President Barack Obama riled up a cheering, mostly supportive crowd with a message that he's ready to make it easier to go to college, in his first visit to Syracuse. Obama repeatedly made the case foe the importance of a college education.
"There aren't a lot of thing more important than making sure people get a good education. That is key to upward mobility; that is key to a growing economy; that is key to a strong middle class."
The President called higher education the single best investment in the future. He relayed statistics that show people with a college degree earn twice as much as those who never finished High School. Unemployment is also a third lower for those with college degrees than among those without. Obama says the problem is that college is becoming harder to attain, due to rising costs, dwindling state and federal investment and loan debt.
"Our economy can't afford the one trillion dollars in outstanding student loan debt, because when young people have that much debt, it means they can't buy a home. It means they can't start the business maybe they have a great idea for. And we can't price the middle class, and everybody working to get into the middle class, out of a college education."
Obama proposed three initiatives to bring college more within reach of people and families:
- He's directing his administration to come up with a new college rating system, which includes graduation rates, debt levels of graduates, and helping students of all backgrounds attend
- He wants to see schools adopt innovation, such as college credit earned in high schools to shorten attendance and keep costs down, as well as use on-line education to save students money.
- Make sure students who take out college loans, that they can repay them by keeping repayment manageable, to broaden a program that caps loan payments at 10-percent of income after college.
Early in the speech a heckler with a sign yelled about pardoning Bradley Manning; she was removed, though the President quipped that she was one of the more respectful hecklers he's faced. As the President and attendees arrived at Henninger High School for the speech, hundreds of protestors lined the streets with messages about opposing hydro-fracking for natural gas, as well as urging peace in Syria and Palestine, calls for more renewable energy, and support for job creation.