President Barack Obama to Help Students Afford College

Last week President Barack Obama released what he called a “Student Aid Bill of Rights,” the latest of many White House efforts to help students in America afford college.

Obama signed the proposal Tuesday, March 10, the same day he spoke about college affordability before students and dignitaries at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

“America needs to be a place where higher education has to be available for every single person who’s willing to strive for it,” Obama said, according to a C-SPAN transcript of the speech.

The proposal makes four promises to students and borrowers: “access to a quality, affordable education,” “access [to] the resources needed to pay for college,” “the right to an affordable repayment plan” and “the right to quality customer service, reliable information and fair treatment.”

Director of Financial Aid at California Lutheran University Jerry McKeen said the proposal mostly will affect students’ experiences with loan repayment.

“This is really a lot more on the back end of student loans. It’s dealing with the servicing agents,” McKeen said.

According to a White House statement, the plan tasks the Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, with creating a website by July 1, 2016 as a centralized way for students and borrowers to file complaints and provide feedback about loan lenders, servicers, collection agencies and educational institutions.

The statement also announced White House plans to conduct research aimed at improving the national student loan default rate.

McKeen said student loan default occurs with failure to make payments, result in falling into collections and can damage a borrower’s credit.

McKeen said the national default rate, according to the latest official data, is 13.7 percent.

“Cal Lutheran has a very good default rate. The current official rate is 3.8,” McKeen said.

Obama’s proposal took the form of a Presidential Memorandum, a power similar to the Presidential Executive Order used to shape policy in executive departments of the United States government.

Dr. Jose Marichal, political science professor at Cal Lutheran said Obama has made use of executive actions because of a slow-moving Congress.

“I can say that this is part of the President’s larger project to use the power of the executive to ‘fix problems’ in the absence of a Congress that can pass legislation,” Marichal said in an email interview.

Dr. Jamshid Damooei, chair of the economics department at Cal Lutheran said proposals that address student loan debt only tackle one part of a greater issue.

“I think we have another question to answer,” Damooei said. “How can we reduce the cost of burden to students? Now that’s where the money of the government comes. We have to work on community colleges. We have to work on government-sponsored educations.”

His words echo President Obama’s proposal during the 2015 State of the Union address to make two years of community college free for some students.

Damooei said easing the financial burden on America’s students would require more government funding.

“Which means government has to spend more money on education than other activities,” Damooei said.

Jeff Baker
Staff Writer
Published March 25th, 2015