Student journalists interview Obama
Published: Thursday, April 26, 2012
Updated: Thursday, April 26, 2012 01:04
President Barack Obama kicked off a campaign Tuesday aimed at preventing student loan rates from doubling by speaking to student journalists in a White House conference call that included this The Student Printz writer.
Obama held the call from aboard Air Force One just after delivering a speech on the issue at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He was en route to the University of Colorado at Boulder.
“What we’re doing is going to schools to talk to students directly about the possibility that 7.4 million students with federal student loans would see their interests rates double on July 1 unless Congress steps up and does what it needs to do,” Obama told student journalists.
Obama said that, at a time when the unemployment rate for college graduates was half that of the national average, higher education has never been more important.
“Unfortunately, it’s also never been more expensive,” he said. “Students who take out loans to pay for college graduate with an average of $25,000 a year. And I know what this is like, because when Michelle and I graduated from college and law school we had enormous debts, and it took us a lot of years to pay off.”
Obama warned that, if interest rates are allowed to go up, it could strike a critical blow to the fragile economy. He indicated that he had urged Congress to take steps to make college more affordable, including action that would stop the July 1 rise in interest rates. He also took a chance to take a swipe at Republican opponents.
“Over the past few years, Republicans in Congress have voted against new ways to make college more affordable for middle-class families, even while they’re voting for huge tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires - tax cuts that, by the way, would have to be paid for by cutting things like education and job-training programs that give students new opportunities to work and succeed.”
However, Obama’s likely Republican presidential challenger this fall, Mitt Romney, indicated that he agreed with the president’s call for congressional action.
“With the number of college graduates that can’t find work or that can only find work well beneath their skill level, I fully support the effort to extend the low interest rate on student loans,” Romney told supporters in Florida.
Not all Republicans seemed to agree with their presumptive nominee, however.
During the conference call, White House adviser Cecilia Munoz denounced comments made by Republican Rep. Virginia Foxx, who seemed to criticize students who take out loans to finance their education.
“I have very little tolerance for people who tell me that they graduate with $200,000 of debt or even $80,000 of debt because there is no reason for that,” Foxx said. “I remind people all the time that the Declaration of Independence says, ‘Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’ You don’t sit on your butt and have it dumped in your lap.”
Obama had already criticized Foxx’s comments during his speech at UNC.
“Those of you who’ve had to take out student loans, you didn’t do it because you’re lazy. You didn’t do it lightly. You don’t like debt. A lot of you, your parents are helping out, but it’s tough on them. They’re straining. And so you do it because the cost of college keeps going up and you know there’s an investment in your future.”
Obama indicated during the conference call that the issue of student debt would be an issue that he would continue hammering throughout the campaign or until Congress passed legislation to keep interest rates down and to help students get the chance to enjoy a higher education.
He called on college students to speak out on the issue by using the Twitter hashtag #dontdoublemyrate.
“We need to reward hard work and responsibility,” Obama said. “And part of that is keeping interest rates on student loans low so more Americans get a fair shot at an affordable education, the skills they need to find a good job, a clear path to the middle class that’s not blocked by a mountain of debt.”