Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Obama's Higher Education Program Hits the Road Says College Is Not a Luxury, but 'An Economic Necessity'

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Obama's Higher Education Program Hits the Road Says College Is Not a Luxury, but 'An Economic Necessity'

Article excerpt

SCRANTON, Pa. -- President Barack Obama wrapped up the debut of his plan to make higher education more affordable here, where the crowd applauded as he described broadening access to education as a way to restore a "sense of upward mobility" in the United States.

"We can't price the middle class and everybody working to get into the middle class out of a college education," Mr. Obama said. "Higher education is not a luxury -- it's an economic necessity. And every American should be able to afford it."

Standing in the gymnasium at Lackawanna College, a two-year institution, beside Vice President Joe Biden, a Scranton native, Mr. Obama said the steep rise in college tuition -- alongside much lower increases in income for a typical family -- has made it increasingly difficult for young people to afford college.

He called for colleges to contain tuition increases and state legislatures to appropriate money for higher education. And he repeated the proposals from his tour Thursday and earlier Friday through upstate New York about the role the federal government could play.

Mr. Obama said his administration will devise a system for rating colleges according to their affordability and success at producing graduates who find jobs, and then push to direct a greater portion of federal aid to institutions that rank well.

He also proposed expanding the portion of students eligible for a program that caps loan payments as a percentage of income.

The audience was a friendly one -- there was applause when Mr. Obama spoke of his health care law and laughter at a veiled reference to his recent Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, supporting a similar law in Massachusetts -- and they responded warmly to the proposals.

After the event, Nyssa Zaccheo, 22, said she appreciated what the president had to say, although changes would come too late to help with the $80,000 in debt she said she accumulated at Penn State University. …

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