Print Print
March 30, 2010 Published in Schools

Alexandria Hosts Signing Of Higher Education Reform Bill

President Barack Obama signs the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010. (Photo: Regan Kireilis)

President Barack Obama came to the Alexandria campus of Northern Virginia Community College to sign a bill that further reforms health care and takes most banks out of the student loan business.

Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden and a teacher at NOVA, welcomed Obama to the school.” Last week, our President signed an historic health care bill that will provide quality, affordable medical care for millions of Americans.Today we are here to celebrate another historic piece of legislation — one that will make a college education a reality for millions of middle-class Americans.

“All of us here today know that higher education is essential to the success of our children and vital to the economic future of our country.  But too many American families, they’ve had to take on crushing debt to pursue a college degree.  I see every day in my classroom just how hard my students work in order to pay their tuition bills.  Often their family budgets are stretched to the limit.  And when things get tough — someone loses a job or a family member gets sick — a college education is the first thing to go.

Dr. Jill Biden and President Barack Obama enter the Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall at Northern Virginia Community College's Alexandria campus. (Photo: Regan Kireilis)

“Thanks to the leadership of President Obama, our Vice President, and members of Congress here today, families across the country will find it a little easier to get to college and stay in college,” Jill Biden said.

Obama thanked members of Congress who made both education and healthcare reform possible. “When I took office, one of the questions we needed to answer was whether it was still possible to make government responsive to the needs of everyday people, middle-class Americans, the backbone of this country; or whether the special interests and their lobbyists would continue to hold sway, like they’ve done so many times before.  And that’s a test we met one week ago, when health insurance reform became the law of the land in the United States of America. And it’s a test we met later in the week when Congress passed higher education reforms that will have a tremendous impact on working families — and America’s future.  That’s two major victories in one week that will improve the lives of our people for generations to come,” he said.

The President explained how the new legislation will impact students who wish to go to college. “I don’t have to tell folks here at NOVA why this victory matters.  In the 21st century, when the success of every American hinges more than ever on the quality of their education, and when America’s success as a nation rests more than ever on an educated workforce that is second to none, we can’t afford to waste billions of dollars on giveaways to banks.

“We need to invest that money in our students.  We need to invest in our community colleges.  We need to invest in the future of this country.  We need to meet the goal I set last year and graduate more of our students than any other nation by the year 2020.  And through the extraordinary leadership of Education Secretary Arne Duncan, that’s what the reforms I’m signing today will help us do.

The President makes his way out of Mary Collier Baker Theater, shaking hands with the audience en route. (Photo: Regan Kireilis)

“By cutting out the middleman, we’ll save American taxpayers $68 billion in the coming years — $68 billion.  That’s real money —  real savings that we’ll reinvest to help improve the quality of higher education and make it more affordable, ” Obama said.

He outlined what his education reforms have meant to NOVA this year. “So far this year — and the year isn’t over — right here at NOVA, Pell Grant recipients increased by 41 percent over last year.  The total dollar amount of Pell Grants increased by 59 percent.  The number of federally guaranteed loans increased by 43 percent and loan awards increased by 68 percent.  That’s right here at this one community college, because of the steps that we had already taken, ” Obama said.

The bill includes other student financial aid reforms. “Today, we’re making it easier for responsible students to pay off their loans.  Right now, if you’re a borrower, you don’t have to spend more than 15 percent of your income on loans.  But starting in 2014, you won’t have to pay more than 10 percent of your income in repaying your student loans. That will make a meaningful difference for over one million more students.  We’re also going to give students an incentive to do what’s right — if you pay your loans on time, you’ll only have to pay them off for 20 years.  And you’ll only have to pay them off for 10 years if you repay them with service to your community, and to our country, as a teacher or a nurse or a member of our Armed Forces,” Obama said.

In conclusion: “For a long time, our student loan system has worked for banks and financial institutions. Today, we’re finally making our student loan system work for students and our families.  But we’re also doing something more. From the moment I was sworn into office, I’ve spoken about the urgent need for us to lay a new foundation for our economy and for our future.  And two pillars of that foundation are health care and education, and each has long suffered from problems that we chose to kick down the road.

“With the bill I signed last week, we finally undertook meaningful reform of our health care system.  With this bill, and other steps we’ve pursued over the last year, we are finally undertaking meaningful reform in our higher education system.  So this week, we can rightly say the foundation on which America’s future will be built is stronger than it was one year ago,” Obama said.