Written by | Alma Bustamante |
The White House organized its first ever College Reporter Day on April 28 for around 50 student journalists from two- and four-year colleges from all over the nation, including Ranger Editor Alma Bustamante. President Barack Obama showed up in the middle of the briefing, surprising the attendees.
Obama talked about several topics and announced some breaking news about an important issue among college students: student debt.
“Today I want to announce that we’re aiming to enroll 2 million more people in Pay As You Earn by this time next year,” Obama said.
The Pay As You Earn Repayment plan is a college loan repayment program that Obama instituted in 2012. The purpose of the plan is to cap student payment rates at 10 percent of their discretionary income with complete forgiveness after 20 to 25 years of payments, depending on
the level of education.
Student debt is at an all-time record high, with numbers rising to almost $1.3 trillion, according to an analysis at Edvisors.com. Around 43 million borrowers are being affected, which is about 71 percent of college graduates. During the briefing, Obama said he still is pushing his initiative of making community college free.
“That’s something that is affordable for most states to do, and we are prepared to help with federal support,” he said. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest mentioned the results some states have had with the initiative. “This is what they’ve done in the state of Tennessee, and it’s been very beneficial to the state,” Earnest said. “They’ve seen an economic benefit associated with a better-educated work force.” Obama also mentioned his Supreme Court nomination after the passing of Justice Antonin Scalia. The Supreme Court still is in the process of selecting its ninth member.
“I’ve nominated an individual named Merrick Garland, who’s currently the chief judge on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, which is the second most important court in the land,” Obama said. “By all accounts, he’s extremely well-qualified.” In earlier discussions with senior administrators, sexual assault on college campuses was another topic of interest. Senior advisers Valerie Jarrett and Kyle Lierman talked about the It’s On Us campaign.
The main focus of the campaign is to get everyone involved in the issue and let them know that every individual can do something, big or small, to prevent sexual assault. “The goal is, campus by campus, to develop a plan that says that your campus is one that is not going to tolerate sexual assault and to get everyone, including the students, engaged in the process,” Jarrett said. With the day close to an end, Obama highlighted the importance that individuals, especially young adults, have in making the country a better democracy and in decreasing distrust in the government.
“The simplest cure for what ails our democracy is everybody voting,” Obama said. “So don’t let people tell you that what you do doesn’t matter. It does. Don’t give away your power. That should be the main message that you deliver all the time. “If you participate and you take time to be informed about the issues and you actually turn out and your peers turn out, you change the country. You do. It may not always happen as fast as you’d like, but you’ll change it.”