In Buffalo, N.Y. on Thursday U.S. President Barack Obama discussed his new plan to make college and university education more productive and more affordable for all students in his latest attempt to build a larger and stronger middle class and to build a more sustainable economy.
“A higher education is the single best investment you can make in your future,” President Obama stated speaking in front of a crowd of students and faculty. He continued, “Right now the unemployment rate for Americans with at least a college degree is about one-third lower than the national average. The incomes of folks who have at least a college degree are more than twice those of Americans without a high school diploma. So more than ever before, some form of higher education is the surest path into the middle class.”
However, he warned that the rising cost of education over the past thirty years has far exceeded average income advancement.
The President remarked, “The average tuition at a public four-year college has gone up by more than 250 percent; 250 percent. Now, a typical family's income has only gone up 16 percent. So think about that; tuition has gone up 250 percent; income gone up 16 percent. That’s a big gap.”
“Meanwhile, over the past few years, states have been cutting back on their higher education budgets … the fact is that we've been spending more money on prisons, less money on college.”
His new plan, according to Thursday’s speech as well as in a fact sheet released on Wednesday, calls for a three-tier approach to helping students be able to afford college: creating rewards and incentives for colleges and students to excel regardless of the student’s background, creating innovations and competition in colleges through the use of technology and learning-focused course planning, and finding ways to keep student debt lower throughout college and placing a cap on loan repayments based upon a percentage of income after the student graduates.
President Obama called on Congress to pass necessary legislation targeted at making college education more affordable for all students, though he did say that he would take any legal measures possible through the executive action.