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Obama tells UI students: College must be affordable

President urges Congress to take action on aid, tuition tax credit

By Kirsten Kraklio
On April 27, 2012

  • President Barack Obama spoke at the Field House at the University of Iowa on Wednesday. He urged states and Congress to take action to ensure the cost of a college education is not out of reach for Americans. Photo by Kirsten Kraklio

IOWA CITY-- President Barack Obama told an audience at the University of Iowa on Wednesday that everyone deserves a fair shot at college affordability.

The crowd waited hours for the opportunity to hear the president  speak on topics that hit close to home for the majority of college students. 

Obama said the "heart of the American Dream" was that each generation gets a little more opportunity than the last.  He explained he wanted everyone to get a "fair shot" and everyone should be "playing by the same set of rules." He spoke with caution that "we can't price the middle class out of a college education."

Responsible action urged

The president challenged states to take responsibility for the tuition prices they set. Colleges, he said, need to "make it easier for students to graduate" and if that happens, "we'll help you at the federal level."

He said that as president he has offered incentives to states, colleges and universities to keep prices down.  He called out Congress and urged students to contact their representatives to voice their concerns. Unless Congress takes action, interest rates on Stafford loans will double from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent on July 1.

The president said he wanted Congress to extend the tuition tax credit, safeguard aid for low-income students and double the number of work/study jobs over the next five years. 

"Helping more young people afford college should be at the forefront of the American agenda," Obama declared.  He blasted tax cuts for the wealthy,  explaining, "I don't need an extra thousand or a few thousand dollars.  You do."

The president added that "now is the time to double down on building an America that's built to last."  In addition, he said we need to "remind everybody just why it is that this is the greatest nation on Earth."

The Obamas' college experience

Obama spoke personally, discussing the student debts he and first lady Michelle Obama accrued. He explained they both used scholarships and loans to make it through school.  Laughing, he said they had just paid off the loans eight years ago.

"Think about that.  I'm the president of the United States. It was only about eight years ago that we finished paying off our student loans," he said.

UI students react

Drew Lakin, a political science major at the University of Iowa, said the speech was great and gave "great credibility" to the university. He added that it showed the middle and working class "haven't been forgotten" and as a student it "rang true to me."

Sephra Byrne, a mathematics and computer science major, had the same sentiment, saying the president's message was "really inspiring" and "reminds me why I'm here."  She added she's having a "tough time" paying for college and is trying her "best to not take out loans."


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