Full Text Obama Presidency August 9, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at the Student Loans Bill Signing Ceremony in the Oval Office

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at Student Loans Bill Signing

Source: WH, 8-9-13

President Barack Obama signs H.R. 1911, the "Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act of 2013" President Barack Obama signs H.R. 1911, the “Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act of 2013,” during a ceremony in the Oval Office, Aug. 9, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

President Obama signs the “Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act of 2013

Oval Office
2:21 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT:  Well, before I sign this, I just want to say thank you to this extraordinary coalition that helped make this signing possible.  I want to thank Chairman Kline, all the members of both House and Senate from both parties that came together to design a sensible, common-sense approach to keeping student interest rates at a reasonable level so that young people have a better opportunity to go to college, get the education that they need not only to better their own lives but also to strengthen the country’s economy.
And I want to thank the advocates, including some of the young people I suspect will be benefiting from lower student loans — or lower student loan interest rates — because without their voice, without their participation, we probably would not have gotten this bill done.
Last point I’ll make, and I suspect the Senators and Congressmen behind me will agree with this, even though we’ve been able to stabilize the interest rates on student loans, our job is not done, because the cost of college remains extraordinarily high.  It’s out of reach for a lot of folks, and for those who do end up attending college, the amount of debt that young people are coming out of school with is a huge burden on them; it’s a burden on their families.  It makes it more difficult for them to buy a home.  It makes it more difficult for them if they want to start a business.  It has a depressive effect on the economy overall.  And we’ve got to do something about it.
So I’m going to be looking forward to engaging this same coalition to see if we can continue to take additional steps to reform our higher education system, and I’ll have some more things to say about that in the weeks to come.
But for now, I want to celebrate what we accomplished here, and again, thank everybody here for their leadership in getting it done.
(The bill is signed.)
Those of you who haven’t seen me do this before — (laughter) — it is a real art form.  (Laughter.)
SENATOR DURBIN:  Thank you, Mr. President — I remember the 90-minute seminar in this office.  (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT:  It was very interesting.  (Laughter.)
It feels good signing bills — I haven’t done this in a while.  (Laughter.)  Hint, hint.  Hint, hint.  (Laughter.)
SENATOR DURBIN:  How about a budget, Mr. President?
THE PRESIDENT:  There you go.  That’s what I’m talking about.  (Laughter.)
All right, thank you, everybody.
END
2:25 P.M. EDT
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Political Headlines June 8, 2013: GOP Weekly Address: Indiana Rep. Luke Messer on Student Loans

GOP Address: Indiana Rep. Luke Messer on Student Loans

Source: WH, 6-8-13

Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call

In this week’s GOP address, Indiana Rep. Luke Messer spoke of the importance of preventing a rate hike for federal student loans.

“What makes this country great is that my story is not exceptional,” he continued. “Every year, millions of American students see their career dreams begin with the help of federal student financial aid.”

“Unfortunately,” he said, “in just three weeks, on July 1st, interest rates on many federal student loans are set to double, from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent.”…READ MORE

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

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

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

]Source: WH, 5-31-13

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

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

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

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

Remarks by the President on College Affordability

Source: WH, 5-31-13

Rose Garden

10:26 A.M. EDT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

END
10:36 A.M. EDT

Political Headlines June 29, 2012: House Passes Student Loan Interest Rates Extension & Transportation Jobs Bill with a Vote of 373-52

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

IN FOCUS: HOUSE PASSES STUDENT LOAN INTEREST RATES EXTENSION & TRANSPORTATION JOBS BILL WITH A VOTE OF 373-52

House passes student loans, highway jobs bill: The House on Friday overwhelmingly passed legislation to salvage 2.8 million jobs, mostly in construction, and forestall a sharp increase in interest rates on college loans.

The measure cleared the House on a 373-52 vote and Senate approval was expected shortly…. – AP, 6-29-12

  • Congress sends student loan and transportation package to Obama: Congress ended months of partisan bickering on Friday by passing and sending to President Barack Obama a comprehensive extension of highway and infrastructure projects, along with a one-year extension of low student loan interest rates…. – msnbc.com, 6-29-12
  • Congress moves toward passage of highway bill, takes action on student loans: The burst of legislating comes just four months before the November elections, giving lawmakers achievements to show off to voters who have increasingly held Congress in low esteem…. – CS Monitor, 6-29-12
451 29-Jun H R 4348 On Agreeing to the Conference Report P To provide an extension of Federal-aid highway, highway safety, motor carrier safety, transit, and other programs funded out of the Highway Trust Fund pending enactment of a multiyear law reauthorizing such programs, and for other purposes
450 29-Jun H R 5972 On Passage P Making appropriations for the Departments of Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development, and related agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2013, and for other purposes
449 29-Jun H R 5972 On Motion to Recommit with Instructions F Making appropriations for the Departments of Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development, and related agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2013, and for other purposes
448 29-Jun H R 5972 On Agreeing to the Amendment A Denham of California Amendment No. 9
447 29-Jun H R 5972 On Agreeing to the Amendment A Lankford of Oklahoma Amendment
446 29-Jun H R 5972 On Agreeing to the Amendment A McClintock of California Amendment No. 13
445 29-Jun H R 5972 On Agreeing to the Amendment F Blackburn of Tennessee Amendment
444 29-Jun H RES 717 On Agreeing to the Resolution P Providing for consideration of H.R. 5856, Defense Appropriations for FY 2013; consideration of H.R. 6020, Financial Services and General Government Appropriations for FY 2013; consideration of the conference report to accompany H.R. 4348, the Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2012, Part II
443 29-Jun H RES 718 On Motion to Table P Raising a question of the privileges of the House

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

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

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

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

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

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

President Obama Again Pushes Congress to Act on Student Loans

Source: WH, 6-21-12

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

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

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

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

Remarks by the President on College Affordability

East Room

1:36 P.M. EDT

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

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  We love you!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

END
1:47 P.M. EDT

Political Headlines May 24, 2012: Senates Rejects Both Democratic & Republican Versions of the Bill to Keep Student Loan Rates Low — Dems 51-43 & GOP 34-62

POLITICAL HEADLINES

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Dueling Student Loan Bills Rejected in Senate

Hemera/Thinkstock

The Senate made one last gesture this month to work on the Student Loan bill, but Democratic and Republican versions both failed in a last-minute, and half-hearted, attempt Thursday before lawmakers leave for a week-long Memorial Day holiday.

The Democratic bill failed by a 51-43 vote. The Republican alternative failed by a 34-62 vote. Both bills needed 60 votes for passage.

Both Republicans and Democrats believe the subsidized Stafford loan rates should not be doubled from the current 3.4 percent to 7.6 percent. Leaders of both parties say the current rates should be extended for at least another year.

But they cannot agree to how to pay for the $6 billion bill….READ MORE

Vote Date Question Result Description
00113 24-May On Passage of the Bill Rejected S. 2343; A bill to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to extend the reduced interest rate for Federal Direct Stafford Loans, and for other purposes.
00112 24-May On the Amendment S.Amdt. 2153 Rejected Alexander Amdt. No. 2153; In the nature of a substitute.

 

Statement by the Press Secretary on Student Loan Interest Rate Votes in the Senate

With only 37 days left to stop student loan interest rates from doubling on July 1, Senate Republicans still have not proven that they’re serious about resolving this problem.  For the second time this month, they voted to ask millions of students to pay an average of $1,000 each rather than close a loophole that allows the very wealthy to avoid paying their fair share.  Now is not the time to refight old political battles, and certainly not the time to cut preventive health care measures.  With only a few days left until student loan interest rates double, it’s time to get this done so hard working students get a fair shot at an affordable education.

White House Recap April 20-27, 2012: The Obama Presidency’s Weekly Recap — President Obama’s University Tour in Support of Keeping Student Loan Interest Rates Low — Slow Jams with Jimmy Fallon

WHITE HOUSE RECAP

WHITE HOUSE RECAP: APRIL 20-27, 2012

Weekly Wrap Up: “Stand Up. Be Heard. Be Counted.”

Source: WH, 4-27-12

Soldier Ride: Last Friday, 22 injured servicemembers took a spin around the South Lawn – with President Obama cheering them on – as a part of the annual Wounded Warrior Project’s Soldier Ride. The Soldier Ride is a four-day cycling event that unites Wounded Warriors and aims to help restore their physical and emotional well-being. The President praised the riders for their strength and dedication, noting, “You ride because you can, and you ride for those who can’t. That’s what this is all about.”

Honoring Never Again: “Awareness without action changes nothing,” the President remarked at the United States Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. on Monday. He spoke about honoring the pledge of “never again” by making sure we are doing everything we can to prevent and respond to atrocities and save lives, by spearheading new efforts and utilizing existing ones, including the Atrocities Prevention Board – established by the President to bring together senior officials from across our government to focus on the critical mission to prevent mass atrocities and genocide.

Fighting Falcons: The United States Air Force football team was honored with the Commander-in-Chief Trophy on Monday in the East Room of the White House after beating the Army and Navy in 2011 to claim their 18th trophy.

#DontDoubleMyRate: When speaking this week at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Colorado at Boulder and the University of Iowa about the importance of keeping interest rates on student loans low so that more Americans can get a fair shot at an affordable college education, President Obama asked college students to tell their members of Congress one thing: Don’t double my rates. While Congress cut the rates on federal loans in half five years ago, that rate cut is set to expire on July 1st. Students are taking on more debt to afford the tuition and fees, and for each year that Congress doesn’t act, the average student with federal loans will rack up an additional $1,000 in debt.

Slow Jams: On Tuesday while stopping by Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, President Obama had a message for Congress: This is not the time to make school more affordable for our young people. He didn’t just say it, though – if you missed President Obama slow jam the news, you can watch it here.

Veterans and their Families Can’t Wait: On Friday, the President and the First Lady traveled to Fort Stewart, Georgia, home to the Army’s famed 3rd Infantry Division. Besides meeting with soldiers and families, the President signed an Executive Order that renews his commitment to fully fund the post-9/11 G.I. Bill in an effort to preserve and enhance the educational opportunities for those who have served, as well as their families.

Political Buzz April 27, 2012: House Passes Bill Keeping Student Loan Rates from Doubling 215-195 — Paid with Healthcare Funds — President Barack Obama Promises Veto

POLITICAL BUZZ

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University. Ms. Goodman has also contributed the overviews, and chronologies in History of American Presidential Elections, 1789-2008, 4th edition, edited by Gil Troy, Fred L. Israel, and Arthur Meier Schlesinger by Facts on File, Inc. in late 2011.

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

IN FOCUS: HOUSE PASSES BILL KEEPING STUDENT LOAN RATES FROM DOUBLING 215-195 — PAID WITH HEALTHCARE FUNDS

House Rejects Increase in Student Loan Rates: Moments after an unusual fiery appeal from Speaker John A. Boehner, the House voted 215 to 195 on Friday to prevent a doubling of student loan rates and challenge President Obama over a veto threat. The bill, which would strip $5.9 billion…. – NYT 4-27-12

  • GOP ignores White House veto threat, passes bill to keep student loan rates: Republicans ignored a veto threat and overcame a rebellion by party conservatives to push a bill through the House Friday keeping interest rates on millions of federal student loans from doubling this summer. Lawmakers voted 215-195 to…. – WaPo, 4-27-12
  • House approves student loan bill, paid for with healthcare funds: Setting the stage for another showdown with the Obama administration, Republicans in the House on Friday narrowly passed legislation to prevent a rate hike on student loans — to be paid for with funds from the nation’s new…. – LAT, 4-27-12
  • House votes to extend low rates on federal student loans: The US House approved, on a mostly party-line (215-195) vote, a $5.9 billion bill to maintain low interest rates for Stafford student loans, paying for it by slashing funds for a provision of President Obama’s…. – USA Today, 4-27-12
  • GOP, Democrats make student loans an election-year issue: Both parties are advancing plans to address mounting student loan debt while disparaging the approach of their opponents…. – CS Monitor, 4-26-12

No Time For Old Political Battles

Source: WH, 4-27-12

On July 1, unless Congress acts, interest rates will double for more than 7.4 million students with federal loans. Fortunately, even though they voted just weeks ago in lockstep to allow this increase, Republicans in Congress have come around on the issue since President Obama took it to the American people – claiming they’re ready to step up and stop the rate hike. Unfortunately,  rather than work together to ensure interest rates on student loans don’t double, they have decided to re-fight old political battles, proposing to eliminate the health care law’s Prevention and Public Health Fund to pay for this important reform. This proposal would put women’s health at risk. And fighting old political battles won’t protect students and young people from major rate hikes.

Eliminating the Prevention and Public Health Fund would have a devastating effect on women’s health and our work to prevent disease and illness. Eliminating the Prevention and Public Health Fund would mean:

  • Hundreds of thousands of women could lose access to vital cancer screenings.   Prevention Fund resources are expected to help more than 300,000 women be screened for breast cancer in 2013 and more than 280,000 be screened for cervical cancer.
  • Programs that help to prevent congenital heart defects, prevent fetal alcohol syndrome, and promote early identification and intervention efforts for children with developmental delays and disabilities could be eliminated.
  • Tens of thousands children could lose access to immunizations.

These are just a few of the important ways the Prevention and Public Health Fund will help keep millions of Americans healthy. Keeping college affordable for America’s students should not come at the expense of putting women’s health at risk.

The Senate will soon vote on a more viable solution to keep interest rates low and provide students a fair shot at an affordable education, by closing a loophole that allows people making more than $250,000 a year to avoid paying payroll taxes. Congress should find a bipartisan solution to keep rates low without hurting Americans’ health or increasing the deficit. There’s no good reason for interest rates to double for over 7 million students. But Republicans in Congress must prove that they’re serious about setting aside the political fights of the past and actually getting this done.

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

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

President Obama Speaks to Students in Iowa about Student Loan Rates

Source: WH, 4-25-12<

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Learn more:

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

Remarks by the President on College Affordability

University of Iowa
Iowa City, Iowa

1:28 P.M. CDT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And this is personal for me —

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  We love you, Barack!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AUDIENCE:  Booo —

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

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

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

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

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

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

AUDIENCE:  No!

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

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

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

AUDIENCE MEMBERS:  No!

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

AUDIENCE:  Booo —

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

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

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

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

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

AUDIENCE:  No!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

END
2:57 P.M. CDT

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

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

President Obama: College Is the Best Investment You Can Make

Source: WH, 4-25-12

President Obama at the University of Colorado Coors Event Center
President Barack Obama delivers remarks on interest rates on student loans at the University of Colorado Coors Event Center in Boulder, Colo., April 24, 2012. (Official White House Photo by by Chuck Kennedy)

If Congress doesn’t act, more than 7.4 million students with federal student loans will see their interest rates double on July 1 of this year. President Obama believes that this is unacceptable: Higher education cannot be a luxury in this country. It’s an economic imperative that every family must be able to afford.

On Tuesday, the President visited universities in Colorado and North Carolina to talk with students about the importance of keeping interest rates on student loans low so that more Americans can get a fair shot at an affordable college education that will provide the skills they need to find a good job, and a clear path to middle class. President Obama also paid a visit to Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, which was taping at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he “slow jammed” the news, explaining, “Now is not the time to make school more expensive for our young people.”

During a call with college reporters, the President explained why the battle over college affordability is one he is willing to fight:

 “I’ve always believed that we should be doing everything we can to help put higher education within reach for every single American student — because the unemployment rate for Americans with at least a college degree is about half the national average.  And it’s never been more important. Unfortunately, it’s also never been more expensive.  And most of you guys I’m sure have reported about this and know this — students who take out loans to pay for college graduate owing an average of $25,000 a year. And I know what this is like, because when Michelle and I graduated from college and law school we had enormous debts, and it took us a lot of years to pay off.  So that’s probably why I feel this thing so personally.”

In Colorado, President Obama repeated his call for students to take action and make sure their voices are being heard:

“You need to send a message to your member of Congress. Tell them you’re not going to set your sights lower.  Tell them you’re not going to settle for something less.  You call them, you email them, you write on their Facebook page, tweet.  We’ve got, actually, a hashtag that I want everybody to use — #dontdoublemyrate.”

President Obama talks to patrons at the Sink in Boulder, Colo

President Barack Obama talks to patrons at the Sink turning a local stop in Boulder, Colo., April 24, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)


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POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

Remarks by the President–Boulder, Colorado

University of Colorado
Boulder, Colorado

7:20 P.M. MDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, Boulder!  (Applause.)  How’s it going, Buffaloes?  (Applause.)  Well, you guys are just happy because school is almost out, isn’t it?  (Laughter.)

Please give Daniel a big round of applause for that great introduction.  (Applause.)  I just saw Daniel over at The Sink.  (Applause.)  I bought some pizza.  And I heard a rumor that Robert Redford used to work there.

AUDIENCE:  Yess!

THE PRESIDENT:  So that’s just a sign — always be nice to your server because you never know where they’ll end up.  (Laughter.)  I will say that I was shaking hands with folks outside and a young woman — she got very excited and spilled yogurt on me.  (Laughter.)  More hazardly, she spilled yogurt on the Secret Service, which you — (laughter) — the agent just stood there, just looking at her.  (Laughter.)

I want to thank the Chancellor of UC Boulder, Phil DiStefano.  Give him a big round of applause for having me here today.  (Applause.)  We’ve got the Lieutenant Governor of Colorado, Joe Garcia, in the house.  (Applause.)  And I want to thank you for being indoors when it is gorgeous outside.  (Applause.)

Now, I’ve just come from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill — (applause.)  I was talking to another good-looking group of students.  Jimmy Fallon and I taped his show there tonight — make sure to tune in.  (Laughter.)  But we saved the prime-time event for Boulder.  (Applause.)

And I’ve come here to talk to you about what most of you are focused on every day — at least you’re supposed to be — and that is studying and college.  Look, college isn’t just the best investment you can make in your future — it is the best investment that you can make in your country’s future.  I believe that.  (Applause.)

And by the way, I just want to say, all of you who have seats, feel free to sit down.  (Laughter.)  Because it’s hot in here and I don’t want folks dropping off.  (Laughter.)  There you go, make yourself comfortable.  Take a load off.  (Applause.)

So I’m proud of all of you for doing what it takes to make this investment in a college education because it has never been more important.

In today’s economy, there’s no greater predictor of individual success than a good education.  Right now, the unemployment rate for Americans with a college degree or more is about half the national average.  Their incomes are twice as high as those who don’t have a high school diploma.  Higher education, whether it’s a four-year college or two years at a community college, is the clearest path we’ve got to the middle class.

Now, I know that those of you who are about to graduate — (applause) — you’re pretty cheerful about that, huh?  (Laughter.)  I know those of you who are about to graduate sometimes are wondering what’s in store for your future.  Because not even four years ago, just as the global economy was about to enter into freefall, you were still trying to find your way around campus.  And today, our economy is recovering, but it’s not yet fully recovered from the worst financial crisis and economic crisis that we’ve experienced since the Great Depression.

Our businesses have added more than 4 million jobs over the past two years.  (Applause.)  But there are still too many Americans who are out there looking for a job or trying to figure out how to pay the bills and cover the mortgage.  There are too many folks who still lack the basic security that has always been at the heart of the American promise, but has been slipping away for more than a decade now, even before the recession hit.

But here’s the thing.  I want all of you to know that the degree you earn from Colorado is going to be the best tool that you’ve got to achieve the American promise.  (Applause.)  By far. That basic idea that if you work hard, no matter where you come from, no matter what you look like, no matter what the circumstances of your birth, if you work hard you can do well enough to raise a family and own a home, send your own kids to college, put a little bit away for retirement.  That idea that each generation has a little more opportunity than the last.

I can tell you that now as a parent.  When I look at Malia and Sasha — sometimes I coach Sasha’s basketball games, and if she scores a basket I am so excited, compared to when I used to score a basket.  (Laughter.)  It’s the hope that all your parents have for you — that your own kids will surpass you; that they’re going to be able to shine as bright as they can imagine.  And that’s the dream that your parents have for you.

And keeping that promise alive, that’s the defining issue of our time.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  We believe in you!  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  I believe in you.  I believe in you.  (Applause.)  I believe in you.

And I don’t want this to be a country where a shrinking number of Americans are doing really, really well while a growing number are struggling to get by.  (Applause.)  That’s not the future I want for you.  That’s not the future I want for my daughters.  I want this forever to be a country where everybody gets a fair shot, everybody is doing their fair share, everybody plays by the same set of rules.  (Applause.)  That’s the America I know.  That’s the America I love.

It’s a big and bold and generous America.  It’s not a cramped America.  It’s not an America that says, set your sights lower.  And that’s the America that’s within our reach.

You know, I think back sometimes to my own circumstances.  My grandfather had the chance to go to college because this country decided that every returning veteran of World War II should be able to go to school.  (Applause.)  And then my mother was able to raise two kids by herself while she was going to school because she was able to get grants and work her way through school.  (Applause.)  And then I’m only standing here today, and Michelle is only where she is today, because scholarships and student loans gave us a shot at a great education.

We didn’t come from well-to-do backgrounds.  We didn’t have famous families.  But it wasn’t just that we worked hard.  It was also that somebody made an investment in us.  (Applause.)  That’s what America did for us.

This country has always made a commitment to put a good education within the reach of everybody.  Everybody who’s willing to work for it, we’ve said, you know what, you’ve got a shot.  That’s what makes us special.  That’s what makes us exceptional.
That’s what kept us at the forefront of business and science and technology and medicine.  And that’s the commitment that we’ve got to reaffirm today.  (Applause.)  That’s what we believe in.

But I don’t need to tell all of you that it’s gotten harder. Since most of you were born, tuition and fees at American colleges have more than doubled.  And that forces students like you to take out more loans and rack up more debt.  The average student who borrows to pay for college now graduates about $25,000 in student loan debt.  Not good.  Americans now owe more on their student loans than they do on their credit cards.

And living with that kind of debt means some pretty tough choices when you’re first starting out.  It means putting off buying your first house.  Or it means maybe you can’t start up that business right away that you’ve got this great idea for.

When I was over at The Sink I was talking to three business majors, and they all had these business ideas.  But it’s tougher if you’ve got all this loan that you’re already thinking about the minute you get out of school.  Maybe you’ve got to start a family a little bit later.  It takes you a longer time to save for retirement.  And when a big chunk of every paycheck goes towards loan debt, that’s not just tough on you.  It’s not just tough on your families.  It’s painful for the whole economy because that’s money that could be going into the economy and could be going into new businesses and could be helping businesses grow.

And I want to point out — listen, I know about this firsthand.  Michelle and I, we know about this firsthand.  This is not something I read in a briefing book.  (Laughter.)  This is not some abstract idea for us.  We’ve been in your shoes.  When we graduated from college and law school, we had a mountain of debt, both of us.  That means when we got married, we got poorer together.  (Laughter.)  We added our assets together, and they were zero.  (Laughter.)  And then we added our liabilities together, and they were a lot.  (Laughter.)

We paid more for our student loans than we paid for our mortgage each month when we first bought our small condo in Chicago.  And we were lucky to land good jobs with a steady income, but we only finished paying off our student loans about eight years ago.  Think about that.  I’m the President of the United States and — (laughter and applause) — so here I am, and we were writing those checks every month.  And that wasn’t easy, especially when we had Malia and Sasha, because at that point, we’re supposed to be saving for their college educations, and we’re still paying off on our college educations.  So I’ve been in your shoes.  I know what I am talking about here.  This is not something that I just read about.

So we’ve got to make college more affordable for you.  (Applause.)  We cannot price the middle class out of a college education.  When most new jobs in America require more than a high school diploma, higher education — whether at a four-year college, at a two-year program — it can’t be a luxury.  It’s an economic imperative for every family in America.  And every family in America should be able to afford it.

As long as those young people are willing to put in the work, as long as you’re willing to study hard and take advantage of this opportunity, then we’ve got to make sure it’s there for you.  (Applause.)

Now, I’m going to be asking for your help, but let me tell you what I’ve already done on this issue, Colorado, because I think it’s important to know that we haven’t just been talking the talk — we’ve been walking the walk — to try to help make college more affordable.

Before I took office, we had a student loan system where tens of billions of taxpayer dollars were going to subsidize banks in the student loan program instead of going to students.  So we changed it.  We cut out the middleman.  We said, why do we need the banks?  They’re not taking a risk.  These are federally guaranteed loans; let’s give the money directly to students.  (Applause.)

And I have to tell you, there were folks in Washington who fought us tooth and nail because they wanted to protect the status quo.  One of them, when they heard that we wanted to take this business away from the banks, they said, this is “an outrage.”  But the real outrage was letting these banks keep these subsidies while students were working two or three jobs just to try to pay tuition.

So we kept at it, and we kept at it, and we won that fight. And today, that money is going directly to where it should have been going in the first place, and that’s helping millions of young people afford a college education.  (Applause.)

And then last fall, I acted to cap student loan payments faster, so that nearly 1.6 million students who make their payments on time, they have the option of only paying 10 percent of their monthly income towards loans once they graduate.  And that means if you decide to be a teacher, or you decide to be a social worker, or you’re going into a profession that doesn’t  pay a lot of money, you still have that option, because you know that your monthly payment will be manageable.  (Applause.)  And that’s important.  (Applause.)

And then we decided we’ve got to make sure every student has access to a simple fact sheet on student loans and financial aid, so you can have all the information you need to make intelligent choices on your own about how to pay for college.  So some of you know we created this new Consumer Finance Protection Bureau.  It’s a watchdog for consumers.  (Applause.)  And one of their mandates is to focus on student loans.  And so they’ve produced a website and fact sheets called “Know Before You Owe” — “Know Before You Owe” — which is something I wish Michelle and I knew about, wish we had had.

So we’ve done those steps to help provide you good information and to make sure that we’ve expanded access to Pell grants and student loans.  But that’s not enough.  It’s not enough just to increase student aid.  We can’t keep on subsidizing skyrocketing tuition, or we’re just going to run out of money.  We’ll just run out of money.  (Applause.)

So what I said to colleges and universities is, you guys have to do your parts to keep costs down.  (Applause.)  And I’ve told Congress, steer federal aid to those schools that keep tuition affordable and provide good value and serve their students well.  We’ve put colleges on notice:  If you can’t show us that you’re making every effort to keep tuition from going up, then funding from taxpayers will go down.  You’ve got to make an effort.  (Applause.)  We’ve got to hold colleges accountable if they don’t.  (Applause.)

Of course, public universities like this one also understand that states have to do their part, state legislators have to do their part in making higher education a priority.  (Applause.)  Last year, over 40 states cut their higher education spending.

AUDIENCE:  Booo —

THE PRESIDENT:  Not good.  These budget cuts have been one of the biggest factors in your tuition going up.  So we’re challenging states to take responsibility.  We told them, if you can bring — find new ways to bring down costs of college, make it easier for students to graduate, we’ll help you do it.

So that’s what we’ve already done.  We’ve helped families, helped more young people afford a higher education.  We’re offering incentives to states and colleges and universities to keep costs down.  And now, guess what, Congress has to do their part.  (Applause.)  Congress has to do their part.  (Applause.)

They need to extend the tuition tax credit that we put in place when I first came into office that saves middle-class families thousands of dollars.  They need to safeguard aid for low-income students, so that today’s freshmen and sophomores know they’re going to be able to count on it.  Our Pell grants have to be there for students.  They need to give more young people the chance to earn your way through college by doubling the number of work-study jobs over the next five years.  (Applause.)

And then there’s something that they’ve got to do right now. They have to prevent the interest rates on federal student loans from shooting up and shaking you down.  And that’s where you come in.  (Applause.)

All right.  Now, five years ago, Congress cut the rates on federal student loans in half.  That’s five years ago.  Not the current Congress, Congress five years ago.  (Laughter.)  On July 1st of this year, two months from now, that rate cut expires.  I want everybody to understand this.  Interest rates on those loans will double overnight, starting on July 1st, if Congress does not act.  And for each year that Congress does not act, the average student with these loans is going to rack up an additional $1,000 in debt.  So this is money out of your pocket.  It’s basically a $1,000 tax hike for more than 7 million students across America  — almost 170,000 students here in Colorado alone.

Now, I just want to see a show of hands because I want to make sure I’m not misinformed here.  How many of you can afford to pay an extra $1,000 right now?  I didn’t think so.  So stopping this should be a no-brainer.  Helping more of our young people afford college should be at the forefront of America’s agenda.  It shouldn’t be a Democratic or a Republican issue.  Think about it.  (Applause.)  This wasn’t a partisan issue in the past.  The Stafford loans, that’s named after a Republican senator.  Pell grants, they’re named after a Democratic senator.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  America!

THE PRESIDENT:  America.  (Laughter.)  That’s what we’re supposed to be thinking about.

Look, when Congress cut these rates five years ago, 77 Republicans in the House of Representatives voted for it.  Of course, a couple hundred Democrats voted for it, but that’s okay. It was a bipartisan effort.  Today you’ve got Republicans who run Congress, and they’re not saying whether or not they’re going to stop your rates from doubling.  Some have hinted that they’d only do it if we cut things like aid for low-income students instead. So think about this.

AUDIENCE:  Booo —

THE PRESIDENT:  They’ll say, we’ll keep your rates low as long as we’re messing with folks who need them even more.  Does that make sense to you?

AUDIENCE:  No!

THE PRESIDENT:  I want to read a quote.  This is from a Republican congresswoman.  I didn’t really understand this.  (Laughter.)  I’m quoting her.  She said that she has “very little tolerance for people who tell me they graduate with debt… because there’s no reason for that.”  She said, students who rack up student loan debt are just sitting on their butts, having opportunity “dumped in your lap.”

AUDIENCE:  Booo —

THE PRESIDENT:  You guys can Google her or what have you, but — (laughter) — now, think about that.  Think about that.  I can tell you, Michelle and I, we didn’t take out loans because we were lazy.  (Laughter.)  You didn’t take out loans because you’re lazy.  You don’t take out loans lightly.  You don’t say to yourself, man, this is great, I’m going to be really in debt.  (Laughter.)  I’m thrilled.  You did it because the cost of college kept on going up, and you’re trying to graduate.

And if these guys were serious about making college more affordable, then they wouldn’t be voting to cut financial aid in their — their budget, if you look at their budget, what it means is you’re going to be cutting aid for 10 million college students by an average of more than $1,000.  They certainly wouldn’t let student rates double overnight if they really cared about this issue.

They say that, well, we’ve got to do it because we’ve got to bring down the deficit.  Now, first of all, these guys ran up the deficit.  (Applause.)  Remember, these are the same folks who voted in favor of two wars without paying for it, and big tax cuts without paying for it.  They just voted to keep billions of dollars of taxpayer subsidies to big oil companies who are raking in record profits.  They just voted to let millionaires and billionaires keep paying low tax rates — lower tax rates than middle-class workers.  They just voted to give an average tax cut of at least $150,000 to the wealthiest Americans — folks like me who don’t need it, weren’t asking for it.  And the way they pay for it is to cut things like education and job training that give students opportunities to work and succeed.  So they can’t be too serious about deficits.

I mean, do we want to keep tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans who don’t need them, didn’t ask for them, the country can’t afford it?  Or do we want to make sure that everybody pays their fair share, and make sure that young people are able to afford to go to college?  (Applause.)

Do we want to keep giving taxpayer giveaways to big oil?  Or do we want to invest in clean energy and do we want to make sure that we’re rebuilding this country?  (Applause.)  And make sure that we can keep interest rates on millions of students affordable?  We need to be investing in the things that build America over the long term.  Things like education and science, a caring for our veterans, and a strong military.  (Applause.)  And we can’t have it both ways.  We’ve got to make choices.

In America, we admire success.  We aspire to it.  I want everybody here to do great, be rich, go out and start a business. That’s wonderful.   We work and we hustle, you study hard to get your degree — because you believe in success and individual initiative.  But America is not just about a few people doing well.  America is about everybody having the chance to do well.  (Applause.)  That’s what the American Dream is all about.  (Applause.)

Some of us had parents or grandparents who said, maybe I can’t go to college, but some day my son can go to college.  Maybe I can’t start my own business, but some day my daughter, she can start her own business.  Maybe I’m an immigrant and I won’t have every opportunity, but I believe that in this country, is this place, this is a place where no matter who you are or what you look like, or where you come from or what your last name is, you can make it if you try.  That’s what America is about.  (Applause.)  That’s who we are.  That’s who we are.  (Applause.)
So let me just be clear here.  We need to send a message to folks who don’t seem to get this that “setting your sights lower,” that’s not an education plan.  “You’re on your own” — that’s not an economic plan.  We can’t just cut our way to prosperity.

Earlier generations made investments necessary to build a strong middle class.  Somebody started this university.  Somebody gave us a chance.  Somebody made the investment in us because they helped to forge America’s leadership in things like science and technology and manufacturing.  That’s what previous generations did, and now it’s our turn.  Somebody here might be discovering the cure for cancer.  Somebody here might be getting the formula for fusion.  Somebody here might be inventing the next great American industry.  But that’s only going to happen if we understand that we’re in this together.

And that’s why I need your help.  I’m asking everybody who’s here and anybody who’s watching, anybody who’s following online, you need to send a message to your member of Congress.  Tell them you’re not going to set your sights lower.  Tell them you’re not going to settle for something less.  You call them, you email them, you write on their Facebook page, tweet.  (Laughter.)  We’ve got, actually, a hashtag that I want everybody to use — #dontdoublemyrate.  It’s pretty — everybody, I want you to repeat that.

AUDIENCE:  Dontdoublemyrate.

THE PRESIDENT:  Dontdoublemyrate.

AUDIENCE:  Dontdoublemyrate.  I asked students at North Carolina to do this earlier today and they got it trending worldwide for a while.  So let’s see if you can do better — (applause) — because we’ve got to keep the heat on.  Your voice matters.  You’ve got to stand up.  You’ve got to be heard.  You’ve got to be counted.  You’ve got to tell them now is not the time to double your interest rates on student loans.  Now is the time to double down on the investments in a strong and a secure middle class, and double down on an America that’s built to last.

You, me, all of us, we’re here because somebody, somewhere — starting with our parents or our grandparents or our great grandparents — they made an investment not just in themselves, but in each other and in the future of our country.  And now it’s our turn.  It’s our turn to keep that promise alive.

And that’s what drives me every single day.  I used to — when I was running for this office, I said to people, look, I will not be a perfect man or a perfect President, but here’s what I can do:  I can work every single day as hard as I know how to make sure that you’ve got a chance, to make sure you can live out your hopes and your dreams.  And I’m not about to quit now.  We don’t give up here in America.  We get up.  We get each other’s back.  We help each other get ahead.  We work together.  (Applause.)

And if you all are willing to join me, I guarantee you not only will we stop these interest rates from going up, but we’re going to remind the rest of the world just why it is that America is the greatest nation on Earth.  (Applause.)

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

END
7:52 P.M. MDT

Remarks by the President to College Reporters

Via Telephone, Aboard Air Force One, En Route Boulder, Colorado

4:05 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hey, everybody.  Thanks for being on the call.  And first of all, let me apologize if the connection sounds fuzzy.  As was just mentioned, I’m joining you guys on Air Force One.

I’m just leaving North Carolina; I was at UNC-Chapel Hill.  Now I’m on my way to the University of Colorado at Boulder.  And tomorrow we’re going to be at the University of Iowa in Iowa City.  And what we’re doing is going to schools to talk to students directly about the critical importance of the possibility that 7.4 million students with federal student loans would see their interest rates double on July 1st unless Congress steps up and does what it needs to do.

I’ve always believed that we should be doing everything we can to help put higher education within reach for every single American student — because the unemployment rate for Americans with at least a college degree is about half the national average.  And it’s never been more important.  Unfortunately, it’s also never been more expensive.  And most of you guys I’m sure have reported about this and know this — students who take out loans to pay for college graduate owing an average of $25,000 a year.  And I know what this is like, because when Michelle and I graduated from college and law school we had enormous debts, and it took us a lot of years to pay off.  So that’s probably why I feel this thing so personally.

For a lot of working families, the idea of owing that much money means higher education is simply out of reach for their children.  And for the first time now we’ve got Americans owing more debt on their student loans than they do on their credit cards.

The key point here is, is that in America, higher education can’t be a luxury.  It’s an economic imperative that every family has got to be able to afford.  We’ve already taken some important steps to make college more affordable.  So, for example, we extended Pell grants to 3 million more students, and we signed a tax credit worth up to $10,000 to help middle-class families cover the cost of tuition.  We’ve eliminated a major expense for young people by allowing young adults to stay on their parent’s health insurance plans until they’re 26.

But there’s clearly more work to be done.  And that’s why I’m going to colleges across the country.  I want to talk to students right now about how we can make higher education more affordable, and what’s at stake right now if Congress doesn’t do something about it.

So the key point I want to make:  If Congress doesn’t act on July 1st, interest rates on Stafford loans, on student loans from the federal government will double.  Nearly 7.5 million students will end up owing more on their loan payments.  And that would be, obviously, a tremendous blow.  And it’s completely preventable.

And for some time now, I’ve been calling on Congress to take steps to make higher education more affordable, to prevent these interest rates from doubling, and to extend the tuition tax credit that has saved middle-class families millions of dollars, but also, to double the number of work/study jobs over the next five years.

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

So the bottom line here is we can’t just cut our way to prosperity.  Making it harder for our young people to afford higher education, allowing them to earn their degrees — that’s nothing more than cutting our own future off at the knees.  And Congress has to keep interest rates on student loans from doubling, and they need to do it now.

And I have to say, from my perspective, this is a question of values.  We can’t let America become a country where a shrinking number of people are doing really well, a growing number of people struggle to get by, and you’ve got fewer ladders for people to climb into the middle class and to get opportunity.  We’ve got to build an economy where everybody is getting a fair shot, everybody is doing their fair share, everybody is playing by the same set of rules.  That’s ultimately how the middle class gets stronger.  And that’s an economy that’s built to last.

So I’m going to take this issue to every part of the country this year.  I’m going to keep focusing on it until Congress passes legislation to keep interest rates low and to continue to give students the chance to get the college education they need for the jobs of today, but also for the jobs of tomorrow.

And part of the reason I wanted to be on this call is to let you know, very personally, I need your help on this.  I need you all to tell your readers and your listeners why they’ve got to speak up, why they’ve got to speak out.  Let Congress know that they need to do the right thing.  And for those of you on Twitter, use the hashtag #dontdoublemyrate.  That’s #dontdoublemyrate.

Because we don’t want Congress to double the interest rates on so many students.  We need to reward hard work and responsibility.  And part of that is keeping interest rates on student loans low so more Americans get a fair shot at an affordable college education, the skills they need to find a good job, a clear path to the middle class that’s not blocked by a mountain of debt.  And the time to act is right now, and I’m going to need your help getting that message out.

So thanks so much to all of you for being on the call.  And thanks for taking the time to shine a light on this important issue.  And I know that our team is going to be on the phone call after I hang up.  They can answer a bunch of specific details that you may have.

Talk to you soon.  Bye-bye.

END 4:14 P.M. EDT

Political Buzz US Economy in Crisis August 9, 2011: Dow Rebounds 429 Points After Federal Reserve Pledges to Keep Interest Rates Low Through 2013

POLITICAL BUZZ

US ECONOMY IN CRISIS

THE HEADLINES….

Markets close higher after a volatile day of trading: U.S. stock markets closed sharply higher after a volatile day of trading in which stocks swung wildly after the Federal Reserve said that it would keep interest rates low until mid-2013. The Dow Jones industrial average closed up 4 percent, or 430 points, while the S&P 500, a broader measure of stocks, rose 4.8 percent, or 53 points.

Federal Reserve to keep interest rates unchanged; pledges to keep rates exceptionally low through mid-2013: The Federal Reserve pledged to keep its target for interest rates very low through at least mid-2013 following a policy meeting Tuesday, in an effort to support a faltering U.S. economy. This was the first time the Fed set a specific date for maintaining the low interest rates.
Three members of the Fed’s policymaking committee dissented from the decision to establish a date.

“To promote the ongoing economic recovery and to help ensure that inflation, over time, is at levels consistent with its mandate, the Committee decided today to keep the target range for the federal funds rate at 0 to 1/4 percent. The Committee currently anticipates that economic conditions–including low rates of resource utilization and a subdued outlook for inflation over the medium run–are likely to warrant exceptionally low levels for the federal funds rate at least through mid-2013. The Committee also will maintain its existing policy of reinvesting principal payments from its securities holdings. The Committee will regularly review the size and composition of its securities holdings and is prepared to adjust those holdings as appropriate.”… — Federal Reserve Statement on Low Interest Rates

  • Dow Closes 429 Points Up: After a series of roller-coaster swings, the Dow closed up 429 points Tuesday after the Federal Reserve vowed to keep interest rates low for the next two years. The Dow climbed nearly 4%, biting a chunk out of Monday’s slide of more than 600 points… – New York Daily News. 8-9-11
  • US Stocks Move Higher In Final Hour Of Whipsawed Trading: US stocks rose after zigzagging in volatile trading Tuesday afternoon as investors digested the Federal Reserve’s pledge to keep interest rates near zero for at least two more years… – WSJ, 8-10-11
  • The Fed Splits: There is more than meets the eye to the split at the Federal Reserve. There must be. The Fed’s statement Tuesday afternoon says that the majority “currently anticipates that economic conditions — including low rates of resource … – NYT, 8-9-11
  • Fed promises to keep rates low for at least 2 yrs: The Federal Reserve said on Tuesday it will keep interest rates near zero for at least another two years in a move that disappointed markets hoping for more direct action…. – Reuters, 8-9-11
  • Guided By The Fed, Funds Futures See Mid-2013 Rate Hike Very Unlikely: The Federal Reserve’s downbeat view on the economy caused fed-funds futures traders to see no chance for an initial funds rate increase until the middle part of 2013. … – WSJ, 8-9-11
  • Fed: Low rates to stay through at least mid-2013: The Federal Reserve on Tuesday expressed much more concern about the economic outlook and said it would hold interest rates at ultra-low levels “at least” through mid-2013…. – CBS MarketWatch, 8-9-11
  • US Stocks Climb Higher In Morning Trade As Fed Statement Looms WSJ. 8-9-11
  • US Stock Futures Bounce Sharply As Investors Await Fed WSJ, 8-9-11
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