Full Text Obama Presidency June 7, 2012: President Barack Obama Criticizes Congress for Not Extending Student Loan Rates in Speech at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

IN FOCUS: PRESIDENT OBAMA CRITICIZES CONGRESS FOR NOT EXTENDING STUDENT LOAN RATES IN SPEECH AT THE UNIVERSITY OF NEVADA, LAS VEGAS

Obama Slams Congress for Failing to Act on Student Loans:
Source: ABC News Radio, 6-7-12
Touting his efforts to make college more affordable, President Obama Thursday blasted lawmakers for failing to extend low-rate student loans.
“This is a no-brainer,” the president told students at a campaign-style rally at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. “I’ve just said to Congress: Get this done. Get it done…this is not complicated.”
Thursday’s event was the latest in the president’s push to boost support among young voters and contrast his education policies with those of congressional Republicans and presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney…. READ MORE

  • Obama Criticizes Republicans Over Student Loan Rates: Before an audience of students, President Obama urged passage of legislation that would keep student loan interest rates low…. – NYT, 6-7-12

President Obama Talks Income Based Repayment at UNLV

Source: WH, 6-7-12

President Barack Obama delivers remarks on college affordability at UNLV (June 7, 2012)
President Barack Obama delivers remarks on college affordability at Cox Pavilion at the University of Las Vegas (UNLV) in Las Vegas, Nevada, June 7, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Speaking today at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, President Obama talked about students loans — a subject he’s personally had quite a bit of experience navigating.

Through the course of their educations — including a graduate degree for each — both the President and the First Lady took on debt to pay for school.

“When we got married, we got poorer together,” he said. “We sort of added our liabilities together.”

In fact, President Obama was serving in the U.S. Senate before they paid off the last of their student loans.

That’s not the future he wants for today’s college students. And in Las Vegas, he talked about one big step he’s taking to help make it easier for everyone to afford a great education:

This is a program that more people need to know about. And we’re going to start doing more advertising about this because this is really important. For those of you who are still in school, you’re about to graduate, as long as you make your monthly payments on time — all right, so pay your bills on time — we will cap the payments you have to make on your student loans at 10 percent of your discretionary income once you graduate 10 percent.

It’s called the Income Based Repayment program. Have questions? Here’s everything you need to know. As part of today’s event, the President issued a memorandum to streamline the IBR process and improve information available to responsible borrowers about student loan repayment options.

Remarks by the President on College Affordability

 

Cox Pavilion
University of Las Vegas
Las Vegas, Nevada

12:53 P.M. PDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, Las Vegas!  (Applause.)  Well, how’s it going, Rebels?  (Applause.) 

AUDIENCE MEMBERS:  Four more years!  Four more years!

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you so much.  If you’ve got a chair, go ahead and sit down.  You can make yourself comfortable.  (Laughter.)  If you don’t, you’re out of luck, just stay there. 

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  You look great!

THE PRESIDENT:  It is great to be back in Nevada.  I want everybody to give George a big round of applause for that introduction.  (Applause.)  I want to thank all the students for coming out here — (applause) — on a nice summer afternoon, some of you might be at Capriotti’s or some place — (laughter) — but instead you’re here with us. 

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  You look great!

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  I’ll tell Michelle you said so.  (Applause.) 

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  We love her too!

THE PRESIDENT:  And I love you back.  Thank you.  (Applause.)  So I’m here today at UNLV — (applause) — home of the Runnin’ Rebels, to talk about what a lot of you folks are thinking about every day.  Now, keep in mind we’re in Vegas.  So in Vegas, you can bet on just about anything.  (Laughter.)  But what the students here have bet on is themselves.  (Applause.)  They’ve bet on themselves.  By earning your degree, you’ve decided to make the best possible investment in your future and in the future of America.  And I’m proud of all of you for making that investment, because it’s never been more important. 

In today’s economy, the single best predictor of success, by far, is a good education.  (Applause.)  And the statistics prove it.  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 with only a high school diploma.  A higher education is the clearest path to the middle class.

And rebuilding the middle class is what we’ve been all about.  (Applause.)  I don’t have to tell folks in Nevada that we’re recovering from a crisis that cost millions of middle-class jobs.  When that housing bubble burst, it hit people really hard. 
But we’re also fighting back from a long-term trend that has cost working families all across the country that sense of security.  So our job is not just to get people back to work.  Our job is to build an economy where hard work pays off.  (Applause.)

So I want more people to be able to make the investment you’re making.  I want to make it easier for more students like you to earn a degree without shouldering a mountain of debt — (applause) — because even though education, a college education is still a great investment, the burden of debt is serious and it’s hard on folks just as they’re starting off in life.  I don’t want 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 want everybody in America to get a fair shot.  (Applause.)  I want everybody to do their fair share.  (Applause.)  I want everyone to play by the same rules.  (Applause.)  That’s the America I know.  That’s the America I believe in.  That’s the America we’re trying to build for you, for my children, for future generations.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Thank you, President Obama!

THE PRESIDENT:  You’re welcome.  (Applause.)  Now, look, the fact is, again, I don’t have to tell folks in Nevada we’re still going through this process of recovery from that crisis.  And we’ve taken some tough steps together.  And the good news is our economy is growing again, but we need it to grow faster.  Businesses have created almost 4.3 million new jobs over the last 27 months.  (Applause.)  But to recover all the jobs that were lost in that recession, we’ve got to have them come back faster.  
The truth is the recovery has seen stronger job growth than what happened during the last recession a decade ago.  But the problem is the hole we have to fill is a lot deeper.  The global aftershocks are much greater.  We’re already seeing it.  Just like last year around this time, our economy has been facing some serious headwinds.  You’ve got the lingering effects of the spring spike in gas prices.  You remember that.  It’s still tough on a lot of folks’ wallets.  You’ve got the situation in Europe.

But from the moment we first took action when I came into office to make sure that we did not go into a freefall depression, we knew that all — recovering all the jobs that were lost during the recession was going to take some time.  And we knew there would be ups and downs along the way.  What we also knew though was if we acted wisely and we acted together, if we didn’t quit, we’d come back stronger.  We would do more than just get back to where we were, we would build an economy that would last for the long term.

And, Las Vegas, I still believe that.  I believe we will come back stronger.  We have better days ahead, and it’s because of people like you, because of folks like you.  (Applause.)  I’m inspired when I hear folks like George putting in long hours working and taking summer classes.  Some older students who are retaining — there you go.  I don’t know, you don’t look that old to me.  (Laughter.)  But folks deciding to go back to school — retrain yourself for a new job, the jobs of the future. 

  So you’re working hard.  You’re playing by the rules.  You deserve to have leaders who are going to do the same, leaders who will take action — (applause) — leaders who will do whatever it requires to fight for the middle-class and grow the economy faster.  We may not fully control everything that happens in other parts of the world, but there are plenty of things we can do right here in the United States to strengthen the economy further.  There are plenty of steps we can take right now to help create jobs and grow this economy faster. 

So let me just give you some examples.  Last September, I sent to Congress a jobs bill full of the kinds of ideas that, historically, Republicans and Democrats have supported.  If they had taken all the steps I was pushing for back in September, we could have put even more Americans back to work.  We could have sliced through these headwinds more easily. 

Now, since then, in fairness, Congress has passed a few parts of that jobs bill.  They passed a payroll tax cut that’s put more money in every working person’s paycheck right now.  That’s good news.  We thank them for it.  (Applause.)  But they haven’t acted fast enough on the other ideas that economists, independent economists — not me, but folks who study this stuff for a living — say could have put over a million more people to work.  Now, there’s no excuse for that.  When so many people are still out there pounding the pavement and sending out resumes, so many families are doing whatever it takes to pay the bills — Congress can’t just sit on their hands.  (Applause.)   

So my message to Congress is let’s get to work.  Let’s get to work.  (Applause.)  I know this is an election year.  That’s not lost on me.  (Laughter.)  But at this make-or-break moment for America’s middle class, we can’t afford to have Congress take five months off.  You’ve got to keep working.  You’re not suddenly just sitting around not doing anything.  You should expect the same thing from your representatives in Washington, right.  (Applause.) 

So there are a bunch of things that Congress can do right now.  Let me tick a few off.  At a time when our businesses have created more than 4 million new jobs, unfortunately, state and local governments have lost 450,000 jobs.  That’s been one of the biggest problems in our economy is all the layoffs happening at the state and local level — cops, teachers, firefighters all being laid off. 

Now, those folks provide vital services.  They protect us.  They’re teaching our kids.  Congress should pass a bill — (applause) — Congress should pass a bill like I’ve asked them to do to help states like Nevada put Americans — those Americans who are doing outstanding service on behalf of our communities, put those folks back on the job right now.  That’s something we can do.  (Applause.)

Number two, we know that the housing bubble burst.  Here in Nevada, the construction industry got killed, right?  So I told Congress months ago, let’s pass a bill to put hundreds of thousands of construction workers and contractors back to work rebuilding America — rebuilding roads and bridges and new schools for rising populations and — (applause) — that’s good for the economy now; it’s good for the economy later.  There’s no excuse for Congress to just shrug its shoulders.  Let’s get it done.  (Applause.)

The housing bubble that burst and helped cause this whole mess is still a major drag on the economy.  Right now, Congress should pass the changes necessary to give every responsible homeowner the opportunity to save an average of $3,000 a year by refinancing their mortgage at today’s historically low interest rates.  (Applause.)

I mean, think about it.  If you’re a homeowner and you live here in this state, your house very well may be underwater and so it’s hard for you to refinance.  We did, through an executive order, a plan that allows those of you whose mortgages are guaranteed by FHA to refinance, but we’ve got to have Congress to take additional steps to reach everybody, to reach even more homeowners. 

These are folks who are paying their mortgage every month, but can’t refinance because your home is underwater.  And let me tell you, I was up in Reno last month, met a family.  They had refinanced through the program that we set up and they’re getting an extra $250,000 [sic] a month.  And that makes a difference.  How many people here could use an extra $250 a month?  (Applause.)  And that’s good for everybody — that’s good for everybody’s economy, because if you’ve got that extra money in your pocket, you might help — that might help rebuild some equity in your home or you might go spend it on textbooks or a new computer, and the entire economy gets stronger.  So let’s give every responsible family that chance.  (Applause.)  

Instead of — all right, here’s another thing.  Instead of just talking about job creators, Congress should put their money where their mouth is.  Give small business owners a tax break for hiring more workers and for paying higher wages.  (Applause.)

And then, with all the veterans that are coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan, let’s make some special efforts there.  We should create what we’re calling a Veterans Job Corps — because no one who fights for this country should ever have to fight for a job when they come home.  (Applause.)

Right now, Congress needs to extend the tax credits for clean energy manufacturers.  Those tax credits are set to expire at the end of the year.  Nearly 40,000 good jobs are at stake — making solar panels and wind turbines and lowering our dependence on foreign oil.  So instead of giving tax breaks — billions of tax breaks — to oil companies that are making a whole lot of money and don’t need help, let’s double down on a clean energy industry that’s rarely been more promising.  And you’re seeing it right here in Nevada.  There’s a lot of sunshine out here.  (Laughter.)  We can turn that into electricity and put people back to work in the process.  Let’s make that happen.  (Applause.)

And while we’re at it, it’s past time for Congress to stop giving tax breaks that ship jobs overseas.  Give tax breaks to companies that are bringing jobs back to the United States of America, that are investing right here.  (Applause.)

All right, so these are all things we’re pushing Congress to do before they go on vacation — (laughter) — but the number one thing Congress should do for you, UNLV, right now, is to stop interest rates on student loans from doubling at the end of the month.  (Applause.)

The clock is running out.  You know, in today’s economy, higher education can’t be a luxury.  It’s an economic necessity.  Everybody should be able to afford it.  But over the last 20 years, the cost of college has more than doubled.  It’s gone up faster than everything else — even faster than health care costs.  We’re at a point where the average student who borrows to pay for college graduates with $26,000 in student loan debt. And let’s face it, some folks graduate with more than that — (laughter) — $50 [thousand], $75 [thousand], even $100 [thousand].  Together, Americans owe more on their student loans than they do on their credit cards. 

And all that debt, that means folks making really tough choices.  It may mean waiting longer to buy a house or starting a family or taking that job that you really want, because it doesn’t pay enough.  And by the way, Michelle and I know something about this.  We did not come from wealthy families.  We graduated from college and law school, and we had a whole lot of debt.  And when we got married, we got poorer together.  (Laughter.)  We sort of added our liabilities together.  (Laughter.) 

Of course — you know, look, we were lucky enough to land good jobs.  But even with those great jobs that we had, we only finished paying off our student loans about eight years ago.  Now, think about that.  I’m the President of the United States — (laughter) — it was only about eight years ago that I finished paying off my student loans.  (Applause.)  So I know what a lot of you are going through.  I’ve been there.  I have done that.  When the girls were first born and we were starting to save up for their college education, we were still paying for our own college educations.  (Laughter.)

And we can do better than that.  I don’t want that future for young people.  So that’s why my administration has already taken a bunch of steps.  We fixed a broken student loan system that was giving tens of billions of dollars to big banks, and said, let’s give that money directly to students — use that money to afford college.  (Applause.)  That’s why we strengthened aid, like Pell grants for low-income students.  (Applause.)  That’s why we set up a new consumer watchdog agency called the Consumer Finance Protection bureau, and it’s now working with the Department of Education to give students and their parents access to a simple factsheet on student loans and financial aid — because everybody has got to be well informed.  We call it “Know Before You Owe” — know before you owe.  (Laughter.)  Don’t be surprised — two weeks from graduation you look up, and whap! You just got hit upside the head.  Know before you owe. 

On Tuesday, college presidents from across the country came together.  They agreed to provide clear information about costs, financial aid, and loan repayments to all incoming students starting next year.  So that’s good news all right.  (Applause.)

But we’ve got more to do.  So today, I’ve directed my Education Secretary and my Treasury Secretary to make it easier for millions of students with federal loans to afford their loan payments.  And that includes some of you.  (Applause.)  This is a program that more people need to know about.  And we’re going to start doing more advertising about this because this is really important.  For those of you who are still in school, you’re about to graduate, as long as you make your monthly payments on time — all right, so pay your bills on time — we will cap the payments you have to make on your student loans at 10 percent of your discretionary income once you graduate 10 percent.  (Applause.) 

And this is a big deal, because no matter what career you choose — if you decide you’re going to be a teacher or you’re going to be a social worker or you’re going to go into public service or the nonprofit sector — you’ll still be able to stay current on your loans.  (Applause.) 

So these are all the things we’ve already done.  But understand this isn’t going to make much of a difference if the costs, underlying costs of college keep going up faster than everything else.  So everybody has got to do their part.  Colleges and universities, they need to do their part.  I’ve told Congress, let’s steer federal aid to schools that are doing a good job keeping tuition affordable and provide good value and serve their students well.  If you’re getting federal student loans — colleges and universities — you shouldn’t just be loading up a whole bunch of debt on your students.  You’ve got to figure out how are you working to make sure that they can afford their education. 

States have a role to play.  I see some of my buddies from the state legislature here.  Right now, the amount of money that state and local governments invest in their college students is at a 25-year low — spending a lot of money on prisons, spending a lot of money on other stuff, but we’re not spending enough to make sure that tuition stays affordable.  That’s one of the reasons that tuition has gone up so fast.  (Applause.)

If states can find smart new ways to keep costs down and make it easier for more students to graduate, then we’re going to help them do it.  So everybody has got to do their part — colleges, universities, the states, my administration and, yes, Congress.  Congress has got to do their part. 

I warned over a month ago — I even went on Jimmy Fallon to say this — if Congress doesn’t act by the end of this month, by July 1st, interest rates on federal student loans will double overnight.  That means the average student with those loans — including 8,000 students right here at UNLV — will rack up an additional $1,000 in debt.  That’s like a $1,000 tax hike for more than 7 million students.  How many people can afford to pay an extra $1,000 if you’re a student just because Congress can’t get its act together?  That makes no sense.  This is a no-brainer. 

So I just said to Congress, get this done.  Get it done.  Get it done.  This is not complicated.  Last month, Democrats in the Senate put forward a plan that would have kept these low rates in place, wouldn’t have added a dime to the deficit.  The Senate Republicans got together, they blocked it.  They said, no.  House Republicans voted to keep your rates down only if we agreed to cut things like preventive health care for women.  So that’s not a smart thing to do.  

There are folks on the other side who are coming up with all sorts of reasons why we should just go ahead and let these rates double.  One of them compared these student loans to a “stage three cancer of socialism.”  I don’t know what that means exactly.  (Laughter.)  My grandfather went to school on the G.I. Bill.  There’s a long tradition of us helping people get a good education, because they know — we know that it makes everybody richer.  It makes our entire country more competitive and stronger. 

Some of these folks in Congress, they were saying we’re just talking about student loans to distract from the economy.  I guess they don’t get this is the economy.  (Applause.)  Helping you get the skills that businesses are looking for, that’s one of the best things we can do for the economy.  (Applause.)  Making college affordable, that’s one of the best things we can do for the economy.  (Applause.)  Putting opportunity within the reach of everybody, no matter what you look like or where you come from, that’s what America is about.  But these guys say that students like you should pay more, so we can bring down the deficit they say. 

Now, keep in mind they ran up this deficit for over a decade.  Now, they want to cut loans to students while giving tax breaks to oil companies and folks like me who don’t need tax breaks.  They voted to let millionaires and billionaires keep paying lower taxes than middle-class workers.  They voted to give an average tax cut of at least $150,000 to every millionaire in America, but they want you to pay an extra $1,000 a year for college.  It doesn’t make any sense.  It’s wrong.  It’s wrong. 

Look, here in America, we admire success.  That’s why a lot of you are going to school.  We work and study for it.  And if folks aren’t willing to help themselves, we can’t help them.  But America is about more than just protecting folks who have already done well, it’s about giving everybody a chance to do well.  It’s about hard work and responsibility being rewarded.  (Applause.)  It’s about everybody having the chance to get ahead and then, reach back and help somebody behind you so that everybody has a chance.  That’s what makes us strong.  (Applause.)  That’s what makes us strong.

So if you agree with me, I need your help.  Some of these folks in Congress are a little stubborn.  So, I need your help.  You’ve got to tell Congress, don’t double my rate.  Call them up, email them, post on their Facebook wall, tweet them.  (Laughter.)  We’ve got a hashtag — #dontdoublemyrate.  (Applause.)  

Never forget that your voice matters.  I know sometimes it seems like Washington isn’t listening.  And, frankly, Congress sometimes isn’t.  But we’re talking about issues that have a real impact on your lives, real impact on your futures.  Making education more affordable, that’s real.  Making homes more affordable, making it a little easier for you to make your mortgage payments — that’s real.  Building an economy that works for everybody — that’s real. 

So I need you all to stand up.  I need you to be heard.  Tell Congress now is not the time to double the interest rates on your student loans.  Now is the time to double down on the middle class.  Now is the time to build an America that lasts.  Now is the time to work together, to put people back to work and strengthen our housing market and help our veterans.  Let’s get this done.  (Applause.) 

Let’s remind the world why the United States of America is the greatest nation on earth.  Thank you, Las Vegas.  God bless you.  God bless America.  (Applause.)

END  
1:21 P.M. PDT

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

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

President Obama Asks Students to Tell Congress: #DontDoubleMyRate

Source: WH, 4-24-12

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Learn more:

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

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

University of North Carolina
Chapel Hill, North Carolina

1:13 P.M. EDT

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

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

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  I love you, President Obama!

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

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

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

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Four more years!  Four more years!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AUDIENCE:  Amen!

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

AUDIENCE:  Amen!

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

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Amen!  (Laughter and applause.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Amen!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Social work.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AUDIENCE:  No!  (Laughter.)

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

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

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

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

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  We trust you.  (Laughter.)

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

AUDIENCE:  Booo —

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

AUDIENCE:  Booo —

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

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

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Absolutely!  (Laughter.)

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

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

AUDIENCE:  Booo —

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

AUDIENCE:  Booo —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AUDIENCE:  Don’t double my rate.

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

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

AUDIENCE:  Absolutely!

THE PRESIDENT:  You — absolutely.  (Applause.)

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

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  The planet.

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

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

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

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

END
1:48 P.M. EDT

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

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

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

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

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

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

Source: WH, 4-21-12

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

Transcript | Download mp4 | Download mp3

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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