Obama supporters talk college affordability

Nicole Aikens

In the final college press conference call of the semester, three people working with Obama for America spoke about college affordability — which they said is a top priority for Obama.

Actor Kal Penn, Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado and Valeisha Butterfield-Jones, Obama for America National Youth Director, hosted the call, and their message was clear: Obama is the right choice for college students.

“Keeping college affordable is a critical part of the president’s blueprint for an economy that’s built to last,” Bennet said.

In order to help the economy, Bennet said the president’s plan is to pass bills to make college less expensive. He said the worst the unemployment rate ever got for people with a college degree was 4 percent, so college is good for the economy.

One of the big concerns for the Obama administration is if Congress does not act by July, interest rates on student loans for more than seven million people will double.

As Obama mentioned on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” Tuesday, both he and Michelle Obama paid for college with student loans and only recently paid those loans off.

Penn told a personal story about why he wanted to join the Obama campaign.

“I, in particular, had a buddy who was [in community college] and needed eye glasses to see the board,” Penn said. “He had to make a ridiculously tough decision whether he was going to pay for eye glasses or whether he was going to pay for his textbooks that semester.”

Penn said he felt that in a country as rich as the United States, he couldn’t understand why someone would have to make a decision like that.

In addition to talking about what the president plans to do to make college less expensive, Penn listed the things Obama has already done during his presidency.

Penn said Obama has passed student loan reform so big banks aren’t middlemen, he doubled the investment in Pell grants, he offered the American Opportunity tax credit and he capped student loan payments at 10 percent of monthly income.

Overall, Penn, Bennet and Butterfield-Jones were sending out a call to action for college students to take part in the upcoming presidential election and work to help get Obama in office for a second term.

“What has become increasingly eye-opening is the choice in November,” Penn said. “That’s clear to those of us who believe passionately that affordable access to higher education really is one of the keys to the American dream, and I think especially if that choice is between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.”

Contact Nicole Aikens at [email protected].