(CNN) - President Barack Obama used his weekly address Saturday to begin pressuring Congress to extend a provision that would keep interest rates on federally subsidized student loans at a low 3.4%.
The address kicks off an effort by the White House to convince Congress to extend the measure, which was passed with bipartisan support five years ago.
Previously, students paid 6.8% on federally subsidized loans. In 2007, a Democrat-controlled House lowered the rate to 3.4%, but that decrease is due to expire July 1, meaning rates would return to 6.8% without an extension.
Obama will travel next week to North Carolina, Colorado and Iowa to make speeches urging Congress to pass the extension. All three states are considered battlegrounds in the upcoming general election.
Obama will also appear on Jimmy Fallon's late-night talk show Tuesday to pitch the extension.
In his address Saturday, Obama said higher education "cannot be a luxury."
"It's an economic imperative that every family must be able to afford," Obama said. "That's why next week I'll be visiting colleges across the country, talking to students about how we can make higher education more affordable - and what's at stake right now if Congress doesn't do something about it."
Obama took a shot at congressional Republicans, who he said were stalling on passing legislation that would have real impact in students' lives. Nearly 8 million students have federally subsidized loans.
Republicans question the cost of extending the low student-loan interest rate, which the Congressional Budget Office estimates to total $6 billion per year.
"Over the past few years, Republicans in Congress have voted against new ways to make college more affordable for middle-class families, and voted for huge new tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires - tax cuts that would have to be paid for by cutting things like education and job-training programs that give students new opportunities to work and succeed," Obama said.
Meanwhile, Republicans chose to focus on energy in their weekly address, delivered by Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt.
"Fuel costs are on track to hit an average of $4 a gallon by summertime - that's more than double what they cost when President Obama took office, and it marks a record high for the last two months," Blunt said in the address.
He went to criticize the president for what he said were misguided attempts to foster economic growth.
"Unfortunately, instead of working together to pass bipartisan solutions that would relieve pain at the pump and pressure on jobs, this administration is focused on the wrong things," Blunt said, naming last week's push for the so-called "Buffett Rule" as an example.
That proposal would enact a minimum 30% tax on Americans making north of $1 million per year. Senate Republicans, including Blunt, blocked the measure earlier this week.
Blunt labeled the rule "a gimmick that would do nothing to jump-start jobs or lower fuel prices for average American."
Instead, Blunt said fostering development of American energy should be a primary facet of the White House's plan for economic development. He said he was disappointed by members of the opposite party for ignoring plans to develop American energy.
"Unfortunately, for years this administration and Democrats in the Senate continue to dismiss bipartisan solutions that would help put people back to work and encourage more economic energy development," Blunt said.