Obama administration tackles higher education woes

{ Thursday, November 11, 2010 }
After long last, my Obama article is complete! I submitted this piece as an assignment for my Writing for the Mass Media course. After writing it, I've found myself gravitating towards political writing rather than fashion writing- something I never thought possible!
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In a recent student conference call, President Barack Obama discussed his thoughts on his administration implementing new changes and policies to its higher education agenda that will tentatively affect undergraduates across the nation.
“We’re trying to strengthen our nation’s higher education system,” Obama said. “Our classrooms, our professors, our administrators and our students are going to drive the future success of the United States.”
The Obama administration is adamant on making college more affordable, decreasing student debt after graduation and increasing job availability for graduates.
One way the administration is making college more accessible and affordable for undergraduates is through the availability of loans and grants.
“We have increased the Pell Grant,” Obama said. “We’ve made it more available to people. We’ve made it more reliable.”
The Federal Pell Grant is worth up to $5,500 and is awarded to undergraduates who have met specific financial qualifications after filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
The administration has also tweaked the way federal student loans, like the Stafford Loan, are administered to make attending college a reality for more students.
“Instead of handing over $60 billion in unwarranted subsidies to big banks, we’re redirecting that money so that it goes directly to students,” Obama said. “That is allowing us to make college more affordable for nearly 8 million students and families.”
For over 80 percent of GCSU students, receiving institutional, state, or federal financial aid is necessary to attend college.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, of the GCSU students who receive financial aid, 69 percent are awarded grant or scholarship aid, 41 percent take out federal student loans, and 14 percent receive the Pell Grant.
“I’m an independent student and support myself, so being awarded financial aid was important for me to attend college,” said freshman pre-nursing major Lindsey Hodge. “I received the maximum Pell Grant award and outside scholarships to finance my education at GCSU.”
Another common burden of undergraduates, student debt, is also being tackled by the Obama administration.
For students borrowing federal loans, a new policy has been put into place ensuring that monthly loan payments do not snowball into a larger financial burden over time.
“Starting in 2014, young people can cap their debt at 10 percent of their salary, regardless of what that salary is,” Obama said. “You will never have to pay more than 10 percent of your salary each month to service student loans that you’ve taken.”
Furthermore, graduates that go into public service jobs as teachers or police officers are guaranteed the financial cushion of loan forgiveness.
“If you go into public service and you keep up with your payments, whatever leftover student debt that you have will be forgiven after 10 years,” Obama said. “That’s obviously going to be a big boost that would have helped me out a lot, because I ended up having 10 years worth of loans I had to pay down after I got out of law school.”
One common source of anxiety shared by all undergraduates is finding a job after graduating college. Although no graduate is promised a job, education on the available job markets is the key to future employment.
“We’re giving young people a better sense of what jobs are out there in the future so that people end up gravitating towards the skills and degrees that they need to get employed,” Obama said.
GCSU students can take advantage of on-campus resources like the Career Center located in Lanier Hall for guidance and advice on future career options.
“Students who are approaching either December or May graduation need to start their job search at least six to nine months before graduation,” said Career Center Director Mary Roberts. “When you are looking for a professional job in your field, it will take time for you to research, identify, apply, and interview for opportunities.”
Another way undergraduates can be proactive in securing future job placement is through networking with employers and professionals in the workforce.
“While a great deal of information is online, connecting with a real person at the companies you are considering is very important,” Roberts said. “In addition to mapping out the network of people you already know, you want to expand it through the Career Center, career fairs, and social media sites where you are connected to other Georgia College alumni.”
Although the standards and policies of higher education have received criticism from the general public as of late, Obama urges students to avoid becoming discouraged.
“Don’t let anybody tell you that somehow your dreams are going to be constrained from going forward,” Obama said. “There are still billions of people around the world who want to come here, and they want to come here because they know that this is, for all of our problems, still the land of opportunity.”
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-Lindsay

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