U.S. President Barack Obama visited American college campuses on
Tuesday, looking for support for his plan to hold down federal student
loan rates. The president is appealing to young voters, who
overwhelmingly supported him in the 2008 election.
President Obama told students at the University of North Carolina at
Chapel Hill that he and his wife Michelle know what it is like to spend
years paying off college loans.
"Michelle and I, we have been in your shoes," said Obama. "Like I say,
we did not come from wealthy families. So when we graduated from college
and law school, we had a mountain of debt. When we married, we got poor
The president is calling on Congress to extend a law that cuts federal
student loan interest rates to 3.4 percent. Those rates will double if
the law is allowed to expire July 1.
"We cannot make higher education a luxury. It is an economic imperative.
Every American family should be able to afford it," Obama added.
While Obama's two-day, three-campus tour is officially a business trip,
he is appealing to a core part of his voting base, in the states of
North Carolina, Colorado and Iowa that could help decide this year's
Obama urged students in North Carolina to use a phrase on the social
media site Twitter to press U.S. lawmakers to extend the student loan
interest rate cut.
OBAMA: "You Tweet, everybody say it, just so everybody remembers it."
AUDIENCE: "Don't double my rate."
OBAMA: "Don't double my rate.' It's pretty straightforward."
In emphasizing his personal experience, Obama drew a contrast with his
likely Republican Party opponent, Mitt Romney, whose father was a
wealthy auto industry executive.
in an unusual move, Romney said Monday that he agrees with the president
that low student loan interest rates should be extended.
Republican leaders in the House of Representatives say they are deciding
whether to support a temporary extension.
The one-year extension would cost an estimated $6 billion.
President Obama said recently that allowing the interest rate to double
would hurt more than 7 million students.
Student loan debt in the United States is higher than that for credit
cards or automobile loans.
The Federal Reserve Bank of New York estimates that 15 percent of
Americans, about 37 million people, owe money on student loans. The
total amount of those loans is estimated to be between $870 billion and