and enhancing — the educational opportunities for those who have served, as well as their families.

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

Remarks by the President and First Lady at Fort Stewart, Georgia

Fort Stewart
Hinesville, Georgia

12:45 P.M. EDT

MRS. OBAMA:  Hello, Fort Stewart!  (Applause.)  We are beyond thrilled — beyond thrilled — to be with all of you today.  And before I get started, there’s just one thing I want to say, and that is, hooah!

AUDIENCE:  Hooah!

MRS. OBAMA:  Did I do that right?

AUDIENCE:  Hooah!

MRS. OBAMA:  All right, good.  (Laughter.)  Phew.

I want to start by thanking Sergeant Marshall for that very kind introduction and for sharing his story with us today.  And I want to thank all of you — our men and women in uniform, our veterans and your extraordinary families.  (Applause.)  Absolutely.  For the families, yes!  (Applause.)

One of my greatest privileges as First Lady has been meeting folks like you on bases and communities all across this country.  And I always say this, but I can never say it enough:  I am in awe of you.  I’m in awe of how many of you signed up to defend our country in a time of war, serving heroically through deployment after deployment.  I’m in awe of your families — the spouses who run their households all alone, the kids who step up at home and succeed at school and stay strong through all the challenges they face.  With their service, they make your service possible.

And I’m also in awe of our veterans — (applause) — because I know that your service doesn’t end when you hang up your uniform.  For so many of you, your whole life is a tour of duty, and as you become leaders in our communities and continue to give back to our country, you keep serving.  And like so many Americans, the more I’ve learned about the sacrifices you all make, the more I wanted to find a way to express my gratitude, and that’s — not just with words, but with action.

And that’s why last year Jill Biden and I started Joining Forces.  It’s a nationwide campaign to recognize, honor and support our veterans, our troops and our military families.  And I have to tell you, we had barely even finished announcing this campaign when we were inundated with offers to help.  I mean, so many people wanted to step up and show their appreciation that we hardly knew where to begin.

In our first year alone, more than 1,600 businesses hired more than 60,000 veterans, and they pledged to hire at least 170,000 more in the coming years.  (Applause.)  National associations of doctors and nurses representing millions of health professionals are working to improve treatment for post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries.  We’ve had TV shows like Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, Sesame Street; organizations like NASCAR and Disney — they’re working to share the stories of our military families with the rest of the country.  And these are just a few examples out of thousands all across the country.

So if I can leave you with just one message today, I want you all to know that America does have your backs.  And we are just getting started.  We are going to keep at this.  We’re going to keep on working every day to serve all of you as well as you have served this country.

And the man who has been leading the way is standing right next to me.  (Applause.)  And ladies, I think he’s kind of cute.  (Laughter and applause.)  He was fighting for all of you long before he ever became President.

He’s made veteran’s employment a national priority, with tax breaks for businesses that hire veterans and wounded warriors.  He’s working to end the outrage of veteran’s homelessness once and for all.  (Applause.)  He championed the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which has helped more than half a million veterans and military families go to college.  (Applause.)  And today, with this new effort to ensure that you all get the education you’ve earned, that story continues.

So please join me in welcoming your strongest advocate — your Commander-In-Chief and our President, my husband, Barack Obama.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  Hello, Fort Stewart!  (Applause.)  It is good to be here at Fort Stewart.  First of all, how about the First Lady, Michelle Obama?  (Applause.)  Hooah!  She is a tough act to follow.  For the gentlemen out there who are not yet married, let me just explain to you, your goal is to improve your gene pool by marrying somebody who is superior to you.  (Applause.)  Isn’t that right, General?  (Laughter.)

Listen, and as you just heard, when it comes to all of you — when it comes to our military, our veterans, your families –- Michelle Obama and Jill Biden have your back.  They are working tirelessly to make sure that our military families are treated with the honor and respect and support that they deserve.  And I could not be prouder of all the efforts that they’ve been making on their behalf.  (Applause.)
It’s a privilege to hang out with some of America’s finest.

AUDIENCE:  Hooah!

THE PRESIDENT:   The ‘Dog Face Soldiers’ of the Third Infantry Division!  (Applause.)  Rock of the Marne!  We’ve got a lot of folks in the house.  We’ve got the Raider Brigade!  (Hooah!)  We’ve got the Spartan Brigade!  (Hooah!)  We’ve got the Vanguard Brigade!  (Hooah!)  We’ve got the Provider Brigade!  (Hooah!)  And we’ve got the Falcon Brigade!  (Hooah!)

Let me thank Major General Abrams and his beautiful wife, Connie, for welcoming us.  Abe is doing an incredible job carrying on his family’s incredible tradition of service to our country.  So we are grateful for him.  Give him a big round of applause.  (Applause.)

I want to thank Command Sergeant Major Edd Watson and his beautiful wife, Sharon.  (Applause.)  I want to thank someone who’s made it her life’s mission to stand up for the financial security of you and your families, somebody who knows a little bit about military families and military service.  And actually, this is a homecoming for her because she spent over three years when they were posted down here — Holly Petraeus is in the house.  I want you guys to give her a big round of applause.  (Applause.)

But most importantly, I want to thank all of you.  I want to thank you for your service.  I want to thank you for your sacrifice.  I want to thank you for your unshakeable commitment to our country.  You have worn the uniform with honor.  You’ve performed heroically in some of the most dangerous places on Earth.  You have done everything that has been asked of you, and more.  And you have earned a special place in our nation’s history.

Future generations will speak of your achievements.  They’ll speak of how the Third Infantry Division’s ‘thunder run’ into Baghdad signaled the end of a dictatorship, and how you brought Iraq back from the brink of civil war.  They’ll speak of you and your service in Afghanistan and in the fight against al Qaeda, which you have put on the path to defeat.

And to the members of the Special Operations Forces community, while the American people may never know the full extent of your service, they will surely speak of how you kept our country safe and strong, and how you delivered justice to our enemies.

So history will remember what you did, and so will we.  We will remember the profound sacrifices that you’ve made in these wars.  Michelle and I just had a few moments at the Warriors Walk, paying tribute to 441 of your fallen comrades — men and women who gave their last full measure of devotion to keep our nation safe.  And we will remember them.  We will honor them — always.  And our thoughts and prayers also go out to the troops from Fort Stewart who are serving so bravely right now as we speak in Afghanistan.  (Applause.)  And I know many of you will be deploying there, too, so you know you’re going to be in our thoughts and prayers.
Your generation — the 9/11 Generation — has written one of the greatest chapters of military service that America has ever seen.  But I know that for many of you, a new chapter is unfolding.  The war in Iraq is over.  The transition in Afghanistan is underway.  Many of our troops are coming home, back to civilian life.  And as you return, I know that you’re looking for new jobs and new opportunities and new ways to serve this great country of ours.

And three years ago, I made your generation a promise:  I said that when your tour comes to an end — when you see our flag, when you touch down on our soil — you’ll be coming home to an America that will forever fight for you, just as you fought for us.

For me, as President, it’s been a top priority.  It’s something I worked on as a senator when I served on the Veterans Affairs Committee.  It’s something I continue to this day.  Since I took office, we’ve hired over 200,000 veterans to serve in the federal government.  (Applause.)

We’ve made it easier for veterans to access all sorts of employment services.  You just heard how Michelle and Jill have worked with businesses to secure tens of thousands of jobs for veterans and their families.  And with support from Democrats and Republicans, we’ve put in place new tax credits for companies that hire veterans.  We want every veteran who wants a job to get a job.  That’s the goal.  (Applause.)

And those of you who want to pursue a higher education and earn new skills, you deserve that opportunity as well.

Like General Abrams’ dad, my grandfather — the man who helped raise me -— served in Patton’s Army.  And when he came home, he went to school on the GI Bill, because America decided that every returning veteran of World War II should be able to afford it.  And we owe that same commitment to all of you.

So as President, I’ve made sure to champion the Post-9/11 GI Bill.  And with that bill — and the Tuition Assistance program — last year we supported more than 550,000 veterans and 325,000 servicemembers who are pursuing a higher education.  (Applause.)  Because a higher education is the clearest path to the middle class.  That’s progress.  But we’ve got more to do.  We can’t be satisfied with what we’ve already done, we’ve got more to do.  We’ve got to make sure you’ve got every tool you need to make an informed decision when it comes to picking a school.  And that’s why Michelle and I are here today.

Right now, it’s not that easy.  I’ve heard the stories.  Some of you guys can relate; you may have experienced it yourselves.  You go online to try and find the best school for military members, or your spouses, or other family members.  You end up on a website that looks official.  They ask you for your email, they ask you for your phone number.  They promise to link you up with a program that fits your goals.  Almost immediately after you’ve typed in all that information, your phone starts ringing.  Your inbox starts filling up.  You’ve never been more popular in your life.  All of these schools want you to enroll with them.

And it sounds good.  Every school and every business should be out there competing for your skills and your talent and your leadership — everything that you’ve shown in uniform.  But as some of your comrades have discovered, sometimes you’re dealing with folks who aren’t interested in helping you.  They’re not interested in helping you find the best program.  They are interested in getting the money.  They don’t care about you; they care about the cash.

So they harass you into making a quick decision with all those calls and emails.  And if they can’t get you online, they show up on post.  One of the worst examples of this is a college recruiter who had the nerve to visit a barracks at Camp Lejeune and enroll Marines with brain injuries — just for the money.  These Marines had injuries so severe some of them couldn’t recall what courses the recruiter had signed them up for.  That’s appalling.  That’s disgraceful.  It should never happen in America.

I’m not talking about all schools.  Many of them — for-profit and non-profit — provide quality education to our servicemembers and our veterans and their families.  But there are some bad actors out there.  They’ll say you don’t have to pay a dime for your degree but once you register, they’ll suddenly make you sign up for a high interest student loan.  They’ll say that if you transfer schools, you can transfer credits.  But when you try to actually do that, you suddenly find out that you can’t.  They’ll say they’ve got a job placement program when, in fact, they don’t.  It’s not right.  They’re trying to swindle and hoodwink you.  And today, here at Fort Stewart, we’re going to put an end to it.  (Applause.)  We’re putting an end to it.

The executive order I’m about to sign will make life a whole lot more secure for you and your families and our veterans — and a whole lot tougher for those who try to prey on you.  Here’s what we’re going to do.

First, we’re going to require colleges that want to enroll members of our military or veterans or your families to provide clear information about their qualifications and available financial aid.  You’ll be able to get a simple fact sheet called “Know Before You Owe.”  Know before you owe.  (Applause.)  And it will lay out all the information that you need to make your own choices about how best to pay for college.

Second, we’re going to require those schools to step up their support for our students.  They need to provide a lot more counseling.  If you’ve got to move because of a deployment or a reassignment, they’ve got to help you come up with a plan so that you can still get your degree.  (Applause.)

Number three, we’re going to bring an end to the aggressive — and sometimes dishonest — recruiting that takes place.  We’re going to up our oversight of improper recruitment practices.  We’re going to strengthen the rules about who can come on post and talk to servicemembers.  (Applause.)  And we’re going to make it a lot easier for all of you to file complaints and for us to take action when somebody is not acting right.

This is about making sure you succeed — because when you succeed, our country succeeds.  It’s that simple.  After all, at the end of World War II, so many Americans like my grandfather came home to new opportunities.  Because of the original GI Bill, by 1947, half of all Americans who enrolled in college were veterans.  And you know what, they did pretty well.

They rose to become Presidents and Supreme Court Justices and Nobel Prize winners.  They went on to become scientists and engineers, and doctors and nurses.  Eight million Americans were educated under the original GI Bill.  And together, they forged the backbone of what would become the largest middle class that the world had ever seen.  They built this country.  They turned us into that economic superpower.

And we can do it again.  We face some tough times.  We’ve gone through the worst recession since the Great Depression, two wars.  But you know what, we’ve faced tough times before.  And all of you know something that America should never forget:  Just as you rise or fall as one unit, we rise or fall as one nation.  Just as you have each other’s backs, what has always made America great is that we have each other’s backs.  Each of us is only here because somebody looked out for us.  Not just our parents, but our neighbors and our communities and our houses of worship and our VFW halls.  (Applause.)  Each of us is here because we had a country that was willing to invest in things like community colleges and universities, and scientific research and medicine, and caring for our veterans.  Each of us is only here because somebody, somewhere, had our backs.

This country exists because generations of Americans worked together and looked out for one other.  Out of many, we are one.  Those are the values we’ve got to return to.  If we do, there’s nothing this country cannot achieve.  There’s no challenge that’s too great for us.  There’s no destiny beyond our reach.  As long as we’re joined in common purpose and common resolve, better days will always lie ahead, and we will remind everybody why the United States of America is the greatest country on Earth.

And as I look out at this sea of incredible men and women — (applause) — it gives me confidence that our best days are still ahead.

God bless you.  God bless our armed services.  God bless the Third Division.  God bless the United States of America.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

And now I’m going to sign this executive order.

(The executive order is signed.)

END
1:09 P.M. EDT

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