On March 10, 2015, President Barack Obama visited Georgia Tech to speak about college affordability. A student from the university, Tiffany Davis, wrote a letter to the President about student loans, which he referenced throughout the speech.
After a string of opening remarks, Obama started the main content of his speech by expressing that “higher education…is one of the best investments that anybody can make in their future.” His “thesis,” if you will, was this: “And the message I want to deliver today, not just to you but to the entire country, is the entire nation has to treat it as a priority.”
He said that the economy is growing steadily. According to a Wall Street Journal chart, the fiscal deficit is growing. In Oct. 2009, the spending was up to over 24 percent, while revenue was down to 14 percent. From then until Oct. 2013, revenue steadily went up while spending steadily went down. The deficit gap was narrowed; though it’s still a massive problem, it’s significantly changed from what it was seven years ago.
He also said that the economy is creating new jobs. According to a Wall Street Journal chart, Obama’s administration has added millions of jobs since he took office – but jobs didn’t start rising until after 12 months in office. In fact, the numbers didn’t get above 0 until after 36 months in office. He’s only added 6.4 million jobs. This isn’t the worst number, but compared to Bill Clinton, who added 22.9 jobs, it’s not that impressive of a number, especially considering how long it took to just break even. “You’re going to be going into a job market that’s much better than the one that existed when I came into office six years ago,” he said. Based on the numbers just examined, this is absolutely true.
Then he said that our country has created 12 million jobs. As seen by the WSJ information, this is not true. FactCheck.org does reports on Obama’s statistical record every quarter. According to the latest data (January 2015), it’s still only 6.4 million new jobs. Not sure where the 12 million comes from.
He cites that the average debt for college graduates is around $28,000. This is correct, according to The Project on Student Debt. In their study of the class of 2013, the average debt of college graduates was $28,400. Obama joked about that number being just the average and that some students have much more. This is true because the Project of Student Debt only looked at public and non-profit colleges. They also broke down each state. State averages ranged from $18,656 to $32,794.
Appealing to his audience, he said that Georgia Tech has been proved to be one of the best deals around. Compared to private school prices, the school seems to be a great bargain. In-state tuition is $21,828, and the average debt for the class of 2013 was $25,027, according to collegedata.com.
He then turned to talking about the need for America to be a place where anyone could have access to a college education. He said: “My grandfather had a change to go to college because this country decided that when veterans returned home from World War II, they should be able to go to college.”
Obama actually got into some hot water in June 2008 when he gave a speech at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials and said that his father fought in World War II. This was an instance when people accused him of lying, because his father was three years old at the time of World War II. It was later revealed that he was talking about his maternal grandfather, who was the most influential fatherly figure in his life, which may have been the cause for the mistake.
It’s good to see that he’s got his story straight now by being more intentional in what title he uses for this man. According to a quote from Obama’s own biography, referenced in a Huffington Post article, Stanley Dunham did use the GI Bill to enroll in Berkeley, but he did not finish a degree there. Obama did not mention that in his speech.
He then stated that it took him 10 years to pay off his student loans. He graduated from Harvard Law School in 1991 and said he paid them off in 2004 when he signed a book deal. First of all, his “10 years” comment is wrong because it took him 13 years. Second of all, News Max did an investigation into his financial disclosures that found that there were no college loans all the way back to 2000. News Max said that because of Senate ethics rules, Obama was supposed to disclose loans and debts. But he did not list any in 2004 or any time after. A campaign spokesman said the loans were repaid during his candidacy for the Senate so it didn’t have to be reported.
Obama criticized the Republican Party for their education proposals as they prepare to reveal their budget. According to the Washington Times, the Republican Party has proposed an education bill that would replace No Child Left Behind. The measure would allow states to decide what to do with failing schools instead of allowing the federal government to do it for them. They want to use public money to help get low-income kids to newer schools. Obama said that this plan would allow states to move education money away from education, or send more money to better schools.
Near the end of the speech, he promoted his new Student Aid Bill of Rights, which he encouraged everyone to sign. This bill of rights can be vague and unnecessary. According to Forbes contributor Jeffrey Dorfman, the bill is on the wrong track because most of the rights are actually shifting responsibility of payment to others. He suggests that it would be much more efficient to teach students about options to pay for college “without moving the costs unto somebody else.”
Obama had a lot of good things to say to these students, but it is concerning that some facts were not accurate.