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By Roxy Silver
August 23, 2013
Caption : President Barack Obama speaks at Henninger High School in Syracuse, N.Y., Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013, on the first day of a two-day bus tour where he is speaking about college financial aid.     


This piece is by Roxy Silver, a student at Syracuse University who writes for JERK Magazine, a member of the Generation Progress journalism network.

For thousands of students like Emilio Ortiz, a well-spoken high school senior, President Obama’s “Back-to-School” bus tour on college affordability is crucial for their futures. On Thursday, Ortiz took the stage before Obama with one message: “I am Syracuse.”

The president’s second stop on bus tour across upstate New York and Pennsylvania found him in Syracuse, talking to students like Ortiz. On the brink of selecting where he will go to college, Ortiz is grappling with something many young Americans do: how to pay for that education.

Surrounded by a motorcade of police and Secret Service vehicles, Obama rolled into town in the new Ground Force One. Once at the podium—sporting causal khakis and an oxford shirt—he was personable as he presented his sweeping ideas to reform our higher education system.

In response to skyrocketing tuition costs, Obama stressed three major points to improve the affordability of higher education.

1. First, he spoke of a new federal grading system in which a school’s quality of education, percentage of graduates, and other factors would be weighed against the cost of tuition. This system would allow students to make more informed choices when choosing a college or university. These rankings would also be used in determining how much federal aid a school might receive.

2. Second, Obama explained how the administration would encourage schools to embrace online education and other innovative methods of learning. The hope with offering more advanced methods of teaching and testing would be to get students through school faster, meaning they’d pay less in tuition.

3. Third, Obama promised a new ad campaign to better inform students on how to best manage their student loan debt. Two years ago, the administration introduced the income-based-repayment program called Pay As You Earn for federal loans, which caps repayment at 10 percent of a borrower’s income. Obama said he hopes the new ad campaign will result in more students taking advantage of the income-based-repayment program.

SOURCE: Roxy Silver

Sasha Pourpezeshk, a sophomore at State University of New York at Oswego, worked through high school and is taking advantage of student loans to finance her education.

“Working, loans, and scholarships are the very reason I get my college education,” she said. “It’s a risky concept going to college and paying the extensive amounts we do and not having a future set in stone. Without the help of these outside sources, college can easily become far from an option.”

Ortiz, Pourpezeshk, and thousands of other young people are looking for assurance that money they commit to their education is a good investment and won’t leave them drowning in debt. Obama told the audience in Syracuse that his new multi-point program will steer students toward better value and affordability in higher education, which he assured young people was crucial for many careers today.

“We’re going to make sure that no matter who you are, or where you come from, or who you love, or what your last name is,” Obama said, “in the United States you can make it if you try.”

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