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One thing was on the mind of President Barack Obama Tuesday night when he visited the University of Colorado: affordable higher education.
As part of his current cross-country college tour, President Obama spoke to a packed Coors Event Center about the importance of higher education and keeping that education affordable for all Americans.
“Education is the best investment you can make in your country’s future,” Obama said at the start of his speech. “There is no greater predictor of success than higher education.”
Clayton Anderson, a sophomore international affairs major, said that although quality education should be affordable, he thought that Congress would push that investment in the needs of students aside and let the proposed bill fall through.
“I’m on my own without any kind of support,” Anderson said. “I don’t get enough loans from CU or FAFSA, so I’ve had to take out private loans. So raised interest rates will have an effect on how well I do as a student.”
Alex Vetter, a senior international affairs major, said that she already has a number of student loans and that they are already at a high level, without an increase in interest.
“My loans are already insane now, I don’t need an increase on anything,” Vetter said. ” I don’t want my student loans to affect my possible children’s future.”
As a parent and college graduate, Obama noted that this treatment of students and their finances is unacceptable.
“[Congress] has to prevent federal student loans from shooting you up and shaking you down,” Obama said. “Now is the time to double-down on investments on the middle class.”
Though he has worked to make loans more accessible to students in need, Obama stated that it is not enough to just offer students aid as tuition increases from year to year. The president noted that now, after his efforts to improve the state of student loan climate, is the time for states and Congress to do their part in making college affordable for America’s youth by preventing an increase of student loan interest rates.
Molly Zimmerman, a senior literature major who hopes to become an educator, agreed that Congress must help out students and not make cuts to education.
“I hope [that Congress supports Obama's stance on student loans], otherwise, there is seriously something wrong with our country,” Zimmerman said.
Many students, including junior international affairs major Kwabena Mensa, felt inspired to act by Obama’s call to action for America’s youth, especially because Obama noted that both he and the First Lady were paying off student loans until eight years ago. These personal anecdotes connected Obama to an audience full of current students, many of whom have student loans themselves.
“He made it so personal,” Mensa said. “He said, ‘I didn’t read this off a news brief before I got onstage.’ This is something he lived through.”
Ashley Tyrrell, a junior creative writing major, also felt the personal connection that Obama has to the current situation of student loans. When he said that he and Michelle were only in the position they are today because of the investment made on them through student loans, and that it was time for someone to make an investment in today’s students, the audience burst into applause.
“He has at least had student loans, so he knows what it is like to deal with them,” Tyrrell said.
“I felt it was very telling to see a president who hasn’t grown up in a prosperous house to be able to understand what the youth is going through,” Carina Gilford, a sophomore psychology major, said after the president’s speech.
Gilford, said she felt empowered by Obama asking all members of the audience to contact their member of Congress to help stop the proposed removal of caps on student loan interest on July 1.
“He gave a practical approach to getting this done, not just a feel-good speech,” Gilford said.
Sam Erhart, a junior political science major and volunteer at Obama’s Pearl Street offices, said that this speech was more a call to action than a speech on policy, but that did not lower the significance of the goals Obama laid out.
“It’s very important that we take action to tackle the rising cost of college in America,” Erhart said. “Interest rates on student loans are fundamental to the goal of lowering the cost of a college education.”
Although Obama placed some blame on the conservatives in Congress for the hold-up on prioritizing higher education, he did note that it was not a partisan issue, but an issue that includes every American.
“It shouldn’t be a Democrat/Republican issue,” Obama said. “America is not just about you people doing well. America is about everybody doing well.”
Contact CU Independent Entertainment Editor Avalon Jacka at firstname.lastname@example.org.