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Obama looks to increase graduation rate, keep tuition low

28 September 2010 By Alissa Katz, News Editor No Comments

On Monday, Sept. 27, President Barack Obama led a press conference call with university journalists about the future of young Americans in relation to strengthening the country’s higher education system.

Obama opened the conference call by saying how important a college education is for young adults.

“Our classrooms, our professors, our administrators, our students – you guys are going to drive the future success of the United States,” he said. “The single most important step we can take is to make sure that every young person gets the best education possible, because countries that out-educate us today are going to out-compete us tomorrow.”

Obama said his ultimate goal, as explained in his most recent State of the Union address, is to produce the highest college graduation rates for young adults by 2020.

“First of all, we’re making college more affordable,” he said. “For example, we’ve changed the way federal student loans are administered.  Instead of handing over $60 billion in unwarranted subsidies to big banks that were essentially getting this money even though the loans were guaranteed by the federal government, we’re redirecting that money so that it goes directly to students.”

Another way Obama said he is making college more affordable is through the Affordable Care Act, which Maryland Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown spoke about Thursday, Sept. 23, at Towson University.

“Young adults can now stay on their parents’ health plans until they’re 26 years old,” Obama said.  “And that obviously provides relief to a lot of young people who are looking maybe at their first job not providing health insurance.”

Obama also credited students themselves in playing a part in increasing the college graduation rate.

“A third part of our higher education strategy is where all of you have an important role, and that’s making sure that more students complete college,” he said. We’ve done OK in terms of college enrollment rates, but more than a third of America’s college students and more than half of our minority students don’t earn a degree, even after six years.  And that’s a waste of potential.”

According to Obama, there is no need to worry about a college student’s ability to find a job after graduation.

“I mean, we’ve gone through the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, and so things are real tough for young people right now,” he said. “But having said that, if you are getting a college degree, if you’ve got skills in math and science or good, sound communication skills, there are still jobs out there even in a tough environment.  And nine out of 10 people who are looking for work can still find work.”

The key, the president explained, is for the country to keep improving the economy, which he said is his No. 1 priority over the next several years.

Part of this goal, Obama said, is keeping tuition at public institutions reasonably priced, despite recent inflation. Obama explained the reason behind the increase.

“It has to do with the fact that state budgets are being so hard pressed that they’re having to make severe cutbacks in the support they provide to public education,” he said. “So one of the things that I can do to help is to make sure that the economy is growing, states then are taking in more tax revenue, and if states are taking in more tax revenue, then they don’t have to try to pass on increased costs to students because they can maintain levels of support to institutions of higher learning.”

Obama ended the 30-minute conference call with a plug about the importance of student voting in the upcoming election.

“I hope that everybody starts paying attention these last five weeks,” he said.  “We’ve got an election coming up.  I want everybody to be well informed and to participate. If you do, then I feel very optimistic about the country’s future.”

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