President Obama Explains His Plan to Combat Rising College Costs

President Obama traveled to the University at Buffalo, the State University of New York and Henninger High School in Syracuse yesterday to announce his plan to combat the soaring costs of higher education. The speech, the first stop on a two-day college affordability bus tour, is a part of his broader initiative to secure a better bargain for middle class families.

In his remarks, the President Obama laid out three steps to ensure that college remains within reach for all young people: connect financial aid to school performance, support academic innovation and competition, and make college affordable. President Obama said:

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

In his speech, President Obama said we need to start rating colleges on their value to students. “It is time to stop subsidizing schools that are not producing good results, and reward schools that deliver for American students and our future,” he said.

President Obama also spoke about the importance of competition between colleges to encourage educational affordability and student success, all while ensuring a high quality education. He said:

“So we’re going to make sure students who receive federal financial aid complete their courses before receiving grants for the next semester. We’ll make sure to build in flexibility so we’re not penalizing disadvantaged students, or students who are holding down jobs to pay for school.  Things happen.  But the bottom line is we need to make sure that if you’re getting financial aid you’re doing your part to make progress towards a degree.”

President Obama concluded with the importance of manageable and affordable debt. “Our national mission is not to profit off student loans; our national mission must be to profit off having the best-educated workforce in the world,“ he said.

Later this afternoon at Henninger High School in Syracuse, New York, President Obama will continue to lay out his plan for more affordable college education. “This country is only going to be as strong as our next generation,” he said.

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President Obama: A Personal Mission

Yesterday, President Barack Obama sent the message below to the White House email list and his supporters to explain why he’ll be on the road this week talking about his plan to make college more affordable.

Hello, everybody –

Michelle and I know exactly how tough it can be to pay for higher education. By the time we finished paying back the loans we took out to go to college and grad school, I was on my way to being a U.S. Senator.

President Barack Obama
President Barack Obama

I believe that anyone who works hard should have the same opportunities that our educations gave us. That’s why, as President, I’ve made it a personal mission to make higher education more affordable — and why I’m going to be visiting school campuses later this week.

Learn more about why this is the time to take action.

The facts are clear. Over the past three decades, the average tuition at a public four-year college has more than tripled. At the same time, many state governments are actually reducing their support for education, and many middle-class students are getting stuck with the tab. Today, the average student taking out loans to pay for education graduates with more than $26,000 in debt.

Just tinkering around the edges won’t be enough: To create a better bargain for the middle class, we have to fundamentally rethink about how higher education is paid for in this country. We’ve got to shake up the current system.

That’s why, starting Thursday, I will be embarking on a bus tour to offer my plan to make college more affordable, tackle rising costs, and improve value for students and their families. My plan includes real reforms that would bring lasting change. They won’t all be popular with everyone –including some who’ve made higher education their business — but it’s past time that more of our colleges work better for the students they exist to serve.

Over the past four and a half years, we’ve worked to put college in reach for more students and their families through tax credits, improving access to financial aid, and new options that make it easier to repay those loans.

But if we’re going to keep the doors of higher education open to everyone who works for it, we need to do more — much more. And that’s exactly what I’m going to be talking about this week.

So learn more here, then help to spread the word.


President Barack Obama

President Obama Speaks on College Affordability

With student loan interest rates set to double on July 1, President Obama discusses his plan to keep college affordable for millions of students and middle class families and prevent rates from going up.

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. Speaking from the Rose Garden, President Obama asked students and young people to speak out in favor of action on college affordability, just as they did in 2012.

“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,” he said. “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?”

In his remarks, the President also made a broader argument: Increasing access to college isn’t just good for the future of young people — it’s an imperative for the nation at large.

“Higher education cannot be a luxury for a privileged few,” he said. “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…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” President Obama said.

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America’s Students to Mitt Romney: “Get Real, Mitt”

Mitt Romney’s plans could cut college aid for nearly ten million students and eliminate the tax deduction for college tuition. Mitt Romney’s answer to America’s students, to get an education “Borrow money if you have to from your parents.”

President Obama knows that education is the path to success for America’s students and the nation. To achieve those goals President Obama eliminated bank middlemen from college loans, and used the savings to double college grants.

Mitt Romney says to students,  to get an education just go “borrow money if you have to from your parents.”

Two plans, two visions

America’s students to Mitt Romney, “Get real, Mitt.”

Watch and share today’s video.


No Time for Old Political Battles

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.

How College Affordability Would be Impacted in New Mexico Under the Republican Plan

For the first time ever, Americans owe more debt on student loans than on credit cards. If Congress doesn’t act by July 1st, more than 7 million students who rely on federal student loans will see their interest rates double from 3.4% to 6.8%. President Obama is calling on Congress to keep interest rates low, and save these students an average of almost $1,000 over the life of that loan. In New Mexico nearly 40,000 college students would see an average of $912.00 in increases.

Vice President Biden Highlights New College Affordability Proposal

Vice President Joe Biden speaks to students about college affordability. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

Vice President Joe Biden visited Florida State University this week to talk with students about the Administration’s comprehensive plan to address rising college costs. The Vice President began by calling on Congress to permanently extend the $2,500 per year American Opportunity Tax Credit for tuition and other expenses, double the number of work-study jobs over the next five years, and help 7.4 million borrowers by stopping the interest rates on federal student loans from doubling later this year.

These proposals are important, but increasing federal aid is only part of the solution. States and universities also share some responsibility for reining in costs. The Vice President detailed the Obama Administration plan to steer federal campus-based aid to schools that keep tuition affordable – and away from schools that don’t. While they plan to significantly increase the availability of campus-based aid by offering more Perkins loans to needy students and creating more work-study slots, the additional dollars will only flow to colleges that are providing good value to their students.

The Administration is also proposing to create a new “Race to the Top” for college affordability and completion. This competitive grant program will encourage states to reform their higher education systems in ways that lower costs and increase completion rates. And because state funding cuts are one of the primary drivers of tuition increases at public universities, any state that wants a grant will have to promise not to slash funding for higher education.

You can learn more about the College affordability plan here