On Monday, President Barack Obama held a conference call with college and university journalists from across the nation. TKS was fortunate enough to dial in to the conference call. He urged college students not to be discouraged by the tough economy, but to focus on education.
“You guys are gonna drive the future success of the U.S.,” Obama said. “We have fallen behind. In a single generation we’ve fallen from first to 12th in college graduation rates for adults.”
Obama stated his goal for 2020: to be number one in college graduation rates throughout the world. To do this, Obama has changed the way federal loans are administered, in hopes of making college more affordable.
“Instead of handing over $60 billion in unwarranted subsidies to big banks that were essentially getting this money even though the loans were guaranteed by the federal government, we’re redirecting that money so that it goes directly to students,” Obama said.
Obama’s administration has also raised the value of Pell Grants, ensured that future borrowers won’t commit more than 10 percent of their monthly paycheck to loans and forgiven all student debt after ten years for those who go into public service jobs.
Four students on the conference call had the chance to ask Obama questions.
A caller from Penn State University asked Obama about regulations on his new health care plan for people who wish to stay on their parents’ plan through age 26.
“The only caveat to the thing,” Obama said, “is that it assumes that your employer doesn’t offer you health care.” If an employer does offer it, “You’ve got to take up the offer that your employer gives you for health care.”
Another caller from the University of California at Los Angeles asked Obama how he would fix the problem of middle-class families being unable to pay for their children to attend public universities.
“One of the things that I can do to help is to make sure that the economy is growing, [so] states then are taking in more tax revenue,” Obama said. “If states are taking in more tax revenue, then they don’t have to try to pass on increased costs to students because they can maintain levels of support to institutions of higher learning.”
Obama closed by saying that while many college students feel like they have grown up in tough economic times and that might cause them to set their sights lower, “you continue to live in the most vibrant, most dynamic, wealthiest nation on earth.”
He urged college students to participate politically, not just in major elections such as his winning election in 2008 but also smaller elections like the ones coming up in five weeks.