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Saving and Paying for College - Back to School

Vice President Biden and the Middle Class Task Force just wrapped up a town hall meeting on college affordability at Syracuse University. Find out what happened.
Vice President Biden and the Middle Class Task Force just wrapped up a town hall meeting on college affordability at Syracuse University. The back-to-school discussion focused on helping families save and pay for college amid rising tuition costs and flat-lining middle class incomes. Joining the Vice President at his law school alma mater were Task Force members Secretary Geithner and Secretary Duncan, Syracuse University Chancellor Nancy Cantor, State University of New York Chancellor Nancy Zimpher, and a panel of education policy experts. 

Back in April, the task force held its first college affordability meeting in St. Louis, Missouri. The message from concerned parents, students, and administrators about what they saw on campuses was clear: more needed to be done. The process of saving and paying for college needed to be made fairer, simpler, and more efficient. 

This afternoon in Syracuse, Vice President Biden and the members of the Task Force reported back on some of the work they’ve been doing, including simplifying the federal loan application process (pdf), implementing the new Income Based Repayment plan for student loans, studying ways to improve Section 529 (pdf) college saving plans, pushing for increased grants and loans paid for by reducing  subsidies to private lenders, and working with Congress on a landmark higher education bill.

President Obama and Vice President Biden believe that a post-high-school education is important for a number of reasons:
  • it helps students realize both their earnings and their educational potential;
  • it is a gateway to the middle class; – it gives the United States a more competitive workforce in the global economy;
  • for parents, sending their children to college is a top priority.
This is why the administration’s goal of having the highest proportion of students graduating from college in the world by 2020 is a central component of the Middle Class Task Force’s agenda. 

And it’s why the administration has invested more than $100 billion dollars to improve our education system. It’s why the Recovery Act made Pell Grants larger and created the American Opportunity Tax Credit – a $2,500 a year credit for tuition. It’s why we’ll make historic investments in our nation’s community college system. And it’s why we significantly expanded the GI Bill, so that the service members who return from duty can get more help paying for their college education.

In conjunction with today’s meeting, the Middle Class Task Force released a staff report (pdf) documenting the barriers that still block the pathway to higher education for many students. Please check it out and share with others. 

After a productive afternoon in central New York, it’s time to head back to D.C. The task force will continue working to expand access to quality education, because as Vice President Biden said today: there is no better ticket to the middle class than a college education.

Terrell McSweeny is Domestic Policy Advisor for the Vice President.