(CNN) – Things got emotional during Sen. Barack Obama’s visit to a Michigan community college Tuesday.
Obama met individually with student Marilyn Pace, who is studying dental hygiene, and her financial aid counselor, Marcus McGrew, before speaking with a group of students at Wayne Community College in Taylor, Michigan.
Pace broke down in front of Obama and began crying after explaining the financial stresses she is facing while trying to get her education, help take care of her disabled father, and cope with the costs of commuting to school with the high price of gasoline.
“It sounds like you’re going to make it. You’re going to be fine,” Obama told Pace as she wiped away tears once McGrew explained his plan to finance Pace’s shortfall without additional debt. “We’re proud of you. You’re doing a great job. The key is just hanging in there,” he added.
Obama delivered a speech to a group of students at the community college after meeting with Pace. Stephanie Baker, whose daughter is studying full-time at another college and struggling academically, asked Obama what advice he would give her daughter.
“My main message to your daughter would be: stick with it,” Obama said. “Because the costs of not getting through school, not keeping your grades up are so much greater,” the presumptive Democratic nominee said. “There’s a million-dollar difference between the lifetime earnings of somebody who got a high school education and a college education. It is still the best investment that you can make,” Obama added.
After the event, the students, many of whom are studying dental hygiene like Pace, presented Obama with a gift. “On your campaign trail, we have to make sure you have a healthy mouth because we don’t want cavities in office,” a student told Obama as she presented him with an electronic toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, and several more toothbrushes. “This is like a lifetime supply. Wow, this is perfect,” he said. “This is an outstanding gift,” he added after showing off his new dental wares to his aide, Reggie Love.
During his prepared remarks at the college, Obama detailed his proposals to make college more affordable including a $4000 tuition tax credit granted in exchange for performing 100 hours of community service, reforming the federal student loan system by requiring direct lending of federal loans, and increasing the maximum amount of federal Pell grants.
In a statement released prior to Obama’s remarks Tuesday, the McCain campaign highlighted the Arizona senator’s proposals to reform the federal unemployment insurance system and to strengthen community colleges and technical training.