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Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
June 7, 2014

Hi, everybody. This is commencement season, a time for graduates and their families to celebrate one of the greatest achievements of a young person’s life. But for many graduates, it also means feeling trapped by a whole lot of student loan debt.  And we’ve got to do more to lift that burden.

See, in a 21st century economy, the surest pathway into the middle class is some form of higher education. The unemployment rate for workers with a bachelor’s degree is just 3.3 percent – about half what it is for high school graduates. The typical graduate of a four-year college earns $15,000 more per year than someone with just a high school degree.  

But at a time when college has never been more important, it’s also never been more expensive.

That’s why, since I took office, I’ve worked to make college more affordable. We reformed a student loan system that gave away billions of taxpayer dollars to big banks and invested that money where it makes a bigger bang – in helping more young people afford a higher education.

But over the past three decades, the average tuition at a public four-year college has more than tripled. The average undergraduate student who borrows for college now graduates owing almost $30,000. And I’ve heard from too many young people who are frustrated that they’ve done everything they were supposed to do – and now they’re paying the price.

I’ve taken action on my own to offer millions of students the opportunity to cap their monthly student loan payments to 10% of their income. But Congress needs to do its part. The good news is that Senate Democrats are working on a bill that would help more young people save money. Just like you can refinance your mortgage at a lower interest rate, this bill would let you refinance your student loans. And we’d pay for it by closing loopholes that allow some millionaires to pay a lower tax rate than the middle class.

That’s the choice that your representatives in Congress will make in the coming weeks – protect young people from crushing debt, or protect tax breaks for millionaires. And while Congress decides what it’s going to do, I will keep doing whatever I can without Congress to help responsible young people pay off their loans – including new action I will take this week.

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 made us an economic superpower. That’s what makes us special. And as long as I hold this office, I’ll keep fighting to give more young people the chance to earn their own piece of the American Dream. Thanks, and have a great weekend.

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