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We reformed a student loan system so that more money goes to students instead of big banks. We expanded grants and college tax credits for students and families. We took action to offer millions of students a chance to cap their student loan payments at 10% of their income. And Congress should pass a bill to let students refinance their loans at today’s lower interest rates, just like their parents can refinance their mortgage.
President Obama focused on multiple parties—parents, students, colleges—and offered an overview of multiple programs he's fighting to implement to ensure that more Americans move on to get post-secondary education in America.

That education, he said, is the ticket to higher income and to a solid footing in the middle class.

We know that in today’s economy, whether you go to a four-year college, a community college, or a professional training program, some higher education is the surest ticket to the middle class. The typical American with a bachelor’s degree or higher earns over $28,000 more per year than someone with just a high school diploma. And they’re also much more likely to have a job in the first place – the unemployment rate for those with a bachelor’s degree is less than one-third of the rate for those without a high school diploma.
He closed with an exhortation to students to challenge themselves, work hard and aim for college. To read the transcript in full, check below the fold or visit the White House website.

Video Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
Saturday, August 16, 2014

Hi, everybody. Over the next couple weeks, schools all across the country will be opening their doors. Students will suit up for fall sports, marching band, and the school play; moms and dads will snap those first-day-of-school pictures – and that includes me and Michelle.

And so today, I want to talk directly with students and parents about one of the most important things any of you can do this year – and that’s to begin preparing yourself for an education beyond high school.

We know that in today’s economy, whether you go to a four-year college, a community college, or a professional training program, some higher education is the surest ticket to the middle class. The typical American with a bachelor’s degree or higher earns over $28,000 more per year than someone with just a high school diploma. And they’re also much more likely to have a job in the first place – the unemployment rate for those with a bachelor’s degree is less than one-third of the rate for those without a high school diploma.

But for too many families across the country, paying for higher education is a constant struggle. Earlier this year, a young woman named Elizabeth Cooper wrote to tell me how hard it is for middle-class families like hers to afford college. As she said, she feels “not significant enough to be addressed, not poor enough for people to worry [about], and not rich enough to be cared about.”

Michelle and I know the feeling – we only finished paying off our student loans ten years ago. And so as President, I’m working to make sure young people like Elizabeth can go to college without racking up mountains of debt. We reformed a student loan system so that more money goes to students instead of big banks. We expanded grants and college tax credits for students and families. We took action to offer millions of students a chance to cap their student loan payments at 10% of their income. And Congress should pass a bill to let students refinance their loans at today’s lower interest rates, just like their parents can refinance their mortgage.

But as long as college costs keep rising, we can’t just keep throwing money at the problem – colleges have to do their part to bring down costs as well. That’s why we proposed a plan to tie federal financial aid to a college’s performance, and create a new college scorecard so that students and parents can see which schools provide the biggest bang for your buck. We launched a new $75 million challenge to inspire colleges to reduce costs and raise graduation rates. And in January, more than 100 college presidents and nonprofit leaders came to the White House and made commitments to increase opportunities for underserved students.

Since then, we’ve met with even more leaders who want to create new community-based partnerships and support school counselors. And this week, my Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, announced a series of commitments to support students who need a little extra academic help getting through college.

This is a challenge I take personally. And to all you young people, now that you’re heading back to school, your education is something you have to take personally, also. It’s up to you to push yourself; to take hard classes and read challenging books. Science shows that when you struggle to solve a problem or make a new argument, you’re actually forming new connections in your brain. So when you’re thinking hard, you’re getting smarter. Which means this year, challenge yourself to reach higher. And set your sights on college in the years ahead. Your country is counting on you.

And don’t forget to have some fun along the way, too.

Thanks everybody. Good luck on the year ahead.

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Comment Preferences

  •  At college in my day 2/3's of the cost of my (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Pluto, secret38b, Eric Nelson

    education was borne by the College. With the most successfully financed colleges and universities, they can even provide full support that is need based /merit based. However, the cost of educating students rather than serving the institution's sustainability has shifted to the needs not necessarily of the workplace but because of the so-called adopting of "business practices" designed for institutional /managerial preservation (see NCAA) as well as incompetence in cost-control (administrator/faculty/staff ratios) and the philanthropic skills of a significant number of institutions combined with the proliferation of profit-based institutions who troll for debtors using a variety of consumer techniques more suited to infomercials, as though Paul Bremer was running the DoEd


    But at least at public colleges and universities — which enroll three out of every four American college students — the main cause of tuition growth has been huge state funding cuts.

    Every recession, states face a budget squeeze as their tax revenue falls and demand for their services rises. They have to cut something, and higher education is often a prime target....

    “If you’re a state legislator, you look at all your state’s programs and you say, ‘Well, we can’t make prisoners pay, but we can make college students pay,’” said Ronald Ehrenberg, the director of the Cornell Higher Education Research Institute and a trustee of the State University of New York System.

    College students do end up paying more. But in the past, after the economy recovered, most states did not fully restore the funds that were cut. As cuts accumulated in each business cycle, so did tuition increases.
    http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/...

    Warning - some snark may be above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ eState4Column5©2013 "If we appear to seek the unattainable, then let it be known that we do so to avoid the unimaginable." (@eState4Column5)

    by annieli on Sat Aug 16, 2014 at 07:18:32 AM PDT

  •  As far as I'm concerned (5+ / 0-)

    …forgiving college loans and offering all Americans a free education as far as they can go -- is the best hope for the political future of either party and for the nation as a whole.

    That's what modern, civilized nations do:  They invest in Human Capital.

    (Only third-world colonial nations keep their people dumb and broke, slaves to the corporations.)

    I even wrote a Diary on that:

    Why Won't Nastyass Millennial Honey Badgers Vote in the 2014 Midterms?



    For an idea that does not at first seem insane, there is no hope.
    - Albert Einstein:  Leftist, socialist, emo-prog, cosmic visionary.

    by Pluto on Sat Aug 16, 2014 at 07:36:55 AM PDT

  •  The flip side of this (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LanceBoyle, Caj

    IMO is that having "go to college" be the normal/default for "what are you doing after graduation?" is just nuts. I teach college freshmen, and many of them have no idea why they are there, except it was the thing to do and/or they're eager to enjoy "the college experience/lifestyle." What are you passionate about? Not much.

    Some have very specific career goals (construction project management, or business, or criminal justice), which our liberal arts gen-ed requirements have little connection to. (We offer those pre-professional programs, but they also have to take the gen-ed Core curriculum.) Some have no goals at all except "win at this awesome video game" or "score more beer/pot/pills" or "help the sailing team to another national medal." Some know that they're going back to work in daddy's small business in some small town, to raise their kids as they were raised, so it doesn't matter whether they excel in college or just scrape through.

    Very very few of them seem to want to be challenged, or to work hard. And very few see their college courses as in any way connected with their current or future real lives. For at least half, I want to write a letter to their parents and say, "Is this really worth $50,000 a year to you? Really?" But I can't.

    IMO we would be much better served if you could not go to college until you really really wanted to. That probably means way fewer people going -- a problem, since colleges have expanded way beyond those numbers and have expensive infrastructure to maintain and upgrade -- and way more people taking a few years to grow up and figure out what they want before college. And options for those few years that don't involve joining the military and killing people and getting PTSD, or working part-time at a demoralizing and barely-scraping-by minimum wage job, although for some kids that could be eye-opening.

    •  Your Points Are Taken, However (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kevinbr38
      "Very very few of them seem to want to be challenged, or to work hard. And very few see their college courses as in any way connected with their current or future real lives." - RM
      I always thought it was part of my job as a teacher to challenge students whether they wanted that or not and motivate them to work hard whether they wanted to or not.

      If I was a communist, rich men would fear me...And the opposite applies. The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.

      by stewarjt on Sat Aug 16, 2014 at 09:12:32 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Rugbymom... (0+ / 0-)

      "We know that in today’s economy, whether you go to a four-year college, a community college, or a professional training program, some higher education is the surest ticket to the middle class.'
        --President Obama--

      You will notice from the President's words that he has not suggested that college is the only way to go after high school graduation.
      Further, for many young people, attending college is exactly the experience needed to be able to figure out what they want to do with their [professional] lives.
      I could be wrong, but I sense a bit of disdain from you for a liberal arts [higher] education.
      I would refer you to a diary I wrote a while back on this subject. "The Case For Liberal Arts".
      'Knowing what you want to do' should not be the prerequisite, a deciding reason for attending college.
      The problem is not whether or not young people should know what career path they wish to follow before embarking on a costly college path, but rather, that the costs become such that indeed more can do so.

      "These 'Yet To Be' United States" --James Baldwin--

      by kevinbr38 on Sat Aug 16, 2014 at 09:17:15 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  One serious problem (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Utahrd

        Is the disdain or dislike many liberal arts and some social science university faculty (as well as some business faculty) have for the STEM fields.

        [At most non-engineering schools, the science and mathematics taken by non-STEM majors ranges from superficial to derisory, and (from experience) faculty in those departments are often reluctant to encourage or even accommodate better-prepared students who want to take more challenging STEM courses.]

        This not only reinforces habits and views acquired in secondary education, but makes a liberal arts degree much less flexible, and therefore much less valuable, as well as graduating students with minimal understanding of the scientific and technical issues in society, or of the mathematical and statistical concepts used to analyze them.

        On the other end, of course, too many STEM faculty (but not most of my colleagues, as far as I can tell) have a reciprocal disdain or incomprehension for the liberal arts and most social sciences. This often means that students in STEM (and more particularly, those thinking of STEM who don't manage to finish the program) are deficient in communication skills and lacking in context.

        One can argue about the proper balance and approaches, but it seems to me that neglecting one side for the other serves neither the students nor society well.

        •  A liberal arts prof on STEM (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Utahrd

          I'm a professor of History and I have enormous respect for the sciences and for their social value. But I see US education as currently mired in a kind of "cargo cult" approach to STEM education-- an assumption that all that's needed is program commitment and funding and--presto!-- we have STEM graduates.

          I think this is naive. Our demands for STEM majors are not going to be met, because the STEM disciplines are hard, and Americans are no longer inclined to take on hard projects. We think we can leave all that to immigrants or foreigners on study visas.

          A good first step towards improving STEM education would be to thoroughly purge the school boards and textbook selection committees of Creationists, but I don't see even that happening very soon.

  •  For most students, going into debt for a degree (0+ / 0-)

    is a very bad idea. My impression is that an insanely high percentage of people with US$9 - US$12 and Lower paying jobs have college degrees. They are unable to pay off debt at even the lowest interest rate (zero) and they are now totally screwed with no options.

    The number of well paying jobs available for college grads is far too low to justify the current billion US$ in student loans. The majority of these debtors would have been better off skipping college and avoiding smothering debt.

    Currently, USA passports are denied to people for debt problems like back child support and back taxes, and it is only a matter of time before overdue student debt is added to this list.

    I voted with my feet. Good Bye and Good Luck America!!

    by shann on Sat Aug 16, 2014 at 09:23:42 AM PDT

  •  I have a solution (0+ / 0-)

    Look at that huge spike in 2011 in annieli's graph above. As long as colleges find it easy pass along their increases to parents/students in the way of easy to get loans from the Feds they will. And the price of college will continue to escalate far above inflation. taxpayers are in effect subsidizing the skyrocketing costs of college.

    Administrative bloat, expanding student services, and reduced state funding are driving college cost increases.

    So why not put the colleges on the hook (or a portion) for a kid's loan? After say, five years if a graduate has not procured a job related to their degree, the college begins annual repayments for a portion of the loan for each year until they do. I realize there are a lot of variables to be accounted for in that scenario. However, colleges now find it too easy to accept (loan) money without any assurances of job prospects. Much less any efficiency in managing the campus bureaucracy.

    if colleges had "skin in the game" they would be more judicious about their offerings, enrollment, and expenditures.

    Oh, and VOTE for state level candidates who will support higher education!

  •  Follow the money (0+ / 0-)

    "states like VT and ID are not 'real america'" -icemilkcoffee

    by Utahrd on Sat Aug 16, 2014 at 03:11:10 PM PDT

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