Obama Details College
Affordability Strategy at University of Colorado Denver
President Barack Obama announced Wednesday steps aimed at making it
easier for U.S. college students to pay off their education loans. In
announcing the actions, the president pointed to a new report detailing
the continuing rise in the cost of higher education in the United
Barack Obama waves to the crowd after arriving at the University of
Colorado Denver campus, in Denver, Colo., Oct. 26, 2011. The President
delivered remarks on the steps the Administration is taking to increase
college affordability by making it easier to manage student loan debt.
(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
In his remarks at the University of Colorado at Denver, the president
used a personal example and some humor to illustrate the pressures that
sharply rising education costs place on Americans.
The president recalled the burden that he and his wife Michelle
struggled with in paying off about $120,000 in student loans after they
graduated from law school.
"We combined and got poorer together. We combined our liabilities not
our assets. So we were paying more on our student loans than we paid on
our mortgage each month," he said.
Obama pointed to a new report from the College Board showing that the
average tuition at private colleges in the United States went up by more
than 4 percent - 8.3 percent at four-year public colleges - during the
past year. That's faster than inflation and income growth.
One step the president announced will allow college graduates enrolled
in an existing government program to pay back student loans at a maximum
rate equal to 10 percent of their disposable income, rather than 15
percent, and be eligible for debt forgiveness on their remaining debt in
20 years instead of 25.
Another rule change would help students consolidate multiple loans into
one federally-backed loan at a lower interest rate, allowing them to
save more money.
Obama said this will potentially help 1.6 million students and
graduates, provide students with more certainty, and help boost the
"Because you will have some certainty, knowing that is only a certain
percentage of your income that is going to pay off your student loans,
that means you will be more confident and comfortable to buy a house or
save for retirement. And that will give our economy a boost when it
desperately needs it," said the president.
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said the changes will help students
and graduates in the current difficult economic environment.
"These are changes that will make a big difference in the lives of
college students as well as recent graduates, who are entering one of
the toughest job markets in recent memory," said Duncan.
But critics note that the changes will affect a fraction of those who
have borrowed to pay for their education, will apply only to federal
college loans, and that current borrowers would not be eligible for
changes are the third in a series of executive orders President Obama is
issuing that are designed to bypass opposition by Republicans in
Congress to his economic and jobs proposals.
"I intend to do everything in my power right now to act on behalf of the
American people - with or without Congress," said Obama.
Earlier this week, President Obama announced a plan to make it easier
for Americans with federally-backed mortgages to refinance their home
loans and save money, and another to encourage businesses to hire
returning military veterans.
Republican congressional leaders have responded to Obama's "we can't
wait for Congress" campaign by accusing the Democratic-controlled U.S.
Senate of blocking Republican bills they say would do more to help the