March 27th, 2010
11:21 AM ET
11 years ago

Obama: 'This was a momentous week for America'

Washington (CNN) - In his weekly Internet and radio address, President Obama discusses the changes to the federal student loan system that were enacted as part of Democrats' health care legislation.

"This reform of the federal student loan programs will save taxpayers $68 billion over the next decade," Obama says. "And with this legislation, we’re putting that money to use achieving a goal I set for America: by the end of this decade, we will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world."

Republicans responded quickly to Obama's weekly address. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, the chairman of Senate Republican Conference, issued the following statement Saturday:

“Nineteen million college students aren’t going to be happy when they find out that the federal government will overcharge them an average of $1,700 to help pay for the new health care law and other government programs. In this latest Washington takeover, the government will borrow money at 2.8 percent and loan it to students at 6.8 percent and spend the difference on more government. Any savings ought to go to students, not the government.

“This takeover will deprive 19 million students of choices, add half a trillion dollars to the federal debt, and throw out of work 31,000 Americans who today help students apply for loans. The motto of the Obama Administration should be: ‘If you can find it in the Yellow Pages, the government ought to be doing it.'"

(Read Obama's full remarks after the jump)

Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
March 27, 2009

This was a momentous week for America. It was a week in which together, we took bold new steps toward restoring economic security for our middle class and rebuilding a stronger foundation for our future. It was a week in which some of the change that generations have hoped for and worked for finally became reality in America.

It began with the passage of comprehensive health insurance reform that will begin to end the worst practices of the insurance industry, rein in our exploding deficits, and, over time, finally offer millions of families and small businesses quality, affordable care – and the security and peace of mind that comes with it.

And it ended with Congress casting a final vote on another piece of legislation that accomplished what we’ve been talking about for decades – legislation that will reform our student loan system and help us educate all Americans to compete and win in the 21st century.

Year after year, we’ve seen billions of taxpayer dollars handed out as subsidies to the bankers and middlemen who handle federal student loans, when that money should have gone to advancing the dreams of our students and working families. And yet attempts to fix this problem and reform this program were thwarted by special interests that fought tooth and nail to preserve their exclusive giveaway.

But this time, we said, would be different. We said we’d stand up to the special interests, and stand up for the interests of students and families. That’s what happened this week. And I commend all the Senators and Representatives who did the right thing.

This reform of the federal student loan programs will save taxpayers $68 billion over the next decade. And with this legislation, we’re putting that money to use achieving a goal I set for America: by the end of this decade, we will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.

To make college more affordable for millions of middle-class Americans for whom the cost of higher education has become an unbearable burden, we’re expanding federal Pell Grants for students: increasing them to keep pace with inflation in the coming years and putting the program on a stronger financial footing. In total, we’re doubling funding for the federal Pell Grant program to help the students who depend on it.

To make sure our students don’t go broke just because they chose to go to college, we’re making it easier for graduates to afford their student loan payments. Today, about 2 in 3 graduates take out loans to pay for college. The average student ends up with more than $23,000 in debt. So when this change takes effect in 2014, we’ll cap a graduate’s annual student loan repayments at 10 percent of his or her income.

To help an additional 5 million Americans earn degrees and certificates over the next decade, we’re revitalizing programming at our community colleges – the career pathways for millions of dislocated workers and working families across this country. These schools are centers of learning; where students young and old can get the skills and technical training they need for the jobs of today and tomorrow. They’re centers of opportunity; where we can forge partnerships between students and businesses so that every community can gain the workforce it needs. And they are vital to our economic future.

And to ensure that all our students have every chance to live up to their full potential, this legislation also increases support for our Minority Serving Institutions, including our Historically Black Colleges and Universities, to keep them as strong as ever in this new century.

Education. Health care. Two of the most important pillars of a strong America grew stronger this week. These achievements don’t represent the end of our challenges; nor do they signify the end of the work that faces our country. But what they do represent is real and major reform. What they show is that we’re a nation still capable of doing big things. What they prove is what’s possible when we can come together to overcome the politics of the moment; push back on the special interests; and look beyond the next election to do what’s right for the next generation.

That’s the spirit in which we continue the work of tackling our greatest common tasks – an economy rebuilt; job creation revitalized; an American Dream renewed – for all our people.

Thank you.

Filed under: Education • Health care • Lamar Alexander • President Obama
soundoff (49 Responses)
  1. Steve

    That's MY President!

    *Nuclear Arms reduction.
    All in ONE YEAR!!!!!
    More positive progress than Duh!-Ya made in EIGHT years!!!

    God Bless Barack Obama!

    And God Bless corageous Democrats who are looking beyond the next elections (and their short-sighted constituencies) to do what's right and good.

    And to Machiavellian Rethuglicans EVERYWHERE!!!:

    Since you aren't LEADING - and have proven yourselves INCAPABLE od FOLLOWING...GET. OUT. OF. THE. WAY!!!!!

    March 27, 2010 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  2. j

    The Democrats have the momentum... can they keep it up? I hope so.

    March 27, 2010 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  3. kyle

    Sen. Alexander is right about 1 thing, the interest rate should be lowered if they are going to handle the money directly versus giving it to banks. but his logic is stupid. the government would give the money to banks before, they charged the same interest rates, and then pocketed the money made for profit. i would rather have the government use it for public works projects, lower the deficit, or put back into the education department rather than give it to people charge 30% interest on credit cards while buying the notes at near 0% interest

    March 27, 2010 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  4. Every Man

    All I need to hear from the GOP are details on how they would implement changes and what these changes would be! I'm ready to be swayed, but as long as we're paying these guys I want to know that they're going to be doing something! We have a government, it might as well be a good one.

    March 27, 2010 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  5. jane

    It is a momentous week. Thank you for working so hard and doing a good job, Mr. President. You've taken a nation that had been brought to the brink of disaster by the previous administration, and you're slowly getting it back on its feet.

    March 27, 2010 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  6. Sue

    Way to go Mr. President. You will go down in history as one of the great ones.

    March 27, 2010 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  7. joec

    Government regulation of businees is not the American way. With all the stipulations on insurance companies in this new bill I can already see the customer service centers going back to India. The Obama way seems to limit American inguenuity and eliminate any incentive to acheive with his increased taxes and regulation strategy. This country is being led by a bunch of tax and spend liberals who are also control freaks. Good day comrade.

    March 27, 2010 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  8. Ancient Texan

    Yes, memorable giant leap forward bankrupting the nation.

    March 27, 2010 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  9. GetReal

    Another ancient old white man named Alexander speaks and the nation yawns. Get off my lawn, grandpa

    March 27, 2010 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  10. Michael from Ventura

    Thanks for all your hard work on behalf of Americans! You have (and will continue to) overcome the most hateful opposition I have seen in my lifetime. Re-elect the President 2012!! gop-GO AWAY!

    March 27, 2010 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  11. Hendrik

    Good for you, Mr. President

    March 27, 2010 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  12. Doug

    This is pathetic, he must have visited a different country than the one I am living in. The President fixed the nation by signing two bogus bills that in reality will NEVER BE PAID IN MY LIFETIME.. My President has serious credibility problems. The White House should be repainted RED in keeping some transparentcy with the neighbors.

    March 27, 2010 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  13. beevee

    Dont' be a sore loser Mr. Alexander. Accept it that the president's reforms are for the godd of all maericans and they will work. Supprot him instead of an obstructionist.

    March 27, 2010 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  14. beevee

    I hope these reforms are well thought out with all the long term ramifications considered in depth and that supporters of president Obama don't regret their support of him.

    March 27, 2010 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  15. Gary

    It's a sad day for the GOP when the best they can offer up is tired old Lamar Alexander to give a response. What, Allan Keyes was busy?

    March 27, 2010 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  16. Useyourbrain!!!

    Federal student loans can be worked off or down by putting in some time with various groups such as peace corps. With good jobs hard to find, this is a great way to eliminate some of that debt and earn good job and personal skills at the same time.

    March 27, 2010 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  17. MBJ


    Your heading was "Obama: This was a momentous week for America", and yet you devoted 75% of the article before the jump to the Republican response. This week, Obama signed health care into law, allocated $40 billion to higher education AND negotiated a nuclear disarmament treaty with Russia which will be signed in a matter of days. The momentum has re-ignited his base domestically, and re-invigorated his image internationally.

    Why then, would you focus your reportage on Senator Lamar's RESPONSE?

    Get it right (or at least a little further to the left) CNN.

    March 27, 2010 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  18. Realist

    The Republicans cannot stand the fact that students will get loans without being fleeced by bankers. The GOP is a pathetic shell.

    March 27, 2010 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  19. Beauty

    Thank you Mr President. I love your positive attitude. You have been working tirelessly to lift the burden off of a lot of people. This is a difficult time in our country but you have the right attitude. A lot of people are smiling today because you lift up their spirit. God bless you and God bless the United State of America.

    March 27, 2010 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  20. Annie, Atlanta

    It was a momentous week, and, for me, for different reasons than it was for the President. How often do we see members of the House and Senate, as well as the President, put the needs of the American people over job security and politics? Not often. There are a lot of things that could have been better about this reform, but what these people did will stick with me for some time to come.

    March 27, 2010 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  21. Karen

    Well..............a very expensive week at least.

    March 27, 2010 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  22. The Great Northwest

    Thank You President Obama I have been with you fron the day I saw you give a speech at the Convention to this day we love you.
    Change and Hope and you Mr President that is what has guided us all the way.
    What a great President and what an accomplishment for the people.

    March 27, 2010 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  23. Do

    Mr president we all know GOP don't like you but you're doing the right thing . Keep doing what is good for the American people . If God want you to be two term no human being can change it .

    March 27, 2010 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  24. Larry


    A caring, loving man, who's aim it is to do the best he can for this country and it's people

    Thank you America, for being wise enough to place him in office

    Maybe there is hope after all.

    March 27, 2010 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  25. Capt. Snarky

    "This reform of the federal student loan programs is the next step," Obama says. "And with this legislation, we’re achieving a goal I set for America: by the end of this decade, we will have complete control of Private Enterprise, and the Populace will be completely under Big Government's Thumb. Change you can believe in! Yes, We Can – and Did!"

    March 27, 2010 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
1 2