Obama at BU: Making education affordable

By Matt Hicks

August 23, 2013 Updated Aug 24, 2013 at 12:11 AM EDT

Vestal, NY (WBNG Binghamton) It's the day many in the Southern Tier have been waiting for -- President Barack Obama's arrival at Binghamton University.

His visit comes at the tail end of a two-day tour across upstate New York and Pennsylvania in which he is touting a three-point plan to make college more affordable for future generations. His plan includes tying financial aid to college performance and challenging colleges to offer a better, more affordable education.

Obama also wants to make sure students aren't buried in debt after graduation by letting them limit loan payments to 10 percent of their income.

"Even with all the work we’re doing there, the average student is still coming out with $26,000 in debt when they graduate. And for some students there’s even more than that,” said Obama.

Obama said making higher education more affordable is key to paving a road to the middle class and improving the economy. He said it is also crucial for those in disadvantaged neighborhoods looking to make a better life for themselves, or those coming from foreign nations.

“One of the great things about American universities is that they are magnets for talent from around the world,” said Obama.

Part of his plan to make higher education more affordable includes providing incentives for state governments to maintain levels for state universities. Obama also said controlling rising healthcare costs is key to keeping college more affordable.

Addressing his plan for rating colleges, the president said it would help reign in fraudulent, for-profit institutions that bury students in debt while not delivering the skills needed to thrive.

“We don’t want money to be funneled to schools that aren’t doing a good job. We want students to be good shoppers,” said Obama.

Providing remarks before the president took the podium, BU President Dr. Harvey Stenger said America has been losing its educational advantage as costs rise and financial aid can't fill the gap.

"We are more than your host today, we are also your advocate and your partner on this journey,” said Stenger.

Obama's visit drew many onlookers along the Vestal Parkway, and those trying to use the opportunity to make their voices heard, namely, those in support and against hydraulic fracturing.