White House College Affordability Briefing


Uploaded by whitehouse on 10.05.2012

Transcript:
Ronnie Cho: Hello, everyone.
My name is Ronnie Cho and I'm an Associate Director here at
the White House, Office of Public Engagement,
where I serve the President as the Liaison to Young Americans.
And I want to first say thank you and welcome you to the White
House and thank you for coming to be a part of this very
important discussion that we're all looking forward to,
to have some good questions and good dialogue on college
affordability and particularly around the issue of student loan
interest rates that are, as of now,
set to double on July 1st if Congress doesn't act.
I first also want to say very briefly that this issue of
college affordability and access has been something President
Obama has worked very hard on for the last three years from
historic investments in the Pell Grant to the American
Opportunity Tax Credit.
You know, this is a President that believes that these aren't
just nice things to do for young people.
He believes this is mission critical for us,
for us in our fight in our mission to build an America
that's built to last.
An America that's going to out-innovate,
out-educate and outbuild the rest of the world,
we ought to have an educated workforce,
we ought to have an opportunity for folks in the middle class to
get to college.
And those who want to get into the middle class,
an opportunity for them to pursue their dreams
and aspirations.
And so that's really sort of the nature and the goal of this
discussion today.
And we will also be featuring a panel of officials from the
White House and the Department of Education,
along with a very special guest, Vice President Biden,
who will be joining us later this morning.
So I first want to introduce the panel but who will be moderated
by my friend and colleague Anne Filipic from the White
House Office of Public Engagement where she serves
as a Deputy Director.
And, Anne, if you want to come on up and we'll introduce the
rest of the panel.
So thank you, very much, for joining us.
And folks on livestream as well we'll have some questions,
we'll be fielding questions later this morning so please
tweet at #DontDoubleMyRate.
And folks here in the audience will be able to ask some
questions as well.
So thank you, very much.
(applause)
Anne Filipic: Good morning, everyone.
Thanks for, thanks for being here and thanks to everyone
that is tuning in from their computers at home.
As Ronnie said, my name is Anne Filipic.
I'm a Deputy Director in the White House Office of Public
Engagement and I want to thank you all for joining us to
discuss the very important issue of college affordability.
We have students and leaders here in the audience at the
White House and as I said we have folks tuning in from home.
And this issue of college affordability is something that
as you have probably seen the President has been out talking
about it for the past few weeks, going across the country talking
with students, with high school students, with college students,
with their parents.
And he's talked with them about the issue, as Ronnie laid out,
that the need for Congress to prevent interest rates from
doubling on July 1st which will happen if they do not act.
And as Ronnie said as this issue is something that's had
particular focus over the last few weeks it's certainly,
the issue of college affordability,
has certainly been a priority for this President and for this
Administration since President Obama took office.
So we wanted to invite some of the President's senior officials
who are working on the issue of higher education and college
affordability day in and day out so we could hear from them
about this issue.
And, of course, take your questions which will be a big
part of our conversation today.
And then we are very excited to have a very special guest,
Vice President Joe Biden joining us later on in the
program as well.
So I do want to introduce our panelists.
Today we have Roberto Rodriguez, Special Assistant to the
President for Education Policy.
We have Eduardo Ochoa, who is the Assistant Secretary for Post
Secondary Education at the U.S. Department of Education.
And we have Martha Coven, the Associate Director
for Education, Income Maintenance, and Labor,
at the Office of Management and Budget.
So in just a moment I will ask these panelists to speak for
just a few moments about this issue and then again we will
take your questions.
But before we do that I just want to take a moment to ask all
of you, you're all here at the White House and tuning in from
home because you care about this issue and because you're leaders
on this issue.
And at the Office of Public Engagement we always encourage
the public to get involved and to spread the word.
This is, obviously, the issue of college affordability is an
issue of great importance to young people, to families,
to parents all across the country who are wondering how
they're going to be able to send their children to college
and to afford it.
And it's also an issue that many people don't have the
full facts about.
So we really ask you, I think, to help spread the word about
the information you hear today both in terms of the fact that
again if Congress fails to act on July 1st,
federally subsidized student loans,
the interest rate will double.
But also about the programs and the policies of the federal
government and the Obama Administration that relate
to higher education.
So a couple ways would I encourage you to do that,
first for everyone here in the audience and for those tuning
in encourage you, if you're on twitter,
to use #DontDoubleMyRate.
That's what we've been doing over the past few weeks and
multiple times over the past few weeks that's, actually,
that hashtag has been trending worldwide so a lot of people
obviously care about this issue and want to talk about it.
I also encourage you to check out the White House website and
the Department of Education website.
We're using the website WhiteHouse.gov/DontDoubleMyRate.
Also WhiteHouse.gov/Double, if you want to save some time typing.
And I encourage you to check that out.
And, again, share it with your friends, with fellow students,
with your family, with people that care about this issue.
And stay updated there.
So with that, after asking all of you to tweet throughout this
conversation and to spread the word as you go home,
I'd like to pass things off to Roberto.
Roberto Rodriguez: Great. Well, thanks very much, Anne.
And welcome to the White House.
It's great to see all of you here in our audience.
And a special welcome to those of you who are joining us online
as well for this important conversation.
President Obama has really charted for us a course to build
an America that's built to last and higher education opportunity
is a really key goal, it's a pillar and cornerstone of
President Obama's vision there.
This is, you know, a priority that the President established
early in his Administration.
There is kind of a framing goal that he set and I want to talk
a little bit about some of the reasons why he has focused so
with such importance on the higher education
opportunity agenda.
In 2009, President Obama set a goal that says we need to move
from 16th in the world back to 1st in the world in terms
of the proportion of young people in our country with
a college degree.
And he set that goal and trajectory for us by the
end of this decade, by 2020.
We used to be 1st in the world but over a generation other
nations around the globe, Japan, Canada, South Korea,
other nations, have actually increased their share of young
people with a college degree faster than here
in the United States.
And so our imperative to really again regain our standing in the
world with the highest proportion of college graduates
is important today more than ever before for a number of
economic reasons.
And Anne briefly referred to the importance of having all the
facts in this conversation so I want to give you a few of those.
We know that over this next decade,
the employment and jobs that require an education beyond
high school will grow more rapidly than other jobs.
And we know in just four short years, by 2016,
four out of every ten new jobs will require some advance post
secondary education and training.
We know that as we look further out into the economy,
of the 30 fastest growing occupations,
more than half will require some post secondary education.
And we also know that our college degree in today's
economy is still one of the most important pathways to the middle
class and to economic mobility.
We know that the average earnings of college graduates
are at a level that is twice as high as those with workers with
only a high school diploma.
So the importance of higher education opportunity to really
fulfilling the American promise and building an economy that is
built to last is more important today more than ever.
It's also important to our collective economy and to
restoring America's global leadership economically.
At the same time we know that today more than ever the cost
of college is really putting the American promise out of
reach for too many Americans.
And access to higher education has become increasingly
expensive for families.
This is why we're here today.
This is why we're having the conversation today around
college affordability because as many of you have noted,
this is a debate that is beginning to pick up
currency in the media.
And we know that now Americans owe more on their student loans
than they do on their credit cards.
We know that we have some of the best colleges and universities
in the world and yet tuition and fees at America's colleges and
universities has more than doubled over the
past two decades.
And today graduates who are leaving our colleges and
universities eager to enter the workforce are left with college
debt that averages more than $25,000.
So this affordability challenge is one that we have to take,
we believe we have to take head-on and we have to,
we believe, can't be an impediment to really increasing
college access and attainment.
This is why the President most recently has really called on
Congress to do more to make sure that we're keeping student
interest rates low.
We've had debates in the House of Representatives.
Most recently we've seen a republican filibuster of the
President's proposal in the Senate.
We're going to continue to keep working with Congress
to make sure that for 7.4 million borrowers,
we keep these interest rates at 3.4% and we keep those interest
rates low.
The clock is ticking on this.
We have a July 1 deadline.
If we reach July 1 and this has not been fixed,
those interest rates jump back up to 6.8%.
We believe that in today's economy we have to do more to
make sure that we can keep these rates affordable and these loans
affordable for millions of Americans.
And over the course of that loan that means about a thousand
dollars in savings for those Americans.
Now, that's obviously coupled with a whole host of higher
education reforms that the President has really shepherded
through over the past three years.
It really began with his work in making sure that we shored
up the Pell Grant which is a lifeline of support for now over
9 million college goers and we have increased that grant
by $905 in terms of the maximum grant under Pell.
Pell, we saw, had been flatlined pretty much over the course of
the last decade.
When we came in in 2009 we were able to increase that.
The President ushered in the largest expansion and
re-organization of the student aid system and was able to
effectively close loopholes that were providing federal subsidies
to banks, subsidies that we couldn't afford in particular
when college affordability was becoming such a big challenge
for our students.
And we were able to reinvest over $40 billion of dollars that
would have gone to financial institutions to really put that
back in the pockets of students in the context of Pell Grants,
in the context of doing more to invest in our
community college system.
And the President has reinvested some of those savings in shoring
up pathways to community college and training for more Americans
to reinvest in some of our minority-serving institutions,
our historically black colleges and universities,
our Hispanic-serving institutions,
our Asian-Pacific Islanders institutions,
to make sure that we're doing more to open those pathways of
higher education attainment for more of our minority students
across the country.
And at the same time we've also done more to make sure that the
tax credits that are afforded to our students and to their
families are robust and really are making a difference around
the college affordability.
So we've tripled those tax credits and over the course of
four years that means $10,000 in tax savings that families
can glean with the American opportunity tax credit.
Again here the President has asked and called on Congress to
make sure that we're making that tax credit permanent so that
more of our families are able to rely on that as their students
go on to college.
Finally, we need to also make sure that we're doing more to
make sure that on the tail end as students are graduating from
college borrowers can really manage their debt.
And as I mentioned that average debt is upwards of $25,000.
So we need to be sure that as more of our college graduates
are entering the economy, they're able to really manage
their student loan payments and this is why the President has
done more to really expand the Income Based Repayment Program.
This is a program that the President talked about last fall
in terms of the expansion and we've moved that program now so
that this year borrowers as they repay their loans will have the
option of pegging their monthly repayment to 10%
of their income.
That ensures that they're able to afford those student loan
repayments over the course of the loan.
Those students who end up keeping up with those repayments
over ten years and entering public service can have the
remainder of that loan debt forgiven after ten years.
For the remainder of folks that may not go into public service
the remainder of that loan debt can be forgiven after 20 years.
So these are just a few of the elements that make up the
President's higher education agenda.
My colleagues will talk in greater detail about some
of these elements.
What we want to do today is really have a conversation with
you about some of the challenges you're facing in college
affordability and hear from you about what you think we can do,
what more can we do at the federal level to really support
a pathway toward college attainment for each of
you individually.
We know how important that is to your future.
We're here to also tell you it's important to America's future.
And the President believes if we're going to continue to be
the best nation in the world we have to make sure that we're
opening college opportunity and addressing this challenge of
affordability for all of our students.
Thank you, very much.
(applause)
Eduardo Ochoa: Well, good morning.
It's great to have you all here.
And it's, for me particularly, it's gratifying to get together
with students.
I miss the life of the campus but it's very exciting here
working with Roberto and our colleagues.
Well, Roberto did a very thorough job of giving you
the context as well as some of the highlights of the work that
we're doing.
I just wanted to add a couple of things in terms of context.
If we look at even more long-term,
it's clear that the United States economic preeminence
in the past was driven by the fact that we had the
most educated workforce.
This was true way back in the 19th century when universal
public education came in and made our workers more qualified.
It took another major impetus with the land grant movement.
And that also created another surge of rising education.
And then the GI Bill was the other major government program
that was able to really turbo boost the economy in the post
war era.
So now we're facing a similar historical moment in which with
the information technology revolution that's going on
in the transition to a global information economy we really
need to continue to increase the educational
level of our citizens.
And that's what the President has clearly identified.
And that's why he laid out the 2020 education goal to
challenge us to do this.
So the college affordability issue then becomes a potential
stumbling block on achieving that goal and that's why it
is very important that we address it.
I think that also I want to put emphasis on the concept of
shared responsibility because we need to understand what the
problem with of -- where the problem of college affordability
comes from.
In fact, the majority of students attending college,
close to 80% attend public institutions
of higher education.
And those institutions have traditionally received support
funding from states so that they would be able to charge tuition
rates to students that were considerably below the full
cost of actually delivering that education.
As the federal government has stepped up in the ways that
Roberto indicated in terms of increasing Pell Grants
and making more loans available there has also been a movement
because, in part because of the financial problems that states
have had where states have been scaling back their support for
higher education.
So that's another piece here that there we're looking for
ways to incentivize states to restore or at least shore up
their level of funding for public higher education so that
the added resources that the federal government is putting
into education actually move us farther along.
And that's an important piece of one of the two programs I just
wanted to highlight for you that we're working on in the
Department of Education.
The first one is we're calling it "Race to the Top,
College Affordability and Completion."
In-house we call it "Race to the Top for Higher Ed."
And it basically will have a certain similarity to the Race
to the Top program that took place for K-12 in that it will
be aimed at states and it will be competitive and states'
successful applications for funding in that program will
depend on demonstrated commitment to a number of
measures designed to, among other things,
keep college affordable for our students as well as improve the
efficiency of the system and reducing the underlying cost.
So that's a major program that will start in the 2013 proposed
budget which started $1 billion and hopefully would continue for
years after that.
The other major program, it's smaller but it's, I think,
potentially very significant, is first in the world which is a
program that would run under the fund for the improvement of post
secondary education and that one is aimed at institutions
and this is really designed to foster innovation in teaching
and learning, aimed at increasing not only
effectiveness and quality but also productivity and efficiency
which is another sort of tool in the arsenal that we have to
deploy to attack the problem of college affordability.
And finally there is a cluster of programs that provide
campus-paid student aid, supplemental educational
opportunity grants, the Perkins Loans and federal work study.
These programs would collectively be boosted
in terms of their funding to about $10 billion.
Most of the increase would be the Perkins Loans.
And they would be also distributed under this,
the proposed budget, on the basis of demonstrated
effectiveness by institutions in actually reducing or keeping
costs down, improving graduation rates,
and serving lower income students,
as opposed to a formula that historically has been used
that tended to benefit institutions that were
just early on in the system.
So that's another way of creating incentives at the
individual institutions' level.
So these are some of the things that we're doing but clearly the
issue of the day is the interest rate and this
would be a major setback.
And in the current landscape if that interest rate doubles we
would take a hit in terms of our ability to move forward
on this agenda.
So it's very important that before that July 1 deadline
arrives that Congress act and keep the interest rate at 3.4%.
Thank you.
(applause)
Martha Coven: So I'm going to close out of here by talking
a bit about some of the budget battles that are going on on
Capitol Hill and the discussions we're having about priorities
and where to spend our resources.
Obviously, you know, the top, the leading example is this
question about whether we're going to prevent student loan
interest rates from doubling on July 1st or not.
The President and some of his colleagues in Congress have a
very different vision about how we should make
sure that happens.
We've got a bill that passed the House of Representatives that
would pay for that interest rate to stay down by cutting funds
that go to preventing health care difficulties including
preventative measures for women and cancer screenings and what
have you, these very different visions that we have about how
we should move forward here and that's a really essential debate
that I'm sure the Vice President will return to.
What I'm going to talk about is just looking beyond that we have
much broader budget discussions going on over the course of this
spring and into the summer and fall and winter and I wanted to
layout for you a bit of what the President's vision was which
you've largely heard from Roberto and Eduardo in the
contrast that is provided by the House budget resolution that was
passed recently and a piece of which they're debating on the
House floor this week.
So in February, the President put forward a very serious
proposal that had deficit reduction measures in it,
quite substantial deficit reduction measures in it,
but also managed to maintain some critical investments
including in education.
And you heard about many of those.
This spring the House of Representatives passed a plan
that is very, very different and offers a very different vision
for the future including a very different vision for education.
This is a plan that would direct even more tax breaks to very
wealthy individuals including those making over a million
dollars a year, getting an average tax break of $150,000.
I don't know about you but that would have paid off my student
loans quite nicely.
And that's just one piece of this House plan.
It also preserves taxpayer giveaways to oil companies and
hedge fund managers, and really propping up those who are
already doing quit well.
Those are costly measures.
How would they pay for it?
They pay for it, number 1, by essentially ending Medicare as
we know it, really converting that program,
which is such a bedrock for senior citizens and others
to a much different vision for the future.
And by breaking the very tough deal that was made last summer,
a bipartisan deal on where we should set our overall levels of
spending, particularly for the annual appropriations bills that
go through which carry a significant share of
education funding.
So keep in mind that Congress and the President have already
agreed last summer and in a number of rounds,
a number of other measures to put this annual,
especially the nonsecurity, so we're not talking about defense,
but the rest of the annual appropriations bills on a path
to have the lowest level of spending as a share of the
economy since Dwight Eisenhower was President.
So we're talking about your grandparents or great
grandparents generation.
We're already on that path.
We have already cut way back.
The House budget resolution would take us far, far,
beyond that, and it calls for, on top of those agreements that
we've already made, cutting an additional trillion dollars over
the next decade and these annual nonsecurity spending programs.
Starting in 2014, for example, this would mean a cut of about
20% and if it's done evenly across the board in just about
every program in that area.
So what I'd like to do, it's hard to overstate the impact
of this, I'm going to talk in a moment about the education
impacts in particular, but this is the part of the budget that
makes sure that we can enforce the laws that protect our clean
air, clean water, the safety of the food that we eat,
job training programs, research and development,
the social safety net that protects women and children
and people with disabilities and seniors and just a big part of
what the federal government does and the society that we are and
the investments that we've made.
But let me focus in particular on some of the impacts on
education programs.
First, Roberto mentioned the commitment and Eduardo echoed
this, we had the campus-based aid including to work study
jobs, the President has actually called for doubling the number
of college work study jobs over the next five years and has
provided for an increase for work study in his budget.
If you took the 20% cut in the House budget plan,
that would force the elimination of 125,000 jobs.
So taking us backwards rather than moving us forward in terms
of work study opportunities for college students to help them
pay for college and build some important skills.
Secondly, Pell Grants, which have been mentioned here,
this is obviously, as Roberto said,
been a high priority for the President,
an area where we have directed working with Congress some
increases, we are seeing the Pell Grant increase in this
coming year to keep up with inflation,
that's really important.
Under the plan passed by the House of Representatives if Pell
were subject to that same 20% cut as the other programs in the
annual nonsecurity budget we would see nearly 10 million
students getting their Pell Grants cut by an average of
a thousand dollars.
That is taking us in the wrong direction.
Just two more examples of areas where this House budget plan has
called out for cuts again to take us again in the opposite
direction from this Administration,
and I imagine from your priorities,
the House Republican budget called for repealing the
income-based repayment plan that Roberto described.
The pay-as-you-earn approach that helps to make sure that
coming out of college your loans stay affordable and that your
payment is gauged with your income so that it's not
competing with other needs that you have.
The budget suggests that a reasonable plan might be to get
rid of that option all together.
And finally coming back to another issue that Roberto
touched on that the House Republican budget suggests
that we should get rid of the mandatory funding that's going
to community colleges to help build their ability to have
effective programs that are connecting their students,
and this is where about half of college students today are is in
community colleges, make sure that they're connected with good
programs that are leading to good job opportunities working
with local employers.
The President has made a priority to invest there
as Roberto said.
The House Republican budget plan says forget the guaranteed
funding for that, just kind of see what you can come up with.
So in short, these are, I think, very different visions for the
future of our country, for the economic opportunities that
young Americans would have in the coming years.
And these are really important budget battles that we are
frankly in and we'll continue to be in and hope that your voices
can be added to those debates.
Thank you.
(applause)
Anne Filipic: Great. Well, thank you to all of our panelists,
to Roberto and Eduardo for that great overview
of Administration policies.
And for Martha for talking about the House Republican budget and
just generally what's at stake.
I think that's a really important part of this
conversation and a lot of what we'll be talking about in the
coming months.
So thank you all for that overview.
So now we are going to move in to the question and answer part
of this.
As Roberto said, we really want this to be a conversation.
We want to take your questions.
We also want to hear from you, I think,
about how this issue is affecting you.
You, I think, all come with stories,
whether it is from your own experience or from friends
or colleagues on college campuses across the country.
So we want to hear from you.
We also again want to encourage you throughout this conversation
to share what you're hearing today via Twitter again with
that #DontDoubleMyRate.
And I also know that many of the folks in the audience coming in
to today's event collected questions from members of
student organizations across the country or from your friends on
college campuses.
So we'd love to hear not only from those in this room but
through you from questions from other students across
the country.
I also want to encourage those tuning in from home to tweet
using that #DontDoubleMyRate.
And for those in the audience that are paying attention to
that hashtag if you see a particularly good question,
feel free to stand up and ask on behalf of that person from home.
So with that, I know, Ronnie, we have a few microphones and want
to invite you all to raise your hand if you have any questions.
All right. Over here.
Josh Altman: Thank you.
So my name is Josh Altman, I'm a proud graduating senior
at G.W. just down the street.
And my question is, obviously, the big issue right now and the
issue we should be focusing on is the rate doubling coming up.
But in regards to the deeper issue, how,
what is our understanding and how do we address the underlying
issue of rising costs, and to borrow the phrase of the health
care debate, bend the cost curve on the underlying costs that
this is all really just addressing.
Anne Filipic: Okay. Roberto?
Roberto Rodriguez: Okay, well, I think -- I appreciate the question, Josh,
and let me offer some insights.
And I know Eduardo and Martha may have other thoughts to share
here, too.
I think fundamentally what we're after is to promote a new change
in our higher education system.
To focus on innovation and to focus on new strategies and new
practices that will promote efficiency and productivity
in higher education.
As Eduardo shared, this is a shared responsibility.
The issue of addressing college affordability has to be an
all-hands-on-deck proposition.
We have a role to play in making sure that we're shoring up our
student aid system and doing all we can to keep loans affordable
and to make sure we're providing the tax credits and the grants
that are needed to be able to support college affordability
and make sure that our students are able to afford college.
States have a strong role to play here, too.
As was noted, two-thirds of our students are in
state-level institutions.
So doing more at the state level to promote affordability and to
make sure that our institutions of higher education at the state
level have the resources they need to keep tuition low for
students is critical.
Just in this past year we have seen 40 states cut their higher
education budgets.
And this is something that the President has talked directly to
governors about when they visited him here at the
White House earlier this year.
It's really important that our states assume a greater
responsibility to keep college affordable,
in particular at our state colleges and universities,
because those are such important institutions
for so many of our students.
And then finally we believe that our institutions have a role to
play and a responsibility to foster change in how they keep
college affordable for their students.
And that means some institutions need to look at how they can
drive new efficiencies and how they budget and how they
organize their back room operations,
their energy efficiencies.
It also invokes a new change in how we promote teaching and
learning at our colleges and universities.
And I think we're seeing some new innovative models around
delivering courses at our colleges and universities using
technology, using new methods to make sure that our students are
getting a great quality education while also
controlling some of the costs.
Ultimately what we want to do is to promote a stronger value
proposition on the part of our students and our families.
We want to be sure that our students and families -- and we
haven't talked too much about this yet this morning -- have
the information they need to be able to seek out education
that's going to be affordable and provide good value.
And it's the responsibility of our higher education sector just
as it's the responsibility at the federal and state level to
promote value in our higher education system.
Eduardo Ochoa: Well, I think Roberto has put it very well
but there is a few other observations I would add.
It really is, higher education is a very heterogeneous
industry, if you will.
And but it has some similarities with health care.
And, you know, to really understand the dynamics of it,
first of all, the reality is that public higher education's
costs have remained essentially flat.
Although to be truthful that has been primarily because
of budget pressures.
They haven't been able to add to their costs.
The reality is that as in health care,
the sort of elite institutions have kind of set the pace.
They set the benchmark.
And those institutions have a kind of dynamic where they
actually advance themselves as institutions by providing richer
and more costly experiences for our students.
So there is really no emphasis on cost containment.
Instead, it's about adding features,
enriching the experience.
And so we're looking for ways to change that structure,
that dynamic.
It really will require a cultural transformation in our
institutions where our faculty would start to actually devote
their ingenuity and creativity which they have in spades to
finding ways to do things more efficiently as well as
to do it better.
That's really what it will take.
And our, you know, we're trying through these programs to create
those sorts of incentives particularly I think the FIPSI
program can help maybe change a little bit the dynamics so that
faculty who do take this challenge on are actually
rewarded and recognized and those kinds of activities gain
prestige in the academy and will influence that all important
retention, tenure and promotion process.
Anne Filipic: Great. Next question.
Right here.
Elliott Bell-Krzr: Yes, good morning.
My name is Elliott Bell-Krzr, I'm also a proud graduate of
the George Washington University and I'm going to be getting my
Master's degree from American University in just a few days.
First of all, appreciate you being here this morning and
appreciate the opportunity to be here.
You know, you mentioned, for example,
the budget proposed by the House of Representatives.
I think, you know, you won't get an argument from many people in
this room that this has been one of the most unproductive
Congresses, you know, really in 50 years, follow,
which followed one of the most productive Congresses in 50
years which is just really remarkable and very disturbing.
President Obama did a really brave and really wonderful thing
last September when he used the authority granted to him with
regards to ESCA to try to end some of the more controversial
provisions of "No Child Left Behind" and, you know,
now the waiver process is going through.
And he did that because of the legislative gridlock in the
hopes that, you know, it would force Congress to be
able to do something.
And I wonder, I suppose, you know,
given the fact that we're in a situation right now where the
House and the Senate can't seem to agree on anything,
what can we do to be able to educate people throughout the
country about the necessity of this and what do you think
really realistically can be done.
Do we need to do this piecemeal?
Do we need to pass certain pieces of legislation, you know,
that focus on certain things that don't have to do with
the greater budget?
Because I'm just wondering what's going to get this done to
prevent not only the rates from doubling but also just lower the
cost of, you know, higher education in the long-term.
Anne Filipic: Well, I'll weigh in and say I think,
I think you're right that this Congress,
there are many things that they haven't acted on.
Actually yesterday, or I guess -- yes, yesterday,
the President laid out a to-do list for Congress which talked
about five different things that he proposed would really need to
get done to create jobs.
So certainly the President is constantly pushing Congress to
take action.
In terms of this issue, student loan interest rates,
I think what we have seen and what has caused the Congress to
take action when they have, is when they're hearing from their
constituents that the issues matter to them,
that is what -- where action comes from.
So I know that a number of groups that are represented here
have actually throughout the past few weeks been doing a
tremendous amount of work of placing letters to the editor,
opinion pieces, hosting events across the country and I think
really lifting up stories of real people,
of students and families who would be affected by this who
simply cannot afford the potential doubling
of these rates.
And so I would say that just from our perspective of sort
of watching it all play out that's where action comes from.
I think a perfect example of this is the payroll tax cut
debate that some of you guys might have been paying
attention to.
This was right before the holidays in late December and
there was sort of a deadlock and things weren't moving and people
wondered if the President would even be able to, you know,
go with his family on vacation and spend Christmas with them.
And then suddenly there was this sort of swelling of voices
across the country, this was people use the #$40 to talk
about what, like what $40 for every,
for every time you get a paycheck,
what that means to you, what that means to your budget.
And then suddenly you saw the whole debate shift.
And I think that's exactly what I think looking at this issue of
student loan interest rates seem just within the last few weeks
how this issue has progressed on Capitol Hill.
I think that speaks to the power of all of those in this room and
who you represent across the country.
Okay. Over here.
American U. Junior: Excellent.
So thank you, very much.
So I have a question about, or, actually,
two very specific questions related to the debt forgiveness
after ten years.
The first is whether that's permanent or whether that's
potentially on the chopping block.
And the second is how that applies to the
public service requirement.
You know, I plan on going into public service when I graduate.
I'm currently a rising junior at American University,
but I plan on going into public service for some time.
I don't know if I'll be in public service for ten years.
How does that work?
Thanks so much.
Roberto Rodriguez: So these are -- thank you for the question -- these
are elements that were put into place in the
Higher Education Act.
The Income Based Repayment Program is actually a provision
that was in the 2008 Higher Education Opportunity Act that
Congress moved forward and put in place these provisions to
enable some of the loan forgiveness after ten years
and then after 20 years with those various windows.
What the President has done is to make that program more
generous and to move up those terms so that borrowers sooner
are able to actually take advantage of those provisions.
And also to move the repayment for the monthly income from 15%
down to 10%.
So and we're currently working on, really,
redesigning that program so that it's really easier for
our borrowers to use so that it's more recognizable as a
pay-as-you-earn program and so with a few clicks of the mouse,
more of our borrowers are able to actually apply for this
Income Based Repayment.
If you enter public service after ten years and you commit
to that public service for a minimum number of years,
I don't think it has to be a full ten years, that loan,
the balance of your loans can be forgiven if you are
participating in an Income Based Repayment Program.
You have to make sure that you're maintaining your payments
with those loans, you're keeping those up to date,
and you have to kind of stay enrolled in the program up to
that point.
Anne Filipic: Maybe you can take a question on this side.
Yeah.
Andy McCracken: Thanks a lot.
I'm Andy McCracken, I'm with the National Campus
Leadership Council.
And over the last couple of weeks we've had about 240
student body presidents sign a letter as a call to action for
our national leaders to address student debt by taking the first
important step of keeping interest rates low.
So over the last week now we've seen the bill pass through the
House and the Senate seems to be punting the issue because no
one, neither side can really agree on the "pay-for."
So Brett Highley, one of our presidents from Purdue
University, tweeted in a question asking: Is there
potential for the White House to lead negotiations for a pay-for
that enough members of both parties can agree on?
So are there real negotiations happening and what role, if any,
is the Administration playing in that?
Martha Coven: Thanks for the question.
You're right that we've had attempts to pass bills
in both chambers.
In the Senate there was majority support but as you,
many of you probably know you need 60 votes to get anything
through the Senate and that's where it fell short.
The President has made very clear and the Administration
has made clear we stand ready to engage with the Congress on
discussions about how to make sure that bill gets
signed into law.
There are a number of different, quote-unquote,
offsets in the President's budget measures that would
achieve savings and deficit reduction that could be used
to offset the Student Loan Bill.
And we have made very clear that we are open to conversation with
how to do that.
We thought the way that the Senate did it made a lot of
sense and we're supportive of that.
If there is a need to find something else that's,
as long as it's something that's not hurting middle class
families or hurting college students which would defeat
the purpose of actually advancing this legislation,
I think that's the debate that we're in and that's why we've
pushed back and said it's not acceptable to pay for keeping
student loan rates low by denying women, you know,
cancer screenings or what have you.
That's a step backwards, not a step forwards.
But we are very open to that conversation.
I've made that really clear.
Anne Filipic: Great. Next question.
Maybe Ronnie right here. Yeah.
Miracle Elmes: Good afternoon.
My name is Miracle Elmes and I'm a junior studying psychology at
Virginia Commonwealth University.
And I have a question from a friend Daphne Robinson at Towson
University and she asks if the government is going to instill
any other financial assistance to those who are not eligible
for Pell Grants?
Roberto Rodriguez: Well, so I would say, you know, there's a host of student aid
programs that are available to those that may not be
Pell eligible.
We have the Stafford Loan program and that's an important
loan program.
We want to be sure that and want to refer anyone who is watching
or those of you here in the audience to learn more about
the suite of student aid tools and loans and grants that are
available at www.ed.gov.
You know, there also are, we have the Income Based Repayment
Program which is another source of support for students and the
Perkins Loan program which is another loan program that right
now only a select set of institutions are receiving
support for Perkins Loans.
One of the President's proposals that Eduardo and Martha spoke to
would restructure that program and expand that program really
to make Perkins Loans available to more students.
And also to incentivize institutions that keep costs
low and provide good value to their students to incentivize
a greater share of those dollars for those Perkins Loans to flow
to those institutions.
So those are just a few ways we're addressing the college
affordability outside of the Pell Grant.
Martha Coven: Just to add, Roberto, you mentioned earlier as a reminder,
the American Opportunity Tax Credit which is $10,000
over the course of a four-year college education is available
very broadly through the middle and upper middle class.
And that's another compliment to the Pell Grant in terms of
direct assistance to families paying for college.
Eduardo Ochoa: That's actually a program that doesn't get enough visibility,
really, because when you look at the scale of that
it's comparable to the Pell Grant program.
So it really is providing a lot of assistance to households.
Anne Filipic: Great. Let's take a question on this side.
Maybe right there.
Deon Jones: Hi, my name is Deon Jones and I go to American University.
I feel that we are talking very present.
And what I mean by that are for those students who are in
college now and for us when we leave.
But when I think of college affordability,
I'm from the inner city of Atlanta,
if you are familiar with Atlanta,
I'm from around the AUC area where Morehouse,
Spellman and Clark is and it's a very urban area.
At risk youth, the whole nine yards.
And when I think about my neighborhood and the young
people in my neighborhood, and there is many young people like
the ones in my neighborhood across this country,
it's the idea of the education behind college finance.
We have a lot of families who don't know how to fill
out a FASFA.
We have a lot of families who don't know how to sign up to
take the SAT.
We have a lot of people who, in my neighborhood,
who are extremely late when it comes to filing their taxes so
even if -- when you are extremely late in filing
your taxes you can't even fill out the FASFA form.
So how do we educate the -- and so I would say these types of
neighborhoods, these types of people, these urban areas,
these individuals living in poverty where this is not the
first thing on their mind.
And a lot of the types of conversations that we had today
where if we would have this in my neighborhood,
the majority of the people there wouldn't know anything of what
we were talking about.
Eduardo Ochoa: Well, that's a very important point you raised,
and we do have a couple of major programs that address that.
Upward Bound and Gear Up.
Those are programs that we run out of the Department of
Education that are specifically aimed at supporting students in
high school and sometimes even middle school,
getting them focused on the goal of attending college and also
providing assistance on all of those things, you know,
all of the roadblocks that are potentially out there.
Now, the thing about these programs is that as valuable as
they are they are only reaching a small fraction of the students
that really need those programs and so I think that one of the
things that we are going to be thinking about in the future at
some day we'll have a new higher education act and is to somehow,
you know, refocus or, you know, there is really two ways to go
on this, I think.
In order to be able to reach greater numbers you either have
to expand the scale of these programs or find a way to make
the federal contribution act more like a catalyst or seed
money for things that can then get started and can go on on a
sustainable basis on their own and then that support can move
somewhere else and so over time you reach a larger number.
One of those two strategies has to be followed.
Right now we're not doing that.
We just have support but to too small a fraction
of the students.
Roberto Rodriguez: Let me just also add to that.
I think inherent in your question is the importance
of making sure that college is a proposition and a prospect that
all of our students are appreciating early.
And we have to do more to shore up some of these programs that
Eduardo spoke of, Gear Up and Upward Bound which are great
pipelines to college.
But also make sure that our entire education system
beginning in primary school, in elementary school and all the
way through high school really is oriented toward this goal of
college readiness for all of our students.
And that we begin to get information in the hands of
parents and of students early about college.
That we have more students beginning to fill out the
FAFSA early.
Our Administration has taken historic steps to simplify the
FAFSA form.
We've put the FAFSA online.
We have cut in half the amount of time that it
takes to complete the FAFSA.
As the President has often said you shouldn't need a
Ph.D. to be able to fill out the FAFSA.
Some of these forms used to be historically just so onerous for
families and in particular for families in first generation
college-going families.
We need to be sure that that's a simpler process
for our families.
We also need to be sure that our families have the information
that they need to be able to navigate the college-going
experience and comparable information about institutions
of higher education, how much they cost,
what types of degrees they offer.
And this is why the President has proposed a new college
scorecard that would really collect comparable information
from our institutions of higher education and put
it in the hands of families.
If you think about this college and going to college can
sometimes be one of the most expensive propositions for a
family next to buying a new house, for instance.
And if you think about the experience that a family might
have in looking for a new home, putting out all of
those different sheets to kind of know where,
how this home compares to this home,
compares to this neighborhood, to this neighborhood,
families need that type of information as they're really
navigating the college-going experience for their students.
And so we want to be able to provide a simple shopping sheet
as well as a simple scorecard that provides comparable
information about the quality and value that colleges deliver
as well as the kind of demographic data so that
families really can make informed decisions.
And we want to really encourage the use of that
across the country.
We need really a resurgence of a national conversation across
dinner tables in every home on college-going.
Anne Filipic: Okay. We'll take a question back there.
Rich Williams: American University representing American
University's PIRG chapters.
Thank you so much for your leadership over the past year
on college affordability.
I mean, from the debt ceiling bill,
the symbol of partisan gridlock, being able to increase in the
Pell Grant program and maintain the Pell Grant program for two
years, the "Pay As you Earn" proposal expanding Income Based
Repayment and now the President leading this effort to prevent
interest rates from doubling since early this year,
so thank you for that.
I wanted to make a quick comment to the audience
and then a question.
Several groups will be heading over to Campus Progress after
this to have a follow-up conversation about ways that
you can continue this effort over the next few weeks.
So if you want to join that conversation please find us
in the back of the room right after this.
The question that I have for you is, obviously,
in this economy interest rates shouldn't be allowed to double.
But with the one-year freeze, the economy might not be as
robust as it needs to be to allow it to double next year.
So buying that one year to have a more robust conversation about
what should interest rates be and how interest rates should be
responsive to the economy seems like a conversation we
need to have.
What is the White House's plan over the next year to start that
conversation and try to find a long-term solution?
Roberto Rodriguez: Well, thank you for the question,
Rich, and for the engagement of PIRG in this important debate.
You know, we're focused right now on making sure that we act
before, that Congress can act before July 1 to really do more
to make sure that these rates do not double.
This is the clock is ticking and it's important that we make this
fix and be able to get this freeze enacted so that we can
have the time that we need to engage with Congress in a longer
term conversation about this and about the interest rates.
We believe it's critically important.
But we know we need to get that action done now.
There are 7.4 million borrowers that this could impact.
And we just don't believe that our students should have to pay
a thousand dollars more over the life of their loan,
in particular in this economy and in these times.
So we want to get this first step across the finish line and
then we want to have a deeper conversation with Congress about
the longer term implications of this.
Anne Filipic: Okay. How about right back there.
Sam Menefee-Libey: My name is Sam Menefee-Libey and I'm a staff person with
Campus Progress.
Thanks so much for having us today.
As you probably know, it's harder for LGBT students to
access public financial aid either because they're part of
LGBT families and they have a hard time filling out the FAFSA
or because they're struggling with getting access to their
parents' tax returns because of family acceptance issues.
In light of yesterday's announcement of the President's
and Vice President's support of marriage equality,
what are y'all doing to increase access to financial aid for LGBT
students whether it's advocating further appeal of the Defense of
Marriage Act or improving the FAFSA to be more trans-inclusive
or gay friendly?
Roberto Rodriguez: Well, thanks for the question.
We are doing all we can to really do more to make sure that
the FAFSA process is a seamless process and gets in the hands of
more of our families across the country.
And I think, you know, there's a challenge here around awareness
of the FAFSA in too many of our schools.
And I think what we're hoping to do is to engage our counselors,
to engage our educators, our high school educators,
our principals, in this process around FAFSA completion to get
that into more of our high schools.
And we're beginning to see, you know,
there's some encouraging work that's being done here by some
of our school districts that are doing things like tracking the
number of students in the share or proportion of students in
their high schools that are completing the FAFSA,
collecting that information at the district level and providing
new incentives for schools to get to a higher rate of
FAFSA completion.
And actually having schools compete on this.
And it's interesting, we're beginning to see a big uptick
in certain districts that place a high priority in terms of the
FAFSA completion.
So that's just one example.
We want to do more to make sure that our community centers,
our community-based partners outside of the school hours have
the information they need around the financial aid process and
can encourage students to and help students complete that
process both at home as well as in the community-based setting
if they're not getting that support in school.
Anne Filipic: Also I just wanted to say thanks to Campus
Progress for the great work that you all are doing on this
issue as well.
Perhaps back there.
Kevin Suyo: Good morning.
Thanks so much for being here.
My name is Kevin Suyo, I'm part of the Roosevelt Institute Young
Professionals Network and my day job I actually work for
the Department of Education.
So thanks a lot.
My question is on innovation and higher education.
A program like Race to the Top for Higher Education does a lot
to incentivize schools to do more innovative programs to
increase efficiency.
But equally important I think is the development
of communities of practice.
So is the federal government thinking about doing anything
to enable the access to free flow of information among
institutions that are really doing the best of the best in
terms of this work?
Eduardo Ochoa: Yes, thanks for that question.
We are in fact doing that.
And the beauty of that it doesn't take so much money
to do that.
We are -- we have a college completion task force in the
department that has held already a summit on best practices to
improve retention and completion and improve pedagogy and we're
also planning another conference around September, probably,
that will address specifically innovation.
Innovative uses of technology and new pedagogies and advances
in cognitive science.
And we're going to bring some of the most innovative and
out-of-the-box thinkers and put them together with key players
in large state university systems that are in a position
to be able to diffuse those sorts of innovations.
And so, and those meetings have, in fact -- you know,
they have a significant follow-up, and people,
networks are established, and so those communities of practice
emerge as a result of that.
So that kind of convening role, I think,
we are playing and we're very happy to do it,
and we think it is having an impact.
Anne Filipic: I think we had a question, the young lady right, yeah,
right there.
Emily Yu: Hi. My name is Emily Yu.
I'm the President at the American University Student
Government, and I had a question that was a little bit more
specific to campus-based financial aid,
and more broadly how private and for profit institutions
can better serve students in terms of affordability.
And my question is: If financial aid spending is fixed to
inflation, how does that affect universities,
campus-based financial aid awards, such as Perkins loans,
and federal work study for students?
Because you talked about how you reward universities that
keep costs down and serve low income students,
but if a university is only fixing their financial aid
contributions to inflation, is that considered an increase,
and how does that affect their campus-based aid rewards?
Eduardo Ochoa: Well, I think, you know, we're still working out the details on
exactly how we will create these incentive structures
for institutions on the campus-based aid programs.
But the idea is to actually look at the net price that
those institutions are charging their students and how they are
succeeding in keeping that from growing.
And then that would impact the allocation that they would
receive out of that program.
Anne Filipic: Great. Ronnie, why don't we take one on this side,
maybe right there. Yeah.
Megan: Hi, my name is Megan, and I am a young mother, actually.
And I know many folks in the room don't have kids,
but it will happen to you some day.
(laughter)
I am more than ten years out of school,
and I am still paying over $350 a month.
And I'm a single mom, and I'm actually the child of a single
mom who completed her college education in her thirties.
We were really proud about that day.
My father never completed school,
so it was a big deal for me to do that in my family.
And now I have a two-year-old, and I'm looking at my budget.
And I would love to be saving that money.
I would love to be putting that in my own child's college fund.
So I'm wondering how other young parents can get involved.
And if you can name some names, who should we call on the Hill
that has influence on this issue?
Because we want to be effective, and I'm going to hope that other
young mothers will join me in this,
because it's a critical issue, not just for young students but
for working families across the country.
Thanks.
(applause)
Roberto Rodriguez: Well, I'll start, Megan, and thank you for the question.
You know, we want to call on everyone here,
and those of you who are joining us as well online,
to really make your voice heard in congress.
We believe that with respect to the current debate on the
interest rates, on the federally subsidized Stafford loans,
we believe congress can get this done.
This shouldn't be a bipartisan -- this should
not be a partisan issue.
This needs to be a bipartisan solution on the parts of
millions of students who have gone to college and borrowers
who need this relief.
Over the long-term, we also want to do more to encourage folks to
take advantage of opportunities for loan consolidation.
And I think there's a lot that can be done to take a
look at that.
We've made some new opportunities available for loan
consolidation that we want to commend folks to begin to take
a look and see if that might help mitigating the repayment
rates there.
IBR, the Income-Based Repayment program,
is certainly something that we've talked a little bit about
this morning we believe is an important tool there.
And our administration will continue to work very closely
with the servicers across our loan programs to make sure that
they are doing more to really meet borrowers where they are
and to really help.
You know, I encourage anyone who is having trouble with their
loan payments to really get in touch with their servicer.
There are a lot of options that are available to be able to try
to manage that repayment.
We know what a challenge it is to address this repayment
challenge, especially in today's economy.
At the same time, we know that a college degree is important
today more than ever to be able to get ahead.
So we need to be sure that this system is really working for all
of our families.
That they have the opportunities that they need to be able to
repay and afford that repayment, and at the same time we want to
encourage all of our young people to go to college,
to persist through, and to complete,
because it's just so important to the future of our country.
Anne Filipic: And I'd also just like to add to that I think,
you know, I think you started by telling your story
in your question, and I think that's what we found is most
effective, is for everyone in this room, and tuning in,
and whether it's single mothers like yourselves,
or parents that are concerned about this issue,
I think the most important thing is to share that story and to do
it both through social media, or, you know,
talk to your local news, write a letter to the editor,
or work with the groups here that are doing a tremendous
amount of work on this issue, as well.
So I think the most effective thing you can do is to move this
conversation from sort of, you know,
behind the scenes what's happening on the Hill to how
does this affect real people.
And I think everyone in this room can share
a story like that.
So we just encourage you to do that,
because I think that's what we find is the most effective way
to spread the word and to see action.
Maybe back here.
Sophia: Hi. My name Sophia Casadez [phonetic].
I'm from Paraguay.
I'm a George Washington student.
Knowing how big of an issue affording college can be for
Hispanics and minorities, and as a very proud Hispanic,
I'm just wondering what are the next steps that the government
is planning on taking to also ensure college affordability
for minorities?
Thank you.
Roberto Rodriguez: Well, let me offer a few words on this.
You know, first of all, on this student loan interest fix,
a million of these students that would be impacted of this
7.4 million students are Latino students.
And we know that disproportionately
our Latino students, our African American students,
our other low income students, you know,
really depend on our student aid system and depend on the federal
aid to be able to really be a life line toward
college attainment.
So this is why we feel such a strong responsibility to
do more here.
We need to get more information ultimately in the hands of our
parents and in the hands of our Latino families to be able to
know about the options that they have to be able to address the
college affordability question.
There have been surveys that have looked at this.
When you look at the Latino community, for instance,
this is a community that really aspires for its children to be
able to go to college.
And at the same time, they are the community that knows the
least about things like the Pell Grant,
which are such an important opportunity, you know,
that we're looking at upwards of $5,550
to be able to put toward the cost of college and university.
So we feel a strong responsibility to try to
do more to make sure that we're providing the information that
our families need to be able to navigate this student aid system
and be able to take advantage of the opportunities that are
afforded there.
And that's important for the Latino community.
You know, we've seen some increases in the number of
Latino students that are enrolled in college,
but we know that we still, as a community as Latinos,
disproportionately have the fewest number of students that
are actually completing college when you compare Latinos to
other groups.
So there's a lot of work that needs to be done there.
Thank you for the question.
Anne Filipic: All right.
I think we have time for probably one or
two more questions.
Maybe one more?
Or should we wrap up? Okay.
(laughter)
Well, there we go.
That means that we have, I think,
a very special guest that's about to come out.
But first, I just wanted to thank all our panelists for
their time, for the conversation,
and their thoughtful feedback, and really to thank all of you
for being here and for everyone that's been tuning in at home.
Again, I really encourage you to get involved in this issue.
Obviously, we got some really great questions.
It's something that I think is clear you all care a great
deal about.
Again, encourage you to use the hashtag dontdoublemyrate,
to go to our website, WhiteHouse.gov,
the Department of Education at ed.gov,
and gather information and share it through your communities.
So, with that, thank you panelists,
and I am going to introduce Michael Strautmanis,
the Deputy Assistant to the President,
who will be introducing the Vice President in just a moment.
Thank you.
(applause)
Michael Strautmanis: How's it going, everyone?
I am not the special guest.
(laughter)
I just want to make sure.
Everybody is like, boy, that doesn't seem all that special.
(laughter)
I'm Mike Strautmanis, and I have the privilege of working here as
the deputy in the what I like to call the outreach operation,
the front door of the White House.
I work for the President's senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett.
And I'm so glad you all are here to focus on such an important
issue, college affordability.
I'm somebody that went to public school,
the University of Illinois in Champaign.
Got there through a combination of scholarships and loans.
And I know I wouldn't have been there today and wouldn't be here
today if I didn't have that opportunity.
What we do here at the White House is we like to take what
could end up being seeming like very dry mundane issues and talk
about it with real people.
And I learned about this every single day from one of the
President's right-hand man, a leader who has worked on these
issues for such a long time here in Washington, someone who is,
who understands the importance of talking about these issues
and dealing with these issues with a focus on you,
with a focus on your stories, with a focus on your hopes and
your dreams, and that's the Vice President of the United States,
Joe Biden.
(applause)
Vice President Joe Biden: Hey, everybody, how are you?
(applause)
It's great to be with you.
I tell you what, it's nothing like talking to the home team.
Please have a seat.
Let me start by telling you how much the President and I
personally, genuinely appreciate you jumping into this critically
important debate with both feet.
And I want you to -- I want you to know that students,
standing up for students, you sticking with us and helping the
congress know how important it is to college students to have
some remote possibility of being affordable,
and I say remote because almost all of you graduate with debt,
like my kids did, and accessible.
And, you know, I want to thank you for getting other students
on your campuses involved and making sure that they know what
this is all about.
I mean, I know they know, because, you know,
one of the things -- if I can say at the outset here,
one of the things that we focus on,
and this has been my hobby horse since I have been an United
States senator.
I got elected when I was 29 years old in the senate.
I wasn't old enough to be sworn in.
I had to wait, because you have to be 30 years old.
I mean literally, you have to be 30 years old to be sworn in.
But I got elected -- the day I got elected,
I was still 29 years old.
And so I had to wait close to a month to be sworn in.
And the first bill I ever, ever introduced in the United States
Senate was a bill to up the eligibility of people to be able
to qualify for Stafford loans, for loans, federal loans,
to go to college.
And I'm going to tell you why.
I'm going to focus on students for a moment.
I want to focus on your parents now.
Maybe you experienced what I experienced.
What generated my passion for this issue was not so much the
help I got, because as Barack and Michelle and Jill and I talk
about, for real, just like Mike, and he's a really good guy,
we talk about we know, and this is not hyperbole,
we know there is not a single possibility Barack could be
standing as President of the United States,
or me as the Vice President, or Michelle or Jill where they are,
if it were not for help.
There was no possibility of any one of our families getting us
to school without scholarships and/or financial aid.
And I was a senior in high school,
and I was a good student.
I was a lousy law student.
I was a good student, and I was probably even a better athlete.
And so I had a chance of schools looking at me to get me to come
to school to play football.
And, but I still needed some help,
because the schools I was looking to were only grant
aid operations.
They could give you some help, but there wasn't, you know,
the only two big schools, football schools that looked to
me were Maryland and Pittsburgh, and they were big schools,
and they probably gave scholarship-scholarships.
The other schools I was looking at didn't give scholarships.
They gave some grant-in-aid.
And my dad was a really proud, like your moms and dads
probably, my dad was a proud, proud decent man.
My dad was one of the most graceful men I've ever known,
but he had great pride about his ability to care for his family.
And if you read about me, people make it sound like I'm Joe Biden
who climbed out of a coal mine in Scranton, Pennsylvania,
with a lunch bucket in my hand.
(laughter)
My dad didn't go to high school, I mean, didn't get to college,
and no one in his family had gone to college,
but they were white collar workers.
And I lived a typical middle class life in the 50s,
late 50s through the 60s when I was in school.
And I remember my senior year in high school,
and we had just finished a baseball game in the school I
went to, and I went to school in a little steel town in Delaware
called Claymont, Delaware, right on the Pennsylvania border.
And my dad was the manager of an automobile dealership in Newark,
Delaware, where the University of Delaware is.
And one of the great advantages of having a dad that didn't make
a lot of money but ran a dealership,
for every prom I got a new car.
(laughter)
No, you think I'm joking.
And none of you remember the phrase,
but I'd get to Simonize a car, make it shiny, look beautiful,
and I'd get to pick whatever one off the lot, the used car lot,
but they were nice cars.
And I remember after the game, my girlfriend was a junior in
high school, and I was going to her junior prom.
And I got out -- the game was over, it was a home game,
took my spikes off, put on sneakers,
didn't shower or change, had my baseball uniform on, blew down,
it was a 19-mile ride, in my '51 Plymouth,
down and to my dad's dealership, where he managed it.
Pulled up the spot I usually would pull.
And I went in, and the receptionist's name was Mary,
as I remember.
And I said, Mary, where is dad?
She said, honey, dad is out on the side lot over there.
So I walked out, and my dad who was impeccably dressed,
just a real gentleman, was pacing back and forth.
And he looked up, he saw me, he said, oh, Joey.
He said, I'm so sorry.
I'm so sorry.
And I honest to God thought something happened to my mom,
or my sister, or my brother.
I said, dad, what's the matter?
He said, I went to the Farmers' Bank,
which was a state bank in Delaware that financed a
lot of the loans that people got to buy cars.
And he said, I went to Farmers' Bank and there was a guy named
Charlie Delcher, the banker.
I remember specifically, because I ended up going to Charlie
Delcher to borrow money to open a law firm years later.
And he said, you know, Joey, he said,
they won't lend me the money to help you get to school.
I'm so ashamed.
I am so ashamed.
That's the reason why.
I probably would have gotten to college somehow.
Maybe not that year.
Maybe not right away.
But I would have gotten to college.
But millions of your moms and dads,
millions of the people you know, have had their pride stripped
from them.
The way they finance getting their kids to school is like
I financed my kids.
I have the dubious distinction being rated the poorest made in
the congress and the Vice President assuming the office
of the least assets.
I hope they are referring to financial assets.
(laughter)
And I was making a lot of money when my kids were in school.
I was making $60,000 as a senator.
But they got into very good schools, and I said,
whatever school they get into, I'll help them get there.
My boys worked 30 hours a week in school.
One worked 30 hours a week, also played football.
One went to Penn, one went to Georgetown.
The combined cost of going to those two schools exceeded then
my disposable income.
They both graduated significantly in debt.
I was able to borrow against my home,
like a lot of your parents used to be able to do,
because we had equity in the home.
I bought a home for a price, and it kept going up, the value,
all during that period of time.
And that's how I got them through school.
And when my daughter and my two sons after 20 years of school,
undergraduate and graduate school,
I sold my house and helped pay off the loans,
because I didn't need as big a house.
No complaints.
I mean, it's not like a great sacrifice.
We didn't need as big a house.
That's how a lot of moms and dads used to do it.
But this God-awful recession we inherited,
they lost their wealth.
$16 trillion in lost wealth for middle class families out there,
all in their homes or their 401 Ks.
The stock market plummeted.
Even though they kept up all their mortgage payments,
the guy down the street had a sub-prime loan,
and the guy around the block had one,
and they saw all of a sudden their house is upside down.
They couldn't borrow the money.
So this has become a crisis not only for a generation,
but a generation of parents.
Because if there's any parents in this room,
you know the most helpless feeling in the world for you is
to look at your talented child, or your child who is ill,
or your child who has a problem, and know there is nothing you
can do to help.
So, in full disclosure, that's where I start from.
That's why since the day I got in office,
this has been something, and one of the great honors of my life,
is I got picked to be Vice President by a man who shares as
passionately as I do the desire to make sure that college is
accessible and affordable.
That's a gigantic priority for us.
And here is what we did when we came to office.
The first thing we did -- and by the way,
I'm about to say something about banks.
Banks aren't bad guys.
For real, there is no need to demonize them.
Banks went out there.
We were paying banks over a 10-year period $60 billion to
process student loans.
So we said, hey, this is a no-brainer.
We're not bad guys, but let's forget them processing the
loans, we'll do it, and use that $60 billion to help kids
get to school.
Not just middle class kids, but kids from families in distress.
And a lot of families are in distress.
So we took $40 billion and we increased the maximum Pell Grant
by more than 800 bucks.
And the immediate effect was instead of having 6 million kids
in college as a consequence of Pell grants two years ago,
9 million.
Nine million are now in college because of Pell Grants.
3 million more.
It makes a difference.
It makes a difference in their lives.
On top of that, we gave an additional help to families by
creating a tuition tax credit.
There's always been some form of tuition tax credit.
We said, for every kid you have in school, you get $10,000
for the life of that student's enrollment in
college credit, tax credit.
So if your federal tax is $1,000,
go to any four-year college, or most two-year colleges,
you've paid out 2,500 somewhere along the line, or a lot more,
you only have to pay $1,500.
In the neighborhood I come from, the family I grew up in,
that's a difference between being able to keep your car
insurance or not keep your car insurance.
That's the difference between -- that's enough to buy groceries
for several months.
This is just for middle class people, not poor folk,
for middle class people.
I love these guys who think somehow 1,000 or
2,000 dollars more to have to spend in a year doesn't
mean much.
In my old neighborhood, man, it meant a lot,
and it still means a lot.
We're fighting to permanently extend that tax credit.
Every negotiation I've had that's being charged and
negotiated with the republicans on debt and the budget,
that's the thing they always want us to throw in.
What do we need that for?
It's not paid for, quote-unquote.
Yo, Richie, not paid for?
How about extending a trillion dollars in tax cuts,
800 billion of us go to people with a minimum
income of $1 million.
That's not paid for.
I don't quite get this.
And we also want to double the number of work study jobs.
Most people aren't familiar with those, except those who need it.
Average work study job is about 1700 bucks a year.
That's a difference what you get to eat and in some cases whether
you can stay in school, what your living conditions are if
you're off campus.
We want to double, double the number of work study programs.
But even with everything we've done to increase aid,
we still know that two-thirds of all the students who attend
college take out loans to pay for school,
and they graduate with an average debt of $25,000.
You get a diploma and you get stapled to it
a 25,000-dollar bill.
And if you're fortunate enough to have gotten into one of the
elite schools, that stapled bill is a hell of a lot higher.
(laughter)
So that's why we made -- and this is the President's idea all
by himself.
So the President came up with the idea that anyone with
federal loans should never have to pay back more than -- they
have to pay back, you all have to pay back,
but no more than 10% of your disposable income.
That means after you pay for your car, your insurance,
your rent, your food, no more than 10% of that.
You have to pay it back.
Which means it will allow you to get out with a debt and still
work for a nonprofit.
It means it will allow you to go out and become a school teacher
if you want.
In most jurisdictions they are making around, it varies,
30,000 bucks to start.
Well, that makes a lot of difference.
It brings down your monthly payment if you're in the
30,000-dollar range if you have a 25,000
average bill by about $150 a month.
That makes a difference. That makes a difference.
These guys live in a different place.
They are not bad guys.
I don't think they understand how much $150 a month difference
makes to a kid getting out of school.
That's what we've done so far.
But we need congress to help us do even more.
Now you've all been engaged in this issue,
and that is if congress doesn't act,
interest rates and subsidized Stafford loans, federal loans,
are going to double overnight on July 1,
less than two months from today.
We want to freeze that rate.
We want to freeze that rate.
Otherwise, more than 7 million students,
probably many of you right here, many of your classmates are
going to see your interest rates jump from 3.4% to 6.8%.
That's going to average more than 1,000 bucks a year.
Again, these guys I think they don't think
1,000 bucks makes a difference.
It matters. It matters.
I don't know how many of you have an extra thousand bucks
lying around unless as the other guy leading the other team said,
take a chance, go home and get a loan from your parents and start
a business.
(laughter)
So why the hell don't you go home,
get your parents to give you a loan?
Shew!
(laughter)
You know, this week the democrats and senate tried
to pass a bill that would have stopped the rates from doubling.
The republicans blocked it.
They wouldn't even actually let it come up for a vote.
Why?
Because they didn't like the way we paid for it by closing the
loophole that let some very wealthy people avoid
payroll taxes.
The way they do it is they say they'll take X amount of income,
100,000 income, and 5 million in profit this year.
The profit is not the income.
The profit -- it's a way S corporations do it.
It wouldn't have been a big deal to those folks.
I think if those folks knew what it was, they'd support it too.
Rich folks are just as patriotic as poor folks.
They are not asking for this extra help.
They know the deal.
So let me say it again, because I think it bears repeating.
These guys are willing to allow the average student loan to go
up an extra thousand bucks in order to protect the tax
loophole for the richest Americans.
One, in my view, I don't even think they would have any
problem, any problem, contributing slightly to in
order to keep college loans from doubling interest rates.
That's the senate.
In the House most of our republican friends have been
against this lower loan rate from the beginning when congress
first passed it five years ago.
Then, just over a month ago, all ten of the leaders in this
particular committee voted for the budget, the Ryan Budget,
which doesn't even address, make any accommodation for the
student loan rate increases.
One of them even compared -- one of the congresspersons actually
compared -- I don't want to -- I don't want to be -- I'm not
unfair, but I don't want to single somebody out,
so rather than tell you his name, I'll read a quote.
He compared federal student loans to "Stage III cancer
of socialism".
The Stage III cancer of socialism.
You all realize you're spreading socialism, don't you?
(laughter)
Which is cancerous.
(laughter)
I've been here a long time, man, but this is --
(laughter)
It's taking on a new dimension.
(laughter)
Now, thanks in large part to all of you,
a lot of folks are beginning to change their mind, including,
fortunately, the republican candidate for president,
the presumptive candidate, as I understand it.
Now they are saying they are willing to keep the rates low,
but only if we pay for it by taking the money away from
preventive healthcare.
Things like screenings for breast cancer.
This is not a joke.
This is real.
That's how they want to pay for it.
That's a choice we shouldn't have to make.
We're committing to working with these guys to find a bipartisan
way to pay for this, but we shouldn't have to choose between
keeping college affordable and keeping Americans healthy.
That is a Hobson's Choice if there ever was one.
You know, my dad, God love him, used to have a great expression.
He'd say, don't tell me what you value.
Show me your budget, and I will tell you what you value.
Don't tell me what you value.
Show me your budget, and I will tell you what you value.
Look, these other guys are decent people,
but they have a fundamentally different value set than the
President and I do.
The budget they voted for isn't just silent on interest rates.
It would cut Pell Grants by an average of $1,000
per student by 2014.
It would deny existing work study,
existing work study programs, by 100,000.
It would cut existing programs.
We want to double it.
They would cut existing programs by 100,000.
Look, it baffles me that there isn't a consensus in knowing we
have to invest in education, to help students and their families
pay for that education.
But they think it's more important to spend hundreds
of billions of dollars on tax cuts for very wealthy people,
good people, but again who are not even asking for it.
Cuts they don't need.
Cuts they haven't asked for.
I strongly disagree to state the obvious,
but because there is no higher priority than us becoming the
best educated nation in the world.
A generation ago, a generation ago,
we had a higher percentage of our population graduating from
college than any other country in the world.
Today you know where we rank in percent of population graduating
from college?
Sixteenth. Sixteenth.
Forget the issue about equity.
Forget about your parents' dignity.
Forget about all that stuff.
My wife is a tenured English professor,
has a great expression.
She said, any nation that out educates us will out compete us.
I believe, the President believes,
it's overwhelmingly in the national interest of the
United States of America to get every qualified person,
qualified person, to college.
It's just that simple.
And, by the way, 60% of all the new jobs created in the next ten
years are going to require an education beyond high school.
Sixty percent.
The days of making it with a high school education into the
middle class are virtually gone.
There's always exceptions, but what are we talking about here?
I'm supposedly an expert on foreign policy.
That's how I lots of times get introduced.
Not long ago I was at a conference with a whole
lot of experts from around the world and country on
national security.
One of the closing questions I was asked is: What is the single
most important thing the United States can do to maintain its
security edge over the next 20 years?
The answer to me is simple.
Have the best educated population in the world.
It's in our national interest.
Look, the middle class has been devastated,
devastated by this recession, absolutely devastated.
Do you know a single person, poor, middle class, or wealthy,
that if you ask the parent, do you want your kid to go
to college that says no?
I don't know anybody.
It may be a two-year college.
It may be special training.
Or a four-year college.
Or graduate school.
But it's the aspiration for every parent rich and poor,
and it's a foundation upon which this middle class dream
has been built.
I love these guys, they say, we think small.
It acts like the people in my neighborhood grew up saying,
all we want is to be able to live in a decent house,
which we do, a safe neighborhood, which we do,
be having a good school, which we want,
being able to send our kid to college if they want to go,
and maybe be able to take care of our parents in their elderly,
in their waning years.
And with a faint hope that you won't have to rely on your own
children when you get that age.
That's all part of what constitutes the middle class.
But there's one other thing, and you know it!
I was raised in a family where my mother and father never
doubted, never doubted, I could be whatever I wanted to be!
Never doubted that I could be vice president, president,
chairman of the board, whatever!
Same with my sister, who is genuinely smart.
(laughter)
But seriously.
Also, hoped and believed my brother wanted to be a
millionaire, he could be a millionaire.
It's not like we have cabin notions of middle class people,
like we just dream that we're just going to have a house.
But man, you pull out of that equation the ability to get
your kid to college, whether it's true or not,
the minds of the middle class families I grew up with and now
know, that whole house of cards begins to crumble.
This is about restoring not only the middle class but the dream
of the middle class from which the whole country benefits.
When the middle class is doing well,
the wealthy do very well and the poor have a chance.
They have a ladder up.
They have a vehicle.
With your help, I'm confident, and I'm not
being gratuitous here.
With your help, I'm confident we're going to be able to keep
interest rates from doubling.
Because now is a time, not the time to make it harder for
students to be able to pay for their college or for their
college loans.
The President and I are going to keep up this fight,
and we're glad you're on our side.
We need you very badly.
So don't leave this White House today without committing to me
that you'll make a commitment to redouble your efforts.
We need to keep the pressure on.
So, please, tell all the students you work with to
call or email their members of congress.
Tell them to tweet with a hashtag dontdoublemyrate.
Tell them to participate in rallies on their campuses around
the country.
Tell them not to give up until congress sends the President a
bill that stops the doubling of those rates.
You're an incredible generation.
That's not hyperbole either.
You're a generation and the 9/11 generation before you are the
most incredible group of Americans we have ever, ever,
ever produced.
You volunteer more than my volted generation of the 60s.
2.8 million of you since 9/11 have volunteered to serve in
the United States military.
2.2 million have strapped on boots that have taken them
across the scorching sands of Iraq or the God forbidden
landscape of Afghanistan.
Thousands of fallen angels.
And I hear them tell me and I read that your generation is not
ready to take on responsibility.
God.
Folks, you're also, your generation is in the cusp
of the most incredible change in world history.
Not because of Barack Obama and Joe Biden.
Because of the time in which you live.
Your generation is going to live through us being able to make
solar energy as cheap as gas -- as coal, excuse me, as coal.
Your generation is going to see in the near term the ability to
literally target cancer cells through the bloodstream,
making sure that no healthy cell is killed.
Your generation is going to see the regeneration of organs,
the regrowing of organs, so you don't have to wait for days and
months in the hope of getting a organ transplant to stay alive.
Your generation is going to see so much,
because you're part of such an incredibly bright,
talented group of women and men.
But a lot of it depends on us remaining the most innovative,
best educated nation in the world.
I know sometimes you read that Biden is the White House
optimist, like as my grandpop used to say,
like I'm the guy that fell off the turnip truck yesterday.
You know, that was his expression.
(laughter)
Hell, I've been here longer than all of them.
I'll end by saying I got elected when I was 29.
I was characterized as an optimistic,
idealistic young man from a modest background.
They used to kid me and say, I'm the first United States senator
I ever knew.
(laughter)
But, folks, I give you my word as a Biden,
I am more optimistic about your future,
more optimistic about this country than I have ever been
in my whole life.
Again, not because of Barack and me.
Because what you all are made of, man.
We are better positioned than any nation in the world to be
the leading economy in the world in the 21st Century.
We are better positioned because of the system we have where you
can breathe free air, or, as Steve Jobs says,
you can think different.
Innovation only is generated in countries where you can
challenge orthodoxy, where you can think different,
where you're encouraged.
Change only comes through challenge.
So let's make sure your generation, once again,
is the intellectually best equipped generation
in the world.
But we can't do it, we can't do it without,
without college affordability.
And it's a small but considerably important
part of the piece of the puzzle that you don't let
these interest rates rise.
God love you all.
Thank you.
And may God protect our troops.
Thanks.
(applause)
See you all.