Obama strives to engage young voters

President Barack Obama recently visited UNC Chapel Hill to discuss the problem of student loans, encourage students to write to their Congressmen and women with their concerns. Photo by Kate Riley, special projects editor.
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President Barack Obama urged college and university students to inform their peers about the possibility of an increase in student loan interests rates. During a conference call 4 p.m. April 24 Obama, speaking from Air Force One, encouraged students to appeal to Congress to take steps to prevent the interest rates from doubling July 1.

“I always believe we should be doing everything we can do to put college education within reach,” he said.

Upon graduation, students have accumulated an average of $25,000 loans, according to Obama, and, after July 1, there is a possibility that more than 7.4 million college and university students will see an increase in student loans.

Obama traveled to University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Boulder, Colo. Tuesday to discuss the issue, and he will be traveling to Iowa City, Iowa Wednesday to continue the conversation. The cost of college was prominently mentioned during his State of the Union address, and Cecilia Munoz, assistant to the president and director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, said discussions concerning the affordability of college will play an important role in the 2012 election.

The President hopes his remarks spur action from college students and build support from young voters, Munoz said.

He referenced the extension of the number of students that receive Pell Grants to demonstrate his dedication to minimizing the cost of education. He also talked about his work with state governments to maintain the level of funding awarded to education institutions.

“The way to prepare the economy is to make sure college education is affordable and making sure the college loan rate doesn’t double,” Munoz said.

The bottom line is we can’t just cut our way to prosperity.
– President Barack Obama

Obama expressed a personal connection to the debate regarding the cost of education and briefly mentioned how he and his wife both worked to pay student loans after graduation.

Producing graduates with thousands of dollars in debt hurts the economy, Munoz said.

According to the President, the rising cost of college provides fewer ladders for citizens to climb and improve their socio-economic position.

“We need to create an economy where everyone is playing by the same rules,” Obama said. “That’s how we make a stronger middle class.”

Obama criticized Congress for voting against legislation to make college affordable while voting in favor of tax cuts.

“The bottom line is we can’t just cut our way to prosperity,” he said.

When participants on the conference call asked about Congress’s motives for potentially increasing student loan interest rates, members of the Obama administration did not provide an answer, but informed listeners that legislative authority is required to keep the rates low.

Provided Congress prevents interests rates from doubling, the freeze will be effective for one year. The push for one year ensures the matter is addressed in the short term and inspires conversation in the long term, Munoz said.

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