Transcript for SUNY Binghamton Students Question Obama on Education Costs
This is a special report from ABC news. Hello I'm tired and is in new York and this is an ABC news digital special report day two of president Obama's two day bus tour kicks off. You from taking questions at this town hall style event in Binghamton University upstate New York -- is pushing. In the federal rating system for colleges to better the grade and more student let's listen. Well -- first. -- let me thank the university. Geiger president hardest -- up for having me here today give you give your present big run what. Couple other people won't recognize. Mayor -- It is here. Two wonderful congressman Richard -- -- -- -- -- Maurice -- is there as well. -- First of all thank you because really nice outside so -- to be willing to come inside I greatly appreciate. And I'm not gonna do a lot of talking of the top because -- Have a conversation with about. A range of issues but in particular something that. Is. Feel personal for. A lot of you know that. I wasn't born into a lot of wealth refrain. There was -- along Obama dynasty. And so the only reason I'm here today the only reason Michelle. And I've been able to accomplish what we accomplished is because. We got a great education. And I think the essence the American dream is. Anybody who's won't work hard. Is able to get -- good education. And achieve their drinks. And central to that is the issue you know you have big sign that read we try to message effectively. College affordable. Making sure the people -- -- go to college. You know I -- on a road trip. From New York. To Pennsylvania. Yesterday our was at the university of buffalo. Visited students and at Syracuse. Later -- I'm gonna meet Joseph Biden. In Scranton his hometown. But -- I -- stuck here for a couple of reasons number one. I've been told that it's very important for me to. Get SPD's well while I'm here. -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- Number two I'm excited because the great work that SUNY campuses like Binghamton are doing. To keep cost down for hard working students like so many of you. Chancellor's -- is making sure that hundreds of thousands. -- students all across the state are getting a world class higher education. But without some of the debt and financial burden that is stopping too many young people. From going to college and that's what we want -- Mercer is small rural families all across the country. You know over the past month I've been visiting towns. Throughout America and I've talked about how we secure a better bargain. For the middle class and her -- was trying to work their way into the middle class we've fought our way through a very brutal recession. And now -- a point where. There were creating jobs the economy's growing. Budget deficits are falling. Health care inflation has been reduced. And yet there's still a lot of working families out there. Who are having a tough time in this competitive global. Economy that we let them. The fact is even before this last financial crisis. Increasingly an economy where folks to the top we're -- better and better and better but the average. Individual. Or family was saying their incomes -- their way just flat line. And you start getting. A tale of two Americans. And the whole promise of upward mobility in this country which is central to we understand San ourselves to be. Was being diminished for too many people so. From my perspective reversing that trend should be Washington's -- -- -- It's certainly my highest priority. Unfortunately what we've seen in Washington all too often is instead of focusing on how to -- Bring good middle class jobs back to. America how do we make sure the economy is growing robustly and that growth was broad based we've been spending a lot of time arguing about whether we should be paying -- bills that we party crew. -- the discussions bit about slashing spending on education and basic research and science all the things that are gonna make sure that we remain competitive. For the future. And most recently. There's been threats that we would shut down the government. Unless we agree to roll back the Health Care Reform that's about to provide millions of Americans with health care coverage for the first time. And that's not an economic plan that's not. Gonna grow the economy that's not -- district middle classes are gonna create ladders of opportunity into the middle class. What we need to do is focused on the pocketbook bread and butter issues. That affect all of you. Making sure we've got good jobs with good wages. A good education a -- bureau. Affordable health -- -- secure retirement. And -- for people who were currently in poverty to get out of poverty that's what we should be spending our time I think about when it comes to domestic policy. That's what's always made America great. And nothing's more important to that process then what we're doing in terms of K through twelve education and higher education. Here's the challenge. At the time when higher education has never been a more important than when I say higher education I mean. To your for your technical colleges -- -- all have to be. For -- Traditional. Bachelor's. Bachelor of Arts or sciences. At a time when that's never been more important. College has never been more expenses. And in fact what you're -- is is that over the last three decades. But cost of higher education has gone up 260%. At a time when family incomes have gone up about 60%. So I'm not a math major surprise some here but if -- -- -- -- up 260%. Another line drawn up. 16%. You start getting a bigger bigger gap and what's happened as a consequence is that other colleges become out of reach for too many people -- young people are. Being loaded up -- more more debt. Now we tried -- Baghdad. When I came in office we -- financially system so the student loan programs being run through banks. And that banks were making billions of dollars on and we said let's just get my directly to students cut out the middleman. And we then were able to -- funnel billions of dollars to provide more students -- more -- -- -- -- us. We've done our best to keep interest rates on student loans. As low as possible. But even -- all the work that we're doing there -- does bear Brister missile coming out with 26000 dollars worth of debt. When they graduate and for a lot of students it's much more of the -- And particularly for those young people who -- choosing careers where. Like teaching where they may not make a lot of money. If they're burdened with tens of thousands of dollars of debt. In some cases impossible for them ever to pay it off. Or they have to put off buying a home force starting a business or. Starting a family. And that has depressive effect on our economy overall so it's not just bad for the students is also bad for the economy as a whole. Bottom line is this we can't rights. Higher education. Soul. Prohibitively. That ordinary families can't afford. That. Will rule in our chances to make sure each one for centuries the American century just like the twentieth century wars so what we've done and I announced this yesterday. His proposal three basic. Reforms. To try to shake the system of number 10. We want to start rating colleges. Based on how well they're doing in providing good value and opportunity. Four students. Right now you've got a bunch ranking systems on -- commercial. And when you look at what's being rated its. Typically how selected the schools are how few students. -- take him. And how expensive mirror what other facilities like and what we wanna do is to start looking at factors like how much -- -- we've worked. And do they actually graduate. And -- -- graduate in four years as opposed to six or a -- And do they find a job after the graduates -- giving some concrete. Measures that will allow students and families to engage if I go to this school. Am -- gonna get a good deal and since taxpayers are often provide most. Families and students assistance we want to make sure taxpayers are getting a good deal -- well and that'll create an atmosphere in which. College presidents trustees start thinking about affordability and don't just assume. That. Tuition can keep on going up and up and up. Now what we're also going to be doing is putting pressure on state legislatures to rebalance because. Part of that reason so many state university -- increase tuition is because state legislative priorities have shifted all across the country. More money into prisons less money in the schools that money. That means that costs are passed on now. Two students in the form of higher tuition -- we got do something about that. Can't -- -- gonna ask a little more from service. What we're -- registered users you know you need actually finished courses before you take out more loans more grants. And we we want to say that -- not to be punitive but. Instead. To prevent a situation where students. Taking on a lot of debt but never actually getting the degree. Which puts -- -- deeper financial hole than they otherwise would be. -- so that's point number one sector we want to jump start competition. Among colleges and states to think of more innovative ways to reduce cost. And there are other schools that are doing. Some terrific work in reducing costs while maintaining high quality education so for example -- some schools that are experimenting. Where you can get. Credits based on your competency as opposed to how much time -- spending in the classroom. There -- there is no law that says you have to graduate. For you to be in school for four years. Rather than three or three and a half somehow automatically gives you better education and so schools are experimenting with how we've compressed the time. And their -- reduce the costs are there -- ways that we can use online learning to. Improve the educational quality and at the same time make things a little cheaper for students. So we're gonna work -- you. State's. Schools. University presidents to see. What's working what's not what's spread best practices all across the country. In the third thing we want to do is to expand and better advertise a program that we put in place. An expanded when I came into office and that is a program that serves. Four college graduates who do we have debt. -- -- Monthly payments -- you have to make to 10% of your income. And the notion is that that way it's manageable and you're not gonna have to make career decisions simply based on. How much money can I make to pay off those student loans if I wanna be a teacher I wanna be a social worker if I want to -- on public service. Then I can do that. And I'm still going to be able to act responsibly and pay off my debt. We already have their program place but it's not as it's not as widely known as it needs to be and not as many young people are eligible for as we want them to be. So we're gonna work. To improve on that front. Bottom line is. We need to stop. Taking the same business as usual approach when it comes to college education. Not all the reforms that were proposing are going to be popular. -- there are some who are benefiting from the status quo. There will be some resistance. There's gonna have to be a broad based conversation but part of our goal here is to store a conversation because the current path -- were wrong. Is unsustainable and it's my basic belief and I suspect probably for most people here higher education should be electric. It's an economic process. In this knowledge based economy. And we want to make sure that every family in America -- afford it so. I'm interest if you guys have other ideas. If you have other ideas about things that we should be looking at we want to hear and that's part of the purpose of this town hall discussion I'm interest in hearing your story is. Getting your questions. And this'll be a pretty informal affair. Well as informal -- -- when the president comes. -- -- of cameras everywhere. So -- I just like to start the discussion. And what you gonna call folks -- -- and I would ask you stand up introduce yourself. -- people -- mikes and they'll. Bring Mike to you and and I'm gonna goal. Girl boy girl -- to make sure -- it's fair. It'll start this the only career in the sport. -- -- and Africa eureka. Thank you -- -- it's an honor to have you here today Mr. President my name is Nicole Groupon and I'm from the Decker school of nursing here. Which is an outstanding school of nursing that has -- -- -- comes. On my question today is because advanced practice nurses primarily nurse practitioners and nurse midwives. Have such an outstanding reputation we have good outcomes. And the Affordable Care Act is ready to be rolled out soon nurse practitioners and advanced practice nurses are an act are an excellent position. To really serve vulnerable populations and people who don't have care I'm wondering if there's any provisions within -- educational act that would support health care workers. And nurse practitioners to create a sustainable work force that would be able to support caring for people as we roll out the Affordable Care Act. It is a great question now for first of all let me without butter me up I loved nurses. We. You. You Michelle I've been blessed we haven't been sick too much but. You know knock on what. -- -- are actually have the hospital. You know doctors are wonderful we appreciate him but I know when Malia and Sasha were being born we spend 90% of the time -- the nurses and 10%. Would -- BGY and you know my grandmother got sick and was passing -- the end it was nurses who work. Caring for her and an incredibly compassionate but also professional way. And you're actually -- that. One of the keys to reducing our health care costs overall is recognizing. The incredible value. Advanced practice nurses and giving them more responsibilities. Because there's a lot of stuff they can do. That it in a way that frankly is is cheaper than they have been doctored to but the outcomes are just as good. The challenge we have is we still have -- -- -- nursing shortage and too many parts of the country. My understanding -- prior notice better than -- part of the problem is is that. Too many. Professors -- nurse in world. Or instructors in -- -- didn't pay less than actual nurses. So what ends up happening is we don't have enough slots. In some of the nursing schools that may not be true here but -- their parts of the country where that's true. So we have to operate a little bit the schools of nursing and make sure that -- -- properly resource so that. We have enough instructors. And in fact as part of the affordable care one of the things we thought about was how -- we gonna expand. And improve. Of the number of nurses and and to. Making sure that they can. Actually financed their educations and so there are some special programs. For nurses who were committing themselves as -- doctors were committing themselves to serving. The end. Underserved communities and we will be happy to get get that information to the school of nursing here. One other. Element to this that I think is really interesting we've been spending a lot of time thinking about. Making sure that our veterans coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan. Are getting the opportunities they -- so we and -- something called post 9/11 GI bill. That provides the same kind of support -- my grandfather got when he came back from world war -- And the young people who have served and armed forces are just extraordinary work one of the problems though is is that. They don't always get credit for the skills the very -- when they come home so one undergo -- here it was a better. And and one great example actually is in the medical profession. When you get army medics. Coming back who served in the worst possible. Circumstances. -- -- theater. Having to make life for deaf duck decisions I met a young man and of the Minnesota. He had come back wanted to continue to pursue his his career and become. A professional nurse. And he was having to start from scratch. Taken the equivalent of nursing 101. And what we're trying to do is make sure that states. And institutions of higher learning. Recognized some of the skills because as we bring. -- and warmer veterans home will be ending the -- Afghanistan by the end of next year. We want to make sure -- that those folks have the opportunity to succeed here in America. -- -- All right it's it's a -- -- Right here not. -- -- muscular Michael we're back. Hello mister president. I'm glad to create -- -- university. And the director of -- pride union viewed as the largest QVC organization on campus. And mining concerns that I know a lot of stories for people who are OT BT who. How much of their parents and their parents -- supporting them financially for a college. And when they come out their parents cut -- that support. As -- it meaty and futures. Part of your affordability for college would be able to use include those -- people well for first -- -- The programs -- we have employers don't discriminate. And shouldn't discriminate. And the good news is I think the phenomenon -- you described. Is likely to happen lesson lesson last would each successive -- I mean think about -- credible changes that have been made. Just over the last. Beckett. -- Is wrong. Don't Ask Don't Tell. -- -- but more importantly people's hearts and minds have changed. And I think that's reflective of parents as well that doesn't mean that there aren't still going to be struggles. Internally but. Nothing more and more what we recognizes is that just -- We judge people on -- should judge people on the basis. Their character and not their color or religion or gender. Same is true for the sexual orientation. So I don't suspect there will have special. Laws pertaining to. Young people who were cut off from support by their parents. Because -- parents. Hadn't. Gotten them. Place I think they should be when it comes to love them and supporting their kids regardless of who they are. But we are gonna make sure that. All young people. Give the sport of any sort of their parents are able to provide them support and -- functionally independent -- -- missile go to college and succeed current. Right here in the in the Obama -- -- You know so if you. Here's a general rule the presidential town hall if you want to hear it called on. -- -- -- -- -- -- -- Good afternoon President Obama my name is Anna -- Smith I -- a graduate student in the community college of communion public affairs. I studies student affairs administration. With that being said arm as we are our students we know how vital it is to have a good foundation in education and how did you administration plan to address the major budget cuts that are happening with head start schools -- on the US. Well there's a great question and this will be a major topic over the next several months. First of all. I want to expand. Early childhood education sort of successful for every young person. And the -- and I talked about this week. I talked about this in my State of the Union Address. It is just common sense we know. Study after study has shown that the biggest bang for the buck that we get -- comes to education. Is to invest early. If we get. Three year olds four year olds. Well prepared when they start school that momentum continues. If they start behind too often they stay behind kids are resilient they can make up for some tough stuff. Early on in life but it's a lot harder form. Then if we get him. Young in fact that the -- studies have shown that there's some very Smart programs out there where you identify -- -- single moms. In the maternity ward and nurses. Talk to home immediately. Not just about the help of their child but also -- And -- -- packet with some books and some toys and talk about engagement and expanding -- everywhere. All that can make a difference in high quality early childhood education can. Continue. That process so that by the time the kids start school they -- other colors they know their letters. There -- ago. Now. Unfortunately. Right now the federal budget generally has been a political football in Washington. Partly this came out of the financial crisis we had a terrible crisis we have immediately. -- Money into the system -- prevent a Great Depression. So we cut taxes for middle class -- ways. We. Initiated programs to rebuild our roads our bridges we helped states so they would have to -- -- as many. Teachers and firefighters and police officers. And that's part of the reason why we avoided a depression although we still had a terrible recession. But the combination of increased spending and less revenue meant that the deficit went up. And by the time the Republicans took over the house in 2011. They had made this a major issue and a lot understandably a lot of -- said -- we're haven't tightened our belts. Federal government should too. Although part of -- what you want the federal government to do when everybody else's have a two part time is to make sure that your providing additional support. As the economies improve the deficit has gone down it's now dropped at the fastest rate in sixteen years. I want to repeat that because a lot of people think. That if you ask the average person what's happening with the -- makes -- tell you that it's going up the deficit has been cut in half. Since 2009. And is on a downward trajectory. And it's going down faster had. Gone down faster than any time since World War II. So we don't have a problem. In terms of spending on education. We don't have a problem when it comes to spending on research and development we do have a long term problem. That has to do -- have our healthcare programs Medicare and Medicaid the good -- loses -- in part because we Affordable Care Act obamacare. -- have actually gone down or. The better health care inflation has gone. To the slowest rate the we've seen in a long time. So. We're starting to get health care costs under control. Will still have to make some modifications weren't comes to our long term entitlement program -- there -- -- for young people here when day. Are ready for retirement. -- we don't have an urgent deficit crisis. The -- crisis we have -- one was manufactured in Washington and its ideological. And the basic notion oozes -- We shouldn't be helping people get healthcare and we shouldn't be helping kids. Who can't help themselves and whose parents are under resource we shouldn't be helping them get a leg up. And so do some of the proposals we've seen now are talking about. And programs like head start even deeper cuts in education support. Even deeper cuts in basic science and research. And you know that's -- your corn -- You know it's like. BM. Penny wise and pound foolish because if young people are succeeding if we're not spending on -- -- and and maintaining our technological edge if we're not. Upgrading our roads our bridges and our transportation systems and our infrastructure. All things that we can afford to do right now and should be doing right now and would put people to work. Right now. If we don't do those things 120 years from now thirty years from now we will fallen further and further behind. So when we get back to Washington when congress gets back to Washington this is going to be a major debate it's the same debate we've been having for the last two years. The difference is now -- started coming down. From what we should really be bring about how is how do we grow an economy. So there. Creating a growing thriving middle class and were creating more ladders of opportunity for people -- work hard to get in the middle class and my position is going to be that we can. Have a budget that is sensible. That doesn't spend on programs that don't work. But does spend wisely. On those things that are gonna help ordinary people succeed. Arm but. Let's -- It is a -- instruments -- around here he says and the pearl. Well citizen you have your it's what you'll be able turned sexual manner. I -- to. On the fact number of the computer science department. I'm very excited and that -- -- by a plan on for about me if you know informant. My question is related about the quality of future higher education. As you know many universities are trying their best to do to provide -- -- the value by being better with less. But the challenges are real and -- getting tougher and tougher as the budget -- but getting tougher tougher so much policy is. What's your administration will do to be sure that -- American universities. Remains to be -- basking in the wall in a 21 century -- The first of all. What's really important is to make sure there were supporting great teachers and since -- -- applause line you must be a pretty good. And. I don't think that there is a conflict between quality. And paying attention to costs. As -- affecting students. -- -- I mentioned earlier one of the big problems that we've seen in public acts universities. It is a diminished. Level of support from states state legislatures. And part of what we're gonna try to -- to provide more incentives to states. To boost the support that they're giving to. Colleges and universities traditionally. -- when when you think of the great state university systems. It was because those states understood it if we invest in. Our people will have a better trained work force which means companies will want to locate here which creates a virtuous cycle. And everybody benefits. But starting room. Let's say fifteen years ago twenty years ago. You saw a trend in which state legislatures. Who were trying to balance their budgets kept on cutting support to state education what happened was that. And I don't know whether this is true Mr. President for for Sony but around the country -- on average what you've seen news. A drop from about 46%. Of the revenues of republic college coming from states. Down to about 25%. It's almost been cut in half. And essentially. The only way preschools -- Figured to make it up is to charge higher tuition. So. States have to do their jobs. But what is true also though is that. Universities. And faculty. Need to come up weird ways to also. Cut costs while. Maintaining quality because that's what we're having -- -- throughout our economy. And sometimes Y talk to a college professors. And keep in mind I taught him in law school for. Ten years. So. I'm very sympathetic to. You know the the spirit of inquiry and the importance -- not. He had just looking at -- and -- and numbers when it comes to measuring colleges. But what I also know is that there are ways we could save money. That would not diminish quality. There's -- controversial to say it but what Barack. I'm in my second term so I can say it. You don't that I believe for example the law schools. Would probably. Be wise to think about. -- interiors -- -- three years. -- by the thirty year. In the first two years young people are learning in the classroom the -- -- they'd be better off. Working or practicing and a -- even -- -- warned him paid that much. But best -- along. Would reduce the cost more disturbing. Now the question is can law students in American law schools maintain quality and keep good professors and sustain themselves. Without that thirty or my suspicion is is that if they thought creatively about they probably could. Now if that's true that. A graduate level. They're probably some things that we could do -- undergraduate level as well. That's not suggests that there -- some real problems. Colleges for example they've got health care costs -- -- -- one of the most important. -- -- the biggest cost you've got. And if health care costs to inch provide insurance for employees. Is going up as fast as it's been going up. That affects folks. But the -- -- our idea is not to does have some cookie cutter approach. That doesn't take called into account. The idea is my understanding we've got to maintain high quality. Are there ways that we can reorganize schools. Use technology. Think about. What works so that. Overall. Were creating a better value for the student and one of the best things that we could do for students is to make sure that they graduate to more timely fashion. Than you know unfortunately too many young people go to schools. Where they're not getting the kind of support and advice on the front and that they need. And they drift. And four years five years six years and to what they've got a bunch -- credits but it all doesn't result in actual graduation. And then they get discouraged. And and and that's an area where we know we can be making improvement as well. -- and if -- got any other ideas let me know. -- -- -- Let's get -- let's go young person and here. -- Welcome to Binghamton press has -- I'm -- and I am I doctoral student here -- as -- writing instructor at Syracuse university. And I meant its stayed and fun to giving a federal funds she students were going to for profit colleges -- colleges I might even call and predatory. And -- -- inflicted about this issue and so I think the carrier and say thank you. What your prime know more about the -- Since -- written about it but let me describe for the audience -- what the challenges. -- for profit. Institutions. In in a lot of for a sectors of our lives. Obviously is the cornerstone of our economy and we want encourage entrepreneur warship in. New ideas and new approaches and new ways of doing -- so I'm not against for profit. Institutions. Generally. But what -- -- -- write about is is that there have been some schools. That. Are notorious for. Getting students in. Getting a bunch -- grant money. Having those students -- got a lot of loans. Making big profits. But having really low graduation rates. Students are getting what they need to be prepared for -- particular field. -- they get out of these for profit schools. Loaded down with -- enormous debt they can't find a job. They default. The taxpayer ends hold in the bag their credit is ruined. And the for profit institution. Is making out like a band. That's problem. You know I was mentioning veterans earlier -- soldiers. And and sailors and Marines and coast Guardsmen that they've been preyed upon. Very badly by summaries for profit institutions and we actually. Created a special. Task force inside our consumer advocate protection. Organization that we set up. Just to look out for members -- armed forces were being. Manipulated because what happened was his for profit schools Saugus post 9/11 GI bill through that there was a whole bunch of money. That the federal government was committed to making sure that our veterans. Got a good education and they started advertising to -- young people signing them up. Getting them to a got a bunch loans. -- they weren't delivering a good product. This goes to them the point I made earlier about how we can -- schools. We're gonna spend some time over the course the next you're talking everybody trying -- university professors. Talking to faculty members talking to students -- to families. But if we can defiant. Some basic parameters of what's a good value. Then it won't allow us more effectively to police schools whether there for profit or not for profit. Because there's some non for profit schools traditional schools that have higher default rates among their graduates. Then graduation rates. And be able to say to them look -- you guys step up and improve or you're not gonna benefit from federal dollars because there bunch of schools. Like this one -- -- door -- good job. And we don't want money being funneled to schools that are sort of good job. We want -- to -- Should be Smart shoppers to be good consumers. So. They're probably. More problems in the for profit sector on -- the mirror in the traditional non for profit. Our colleges universities and technical schools but it's a problem across the board -- the way to solve it is to make sure that word. There we've got ways to measure. What's happening in and we can weed out -- some of the folks that. Are engaging in bad practices. Quick question. All right. This horror of the room's been neglected. So. -- -- there Bremer corner. Been think two or taken to and the time to isn't being entering your stamp. Misguided and -- and wants to -- of Binghamton in Austin. I'm from -- and I don't tell us something -- ought to international students. Most of my friends rumors have been facing some hardships to support them financially. For example lot of Costin the destruction into it took history coast. One -- and one American on the registration is getting more importance for us. With team that the most resolve decision is the high -- both the payment. What teaching and and to have and wrote and drew him into looking about this should think you. Well. First -- ball. We're glad you're here. And we hope -- -- wonderful experience. One of the great things about American universities is they are magnets. For talent from around the world. And that has enriched us. Immeasurable. In -- this in part because students who come here and study and excel. May end up staying here and working in starting businesses and that's. Always been part of the American experiences. Smart striving immigrants coming here and succeed. And that. Makes. Everybody better off. Which is part of the reason why we're target immigration reform done so that if were taken the time to train a great computer scientist or engineer. Or onto nor. We're not been just sending him back to their country blitz and vitamins they -- a -- succeed here and start cedar. -- businesses here. Now obviously when it comes to. Federal grants loans support subsidies that we provide those refer. Our citizens. And you know a lot of Americans are have a tough time reporting because we talked about so we can we can't spread to -- what we can do. Though is to make sure that if tuition. Is reasonable. For all students sort of role that a makes it easier for international students took -- and study -- as well. So all the things that I talked about before. Apply. To. Foreign students as well was. American students we need to make sure the college. Is affordable that it's a good value. The good news is bad. There are schools out there that are doing a great job. Already. And you know we just need to make sure there were duplicating some of those -- best practices. Across the country. Barak. Who's next. Watson it's it's the only easterners and -- -- -- partner in the red or orange. My name is and Bailey. And I am a faculty member in the history and Africa on the studies department. Here and I teach African American history and -- investments studies for a and tomorrow I'm going to the fiftieth anniversary of the march on Washington. And I'm going and I'm going at my son because I'm here. As he said because of a good education and that good education came became possible because. That faith inspired movement that really -- such an important milestone fifty years ago. And I am so grateful. For the fact that I have that opportunity and that my son and that these young people will have these opportunities. But I still kind of wonder where we are now in terms of education and civil rights have we where do you think we are. What do we need to do to kind of make shore that it is education for all including underrepresented groups. That's just my -- Well. You know 5050. Years after. The march on Washington and I have a dream speech obviously we've made enormous. Strides. I'm a testament to -- testament to. The diversity of this room and -- of the students were here is testimony to -- And and that impulse towards making sure everybody gets a fair shot. Is one that. Found expression. In the civil rights movement but then spread. To include. Latinos and immigrants and gays and lesbians. And -- the other what's wonderful to watch is. That the younger generation seems. Each each generation seems wiser. In terms of wanted to treat people fairly and do -- do the right thing and not discriminate. And that's a great victory -- we should all be very proud. On the other hand I think what we've also seen is that. The legacy. Of discrimination. Slavery Jim Crow. It has. Has meant that. You know some of the institutional -- for success for a lot of groups still exist. You know African American power in this country is still significantly higher than other groups. Same -- -- -- laughter you know same is true for native Americans. And even if there weren't active discrimination taking place right now. And you know obviously we know that some discrimination still exists although nothing like what existed fifty years ago. But let's assume that we eliminate all discrimination. Magically with a one member body. Had goodness and there -- You still have a situation in which. There -- a lot of folks were -- And whose family -- Become dysfunctional because of a long legacy of poverty. And just. Live in neighborhoods -- -- rundown and schools that are underfunded. And don't have a strong property tax base and it would still be harder. For young people born into those communities to succeed. Than those. Who were born elsewhere. So. If in fact that's the case and that is what I believe. Then it's in all of our interests to -- make sure that. We are. Putting in place Smart policies. -- give those communities -- left and to create -- So that young people in those communities conceptually. Well what works -- -- talked about what works early childhood education works. We know that can make a difference it's not gonna solve every problem. But it can help level the playing field for kids. Early in life so bad the other stolen after work are. Not everybody is gonna succeed. But they'll have a better chance if we put those things in place. Making college affordable that makes a difference. Because. We know in part because of the legacy of discrimination. That communities of color have less well. -- was well that means that -- -- read -- have a more difficult time financing college. Well. -- we should make sure -- every young person regardless of their color can access. A college education. I think the biggest challenge we have is not the we don't know what policies work. It's getting our politics right. Because part of what's happened over the last. Several decades there's. Because times have been tough because wages and incomes forever -- Have not been going up. Everybody is pretty anxious about. What's happening in their lives and what might happen -- kids. And so that they get worried. Well. If were helping people in poverty that must be hurting me -- it's taken something away from me. And part of -- I think we have to understand is that. America has always been most successful we've always grown fastest and everybody's -- -- have gone up fastest win. Our economic growth was broad based. Not just won a few people are doing well at the top but when everybody's doing well. And so if you're working people and folks were strong going whether -- white black Hispanic Asian native American disabled. LG BT know if if if working folks. Join together around common principles and policies that will help lift everybody. Then everybody will be better off including by the way the folks at the top. Because what -- the economy is growing. And people have jobs and people are -- better incomes. -- -- shop more and that means businesses are doing better news by a new. IPod and Apple's happy and shareholders are pleased them. But. But unfortunately we've got to politics sometimes the divides. Instead of bringing people together. And we've seen that over the last couple of years. The -- the tendency to suggest somehow that. That government. Is taken something from you and given it to somebody else. And your problems will be solved if we just. Ignored -- Or don't help them. And and that I think is. Is something -- we have to costly struggle against. Whether -- black or -- -- -- -- -- Thank you. Homicide -- or make sure that I get a couple more questions than here. -- Two more mobile -- victory. Will make -- through this gentleman right here in the front. -- we -- might break right here. Thank you Mr. President. My name's Adam Flint -- currently cooperative extension but I've been connected to this institution since 1966. And I want to tell you about. The -- energy conservation corps where we are educating. Training and also employing Binghamton University graduates and current -- Students. -- you really take the vision that that well Kennedy and others. Advanced of service. To the problems of the community and to the country. In a cooperative extension our energy course students are helping people who could not benefit from energy efficiency. There helping getting people employed with local home performance contractors. And we could do so much more where possible for programs like cars across the country. To be able to know that we're gonna be here in 24 team which we don't right now. And so I guess. We've been discussions with Harvey and with many of the people in this room with Matt Ryan with many of the senior Binghamton University folks. And -- really like to see coming out of Washington some good news. About funding for the green economy for the future. And for our ability to give a future to -- children. That right now I'm doubtful that you have two girls I've got two girls and this is the last century of fossil fields so we we got to make it happen. -- energy corps we could move to a food -- and on and on and on. I've said enough I'm afraid it's one of the family business the profit story to say too much to shut up now and listened to -- the wisdom that I hope you'll bring. To my question. -- -- -- -- -- As you indicated. Your remarks. We error. Going to have to prepare for a different energy future -- the -- we have right now. Now were were producing. Traditional energy and fossil fuels at record levels. And we've actually achieved. Or. -- on the verge of achieving about as close as you can get to energy independence. And is America's pharmacy. -- natural gas. Oil all that stuff is going up. In some cases. What you've -- news that. For example transitional fuels like natural gas have replaced Cole which temporarily. Are reducing greenhouse gases. But the bottom line is those are still finite resources climate change is real. The planet is getting warmer. And you've got several billion Chinese Indians. Africans and others who also want. Chorus. Refrigerators. Electricity. And as days go through their development cycle. The planet cannot sustain. -- The same kinds of energy uses. We have right now so we're gonna -- to make shift. That's why. When I came in office we made record investments in green energy. And that's why I think it's critical for us to invest in research and development. Around clean energy. And that's why it sounds like programs like yours need to take advantage. Technologies that already exist we're gonna have to invent some new technologies. To solve all of our energy problems. But we know for example the low hanging fruit of energy efficiency. We know America if we. Design our schools homes hospitals. More efficiently. That as a country we could probably cut our. Power usage. By warning 2530%. -- existing technologies. And without. Lowering our standard Olympic. And by the way we can put all much of folks to work. Daughter right now we could -- gather up a whole bunch. Young people. Here. And in this community. Train them for insulation. For. Energy efficient construction. And you know -- a whole bunch. Buildings and institutions right here and eventually would pick forks off. So it's a win women across the -- Unfortunately. What we've seen too often and congress is that. The fossil fuel industries. Tend to be. Very influential must prove that way on the energy committees in congress. And they tend not to be particularly sympathetic to. Alternative. Energy strategies and in some cases we've actually been criticized that it's a socialist plot. That's restricting or your freedom. For us to encourage. Energy official -- -- for example. I never understood that. But you hear those arguments -- -- you go on the web and then people would be decrying how. Simple stuff there were -- like trying to set up regulations to make appliances more energy efficient which saves consumers money. And is good for our environment. Is somehow. Restricting America's liberty and violates the constitution. So -- sold a lot of our job is to educate. The public as to why. This can be good for them in a very narrow self interest to -- this is not pie in the sky this is not. You know tree hugging sprout eating. You know university professors this is -- you don't -- this is a practical. Hard headed. Smart. Business savvy approach to how we -- -- aware of and urgent and we should be investing and and encouraging and expanding and so I budgeted for. I will fight for. But just as I will be advocating and fighting for head start. Or increases in our science and technology funding. The challenges going to be that my friends in the other party right now in congress. Seem less interest or an actual governing and taking practical strategies and see more interest in trying to placate their base or scoring political points. Or they're worried about you know. Primaries. In the upcoming election. That can't be how we run a country. That's not responsible leadership. And my whole -- -- -- -- fear different attitude. When we get back but voice delivered attitude of the public. Bush's folks. In a different direction. Ultimately. What has an impact on. Politicians -- boats. And you know that influence is not -- it can't just come from. Districts that are strongly democratic there we need more issues in Republican districts assert -- -- Smart thing to do. And and we can makes Ambon where businesses can make money don't. And people can get jobs dormant and it's just sensible. And as good by the way for our national security because. Those countries that control the energy sources the future. They're the ones that are going to be in a position to succeed economically. All right I've got time for a couple more desperate here. Good afternoon Mr. President my name's Lauren the last -- -- creative math science major. That sounds very -- Whoa whoa whoa American. An integrated math science -- so so tell me about Everett workers. -- -- -- -- -- The brain and it nerves and. It's a mixed -- psychology and biology broker. -- as impressive and no it's very impressive. Absolutely -- -- I was -- my question today's that financially. Now. Currently. Financial aid eligibility. Is based on -- heavily based on students parents and come. Now there are many middle class families that send their students to state schools like -- -- -- who live in high cost. Regions such as nearest city. Now do you think it's possible for. The financial -- formula to include the living costs of their reach and that applicants -- then. -- interest in question -- Sounds like it's got some -- sympathetic. What's absolutely true is that more remains to be middle class and in New York is going to be different than. What remains to be middle class and Wyoming. Just in terms of how far your dollar gross. And I think it is a relevant question. It is a challenging. Problem. Because. If you start getting into. -- celebrating. Cost of living. Just in a state like New York. Big state that has such diversity in terms -- living. Then. It might get so complicated. That. It would be difficult to administer. What I. You don't want -- disservice. I think it is very important question and I'm gonna talk to sector -- Duncan about it and find out what kind of research and work we've done. On that issue to see if we can potentially. Make a difference now what one. One way of handling this would not be at the federal level but potentially the state level so you could. Manage something at the state level where people may have a better sense. The differences in cost of living in the state and say it will make some adjustments. Four. Students -- recovered from higher cost areas -- Slorc rosters. That might be easier to do than to try to administered. At the federal level from Washington for all fifty states but all -- all checked with the department registration. And I'll make sure my team. Gets -- or email so that. You get a personal answer from the secretary. -- -- -- It's. Moon. -- how I got to one last question and a one I want make sure it's a student. The -- -- him. Maybe another golden calf did pick in this -- it is maybe. Are you are spoken but some consumer. Does want to make sure. You might have been a young welcome professor. On this president. I'm Danny -- from via Amsterdam. And from -- -- -- -- -- -- percent -- you know. My question is he spoke about increasing financial aid for college students. However I feel that with the competitive job market -- not be enough to skiers. My question is will any of these funds go towards grad school programs -- -- be strictly limited to undergraduate education. Well. First of all. -- -- -- Undergraduate education. That means you are much more importer portable and -- much more like really get a job. Each. Additional. -- education that you get. If done well if you're getting good value is gonna enhance your marketability. And we see that -- statistics that's not just. You know. Not just -- Factors is that the average. American who has. More than make or a college education or or greater. Is. A third less likely to be unemployed than somebody. Who just -- -- my school. So. I don't underestimate the power of an undergraduate -- education. It can make a difference. Now what's true is that. If you for example in computer sciences. Want to get a master's in computer science or Ph.D. in computer science presumably they'll make even more marketable. And we want to make sure that. Financially it is also available for. For graduate students. And you know the way -- programs currently exist that financially does exist although typically get fewer subsidies. And a less favorable interest rate for. Graduate education. -- were probably not going to be able to. Completely solve that and here's the reason why -- I got a lot of scholarships and grant money for my undergraduate education -- have a lot of debt when I got out. I then decided to go to law school. And I went through a very good law school. That was very expensive. Most of my debt when I graduated was from law school. About 60000 dollars worth of debt. But the truth was I was very balloon if I wanted to released -- so much money coming out of law school that I really didn't need a subsidy. I could pay it -- -- -- -- longer payback from some my friends because I went to public service and -- in try to maximize my income. But if I've been a partner -- -- law -- Pulling down half a million dollars a year. There's no reason why should necessarily have gotten -- subsidy for that. But one area where I think we can make a big difference goes back to the very first question I. That was asked of me. When it came to schools of nursing. Across the board in graduate school. What we want to do is to provide incentives for folks who need specialized education. But are willing to give back something. To the community to the country. Doctors were -- on the serving underserved communities nurses were -- to -- an underserved communities. Lawyers who were won't worked in. The State's attorney's office or as a public defender. Right so the more we can do around programs. For graduate studies where. You know we say to you. If you're -- -- -- commit to five years working in a place that doesn't have a doctor and you're starting. To be a doctor. -- were gonna forgive your bunch of those loans I'd like to see more programs like bed and I've asked the secretary of education see how we can. Make those more accessible to more students. Well listen -- -- -- has been a great conversation. Ma'am. Let me just let -- limit -- to. You'll be hearing more about this debate over the course of the next year we will be talking to your. University president will -- be talking to the chancellor. The entire system will be talking to faculty will be talking to students. If you have ideas or questions. That -- not somehow addressed. Then we'd like to hear from -- and you know go to whitehouse dot gov. There's a whole. A section where we can get comments ideas. And that I promise you we actually pay attention. When when you guys raise questions and and for those of you who. Are still sorting out -- made. If you're still in high school for example in your. Thinking about going to college and you don't know exactly what. Makes sense for you. We do have a website called student aid dot gov. Student -- dot gov. They can be very helpful to you in identifying. What you should be thinking about when it comes to financing your college education. But we're gonna do everything we can to make sure. That not only are you able to succeed without being loaded up -- debt but hopefully you're gonna -- afford to send your kids to college as well. All right. Thank you for great house -- -- -- That was President Obama wrapping up his town hall meeting at Binghamton. University. Upstate New York wearing -- -- session with students from university faculty. Well I'm watching right along with us from Washington is ABC's -- Walsh. In the join us now to discuss some of what the president talked about -- He did a lot of questions and yes but a lot of time. Answering those questions with the students in those guys in the audience but he's began all of this by outlining. His plan for higher education and helping to finance it can you give us. The shorthand version of what the president. Right exactly he's proposing a new rating system as you know the ratings system now for universities it's really based on. -- activity. How new some high clouds our buildings are it'll be completely different it will be a -- systems by. First students to get more value out of their education -- what does that mean -- the wirdzek. Pres Obama when he first on to yesterday -- it's more bang for your -- or if a university. Could. They're the program where students go through in three years -- -- forty years that would mean it's possible that the university compete we get higher so it's more about. Value in getting more out of your money to keep those costs down and the -- rating system that you see. After -- just within this small audience. Culled together from the Binghamton area we had people ask about. Nursing programs engineering programs people who were interested in promoting green energy through education -- there are a lot of interest here. It's a difficult road for the president to be able to satisfy everyone particularly since he's looking at singling out certain schools. To give more eighteen. -- and I think that you know obviously this is a very receptive crowd. But you aren't gonna have some universities that are upset about its rating system and they're happy with the rate the -- that -- system is now because a lot of universities are. Rated high. Some of the Rockies or more expensive than other schools this this state schools. And -- -- -- he saw the students and faculty that we're able to answer questions a lot of them were very were most of them were very very receptive to the president's message. And that's -- -- president like he likes getting out of Washington he'd like -- to talk to some real people he saw that very. And personal interaction with the the young woman with the Obama T -- he really. Like -- to feed off the crowd. Nothing that you see every in Washington. Speaking of connecting with the people before this event actually stopped by a local high school kicked around a soccer ball I think we have video of this. And he talked to high school students about their plans. For the future and really this. Involves. People who -- in high school especially because they're making plans for their higher education and paying for it. So there you go again another example of the president. Engaging with the public he's still young man and really see that there it is you know his his athleticism and the -- Involved. And you -- have a good point that this isn't just about college kids right now this is gonna affect high school kids obviously their parents. And that this message is for them as well he saw the very end he instead that everyone should go to webs to their web -- that if there are trying to clean up their their futures rate now that there this is a good time to do it so that when they're older and they are trying to get off their debt they can think about their children as well let's -- that you saw the president mentioned yesterday when he laid out that he had a lot of law school debt. And they didn't pay off him and his wife the First Lady Michelle Obama until they're in their forties when they should've been saving at that point for their daughters educate. -- get you know you really get the sense that this is personal for him in many ways you mention he's -- young daughters who will soon be going off to college themselves he had law school debt. And it talks about that. Right absolutely sought yesterday and has even -- today when he when he brought -- up with the crowd he likes it -- in this personal anecdotes and -- -- is back and forth with the crap and you -- with almost every single question he put -- our personal -- -- sight even at the end where he asked that young woman -- her major was she studied neuroscience unit while that's really impressive and she was just beaming and that at the end of that back and forth. He said you know what I'll get my education secretary just tape taped address your question you'll get an email from his team and so he really links to put that personal touch you really see it. On the road which is very reminiscent of the campaign trail -- these these town halls were. Where exactly what he had when he was running for election when he was running for reelection and it's really you can see that he's in his element. All right and it's just the beginning of the busy day what has me doing next. -- later today he'll stop in Scranton Pennsylvania and another university and he'll be joined by a hometown guy Joseph Biden in his hometown of Scranton Pennsylvania. So they'll be addressing a crowd together and again it's another stop in this bus tour where he's going to be talking about college affordability. But what's interesting is that this is going to be the first time we -- the vice president since -- With spot -- -- -- -- he was in Houston undergoing some tests and a procedure we know at MD Anderson we don't exactly know what was wrong with. Beau Biden that we do know that she underwent a procedure and we -- and Andy Anderson. Extreme -- is is cancer treatment but we don't know yet what's. The procedure is about or is related to cancer. -- will be keeping an eye on that appearance. With Joseph Biden and President Obama coming up later today in Scranton Pennsylvania -- Walsh. Thank you so much for joining us think you don't ever gonna have more in today's event at ABC news background for now this has been an ABC news digital special report on -- Hernandez in New York. This has been a special report from the.
This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.