May 7, 2012
The roar of over 9,000 people filled the Coors Events Center in Boulder on the evening of April 24. The media had been set up in their fenced-off area, and CU-Boulder students filed into the arena after being searched thoroughly by Secret Service.
The president had come to town.
President Barack Obama addressed the students of CU-Boulder amid raucous cheers and excited hollering. The crowd had already been worked up because Obama was late – he was scheduled to start speaking at 6:45, but didn’t actually arrive until after 7:15. He had stopped and eaten at a local restaurant called The Sink across the street from the CU campus.
The focus of Obama’s speech was tailored to the audience: He spoke about rising tuition costs. In July, the student loan relief legislation that Obama helped pass during the beginning of his term are set to expire. That means that Stafford loan interest rates will double – the president said it will represent an extra $1,000 per student, per year.
He asked, “Are there any students here who can afford an extra $1,000 tax every year?”
College debt is coming to the forefront of the public eye. The total amount of student loan debt in the United States recently surpassed the total amount of credit card debt. In addition to the rising student debt, the current job market, even for recent college graduates, has not yet recovered from the recession.
According to projectonstudentdebt.org, the average amount of debt carried by graduating seniors is $25,250, and a full two-thirds of all college students graduate with debt. In the midst of this, many colleges are raising their tuition rates, while some members of Congress are pushing for less federally-funded financial aid such as Pell Grants and Stafford Loans.
Obama completed his speech with a call to action. He called on students to help him extend the loan relief that expires in July. He told students to call their Representatives and tell them to vote to extend the loan relief.
He then left the stage amid the deafening cheers of excited students. And why not cheer? They had just been told by the man elected to the highest office in the nation that he wanted to keep them from paying more for college.