President Barack Obama addressed student journalists March 11 during a White House conference call on the new Student Aid Bill of Rights. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan held a Q&A with college journalists after Obama’s address.
On March 9, the White House announced a presidential memorandum on student aid.
“Yesterday I took new action to make it easier for students to pay for college and pay off their loans through an executive action that streamlines and improves the way the federal government interacts with students when it comes to student loans, helps students cut through the bureaucracy and get faster responses about their loans,” Obama said. “We’re continuing to chip away at this problem, there’s no silver bullet.”
The memorandum directs the Department of Education and other federal agencies to help borrowers with loan payments. It includes a student aid bill of rights, which says:
I. Every student deserves access to a quality, affordable education at a college that’s cutting costs and increasing learning.
II. Every student should be able to access the resources needed to pay for college.
III. Every borrower has the right to an affordable repayment plan.
IV. And every borrower has the right to quality customer service, reliable information and fair treatment, even if they struggle to repay their loans.
The bill includes a complaint system to ensure quality service and accountability, steps to help students responsibly repay loans and new steps to analyze trends in student debt.
Duncan emphasized the success of similar stat- run programs in Tennessee.
“The community college idea came not from me, not from the president, but from the state of Tennessee,” Duncan said. “Where a strong republican government has put that in place.”
During the Q&A, a student journalist from Western Michigan University asked if Duncan was worried that increased federal funding for higher education would set a precedent for states to cut more funding.
Duncan said that if the Congress approved the community college proposal there would be a memorandum of understanding that the U.S. government would only invest in states “holding up their end of the bargain.”
“When we invest we want to supplement, not supplant,” Duncan said.
A student journalist from the Minnesota Daily asked about pushback on the Student Aid Bill of Rights.
“What we’ve been hearing in the past 24 hours is, ‘hurry up.’ We hear that and we want to move as quickly as possible to deliver on these issues,” Duncan said. “We also want to make sure that what we do deliver is of the absolute highest quality.”
Obama encouraged Americans to sign in support of the Student Aid Bill of Rights here.
“Higher education remains one of the best investments you can make in your future,” Obama said. “But also one of the best investments you can make in your country’s future.”