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The Daily Tar Heel

Supporting our students, strengthening our country

Official portrait of President-elect Barack Obama on Jan. 13, 2009.

(Photo by Pete Souza)
Official portrait of President-elect Barack Obama on Jan. 13, 2009. (Photo by Pete Souza)

At colleges and universities across America, students are heading into the classroom, many for the first time. You’re taking part in a journey that will not only determine your future, but the future of this country. We know that nearly eight in 10 new jobs will require workforce training or higher education by the end of this decade. And we know that in a global economy, the nation that out-educates us today will out-compete us tomorrow.

That’s why, soon after I took office, I proposed an ambitious goal: By 2020, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world. And over the past year and a half, we’ve been putting in place policies to help us meet this goal.
First, we are making college more affordable. The amount student borrowers owe has risen almost 25 percent in just five years. No one in America should be saddled with crushing debt simply because they sought an education. And no one should be denied a chance to make the most of their lives because they can’t afford it.

That’s why we fought so hard to win a battle that has been raging in Washington for years over how to administer student loans. Instead of handing over $60 billion in unwarranted subsidies to big banks, we’re redirecting that money to upgrade America’s community colleges and make college more affordable for nearly 8 million students and families.

We’re tripling the investment in college tax credits for middle class families. We’re raising the value of Pell Grants, and we’re making loan repayments more manageable for more than one million more students. And if you go into public service, and keep up with your payments, your leftover student debt will be forgiven after 10 years.

I’d also point out one other way we’re helping young people afford college: by helping them to afford health insurance. Because of the new health care law, young adults can stay on their parents’ health plans until they are 26 years old.

Another part of our higher education strategy is making sure more students complete college. Over a third of America’s college students, and over half our minority students, don’t earn a degree, even after six years. That’s not just a waste of money; it’s an incredible waste of potential that holds our country back.

We are making college more affordable, gearing the education you receive to the demands of a global economy and taking steps to lift graduation rates. Because this is how we’ll retake the lead in producing college graduates. This is how we’ll help students like you to fulfill your dreams. And this is how we’ll ensure that America prospers in this new century, and that we harness the greatest source of our strength: the talents of our people.

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