President Barack Obama knows how to please the crowd. He said it himself.
In a 30-minute speech before a crowd of 8,000 at Carmichael Arena, Obama name dropped Kendall Marshall, James McAdoo, the women’s basketball team and repeatedly said how much he loved the state of North Carolina.
But that’s not what he was there to tell the crowd.
Obama’s message to students was simple: Higher education is crucial for the country’s future and keeping college affordable is necessary.
Obama’s visit was part of a two-day tour with stops at UNC, the University of Colorado at Boulder and the University of Iowa. Obama is campaigning to extend legislation that lowered interest rates for student loans in the past four years. Without the extension, the rates will revert to 2008’s levels — twice today’s rate of 3.4 percent.
“Right now, the unemployment rate for Americans with a college degree or more is about half the national average,” Obama said. “The incomes of folks with a college degree are twice as high as those who don’t have a high school diploma. A higher education is the clearest path into the middle class.”
The legislation lowering the interest rates, the 2007 College Cost Reduction and Access Act, passed with large bipartisan support five years ago. In the U.S. House of Representatives, 77 Republicans voted for the law, and most of them were re-elected.
But extending the existing law has proved more controversial, partly because of its cost — estimated at about $6 billion a year, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
Obama told students to encourage their representatives to vote in favor of the legislation.
“This is not a Democratic or Republican issue. It’s an American issue.”
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