Obama talks education

President Barack Obama participates in a conference call with college and university student journalists in the Oval Office, Sept. 27, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Stephanie Plese

University and college students had the opportunity to speak with President Barack Obama on Sept. 27 in a telephone conference call.

Obama discussed the priorities of the White House and the effect the government has on students. He expressed concerns about the decline of college graduates in America’s youth.

One of his most important goals is to ensure that “every young person gets the best education possible.”

His agenda for increasing the amount of college graduates in the country includes making college more affordable. He plans to change the way student loans are given, as well as creating a policy ensuring that banks use their resources to give loans meant for students to the right people. He also hopes to increase the value of Cal grants to keep up with inflation and to simplify financial aid forms.

He plans to create change in the current rate of college graduates. His plans include bringing America back to No. 1 from No. 12 in the world in numbers of college graduation rates by 2020.

Adding to his plans for change, Obama told the current generation to get involved.

“You can’t sit it out,” Obama said. “It’s up to students to finish (college), but we can help remove some barriers.”

He encourages students to become pro-active, and learn where their money is going when they pay tuition. Knowing whether the 32 percent increase of fees at in the University of California system is due to the requirement of more instructors or is it because the cafeteria hired a chef.

“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,” Obama said.

One of the issues he is working on is to “figure out how we can get control of costs,” and to refocus attention on the “primary function of a university.”

For any doubters of our generation’s well being, Obama said the land of opportunity is continuing to grow.

“There’s still billions of people around the world who want to come here,” he said. “They know that this is, for all our problems, still the land of opportunity.”

The DREAM Act is one of his proposed solutions. The bill will stop “punishing young people” who may have not been documented but have grown up as Americans to gain citizenship through higher education and military service.

The Post 9-11 G.I. Bill is another proposed solution to provide financial support specific to education for individuals serving in the military after September 11.

Obama ended by reminding everyone to participate in the upcoming election.

“I want everybody to be well informed and to participate,” Obama said. “If you do, then I feel very optimistic about the country’s future.”