By THOMAS BOWMAN and ANNE ELDER
President Obama hosted a nation-wide conference call with college journalists on Monday, Sept. 27, where he addressed issues pertinent to college students and their families.
The call lasted approximately 30 minutes and allowed select universities to ask the president questions regarding higher education, current policies or any other topic of interest.
Obama began with a brief statement before opening the call to questions from students.
In his speech, the president emphasized his desire to boost college enrollment and lower costs of higher education. He cited the Affordable Care Act, which allows dependents to stay on their parents’ health insurance until age 26 as a “cushion” for jobs directly out of college that may not offer a health plan.
Colin Daileda, news editor at Radford University’s student newspaper the Tartan, asked about the future for students who will graduate with debt from student loans and the risk that they might not obtain a steady job out of school.
Obama told Daileda that while the economy is currently rough, having a college education will help overcome the obstacles of job hunting.
“If you are getting a college degree, if you’ve got skills in math and science, or good sound communication skills, there are still jobs out there, even in a tough environment,” Obama said. “Nine out of 10 people who are looking for work can still find work… So right now we’re going through a tough time, but I have no doubt that you guys are going to be successful.”
Obama also highlighted his student loan reform, which changed the way federal loans are administered to students.
“Instead of handing over $60 billion in unwarranted subsidies to big banks that were essentially getting this money, even though the loans were guaranteed by the federal government, we’re redirecting that money so that it goes directly to students,” Obama said. “That’s allowing us to support community colleges and make college more affordable for nearly 8 million students and families.”
Daniel Schonhaut, news editor at the University of California’s Daily Bruin, asked Obama about the tuition increases at public universities due to state budget cuts.
After stating that improving the economy is the first way to fix pressured state budgets, Obama said that that the health care bill should bring help to students and their families. He encouraged students not to forget why they are in school when worrying about increasing costs.
“Part of what I think we’ve got to examine is, are we designing our universities in a way that focuses on the primary thing, which is education?” Obama said. “You’re not going to a university to join a spa. You’re going there to learn so that you can have a fulfilling career. And if all the amenities of a public university start jacking up the cost of tuition significantly, that’s a problem.”
The conference call closed with Obama encouraging college students to get involved in the upcoming election, persevere through the difficult economy and prepare for jobs available in the future.
Photo: President Barack Obama participates in a conference call with college newspaper editors in the Oval Office, Sept. 27, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)