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Student Loans in the New Obama Administration

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A few months ago, I wrote a couple of posts comparing Obama’s views on financial aid to McCain’s views on financial aid.  Now that we have a new President (elect), I thought we should take a closer look at how federal financial aid, and specifically student loans, might look come January 21st under the new administration.


Just days before the November 4th election, Obama spoke on MTV about issues of concern to young voters. Primary among those concerns were student loans and financial aid.  Here’s what he had to say (from the blog at walletpop.com):

…I think the average student is taking out $25,000 to $30,000. That’s a huge burden, especially in a time when wages and income are not going up. So here is what we want to do: increase the Pell Grant program, eliminate banks as middlemen from the direct loan program – they’re taking out billions of dollars in profits – take that money, apply that to increasing the number of loans that are out there and reducing the rates, and then what I want to do is provide a $4,000 tuition credit for every student, every year, in exchange for national service.

He went on to say that special incentives would be potentially be offered to those students interested in pursuing careers in high demand:

And in certain areas, like teaching, where we really need teachers, especially in math and science, and nursing, where we really need nurses, we will potentially provide them with even more than that in order to get the high-quality teachers and nurses that we really need.

That all sounds great, but of course, we never know which campaign promises will make it into law – and which will get dropped for more pressing concerns.  (And given the state of the economy, it’s fair to assume that the President may have other problems on his mind first.)  Even still, it’s pretty clear from things that both Barack and his wife Michelle have said that this couple more than understands the strapped position so many students find themselves in with regard to their student loans.

For example, when the Obamas got married, their monthly student loan repayment (for undergraduate degrees from Columbia and Princeton, respectively, and two law school degrees from Harvard) was higher than their mortgage.  Apparently it stayed that way for more than a decade.  In fact, Michelle told a group of supporters back in April that the Obamas didn’t pay off their student loans until her husband wrote his two best-selling books, “The Audacity of Hope” and “Dreams From My Father”.

It seems that experience has made Obama pretty sympathetic to the plight of students struggling to get through college on student loans and other financial aid.  Here’s a video from earlier this summer of Barack Obama meeting with Wayne Community College student Marilyn Pace and her financial aid officer. Marilyn was so stressed about college finances that she had reached a breaking point.  I’ll tell you this much, after watching that, I sure wish Mr. Obama had been there to help me negotiate with my financial aid officer!

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