President Obama Kicks Off Bus Tour at U. of Buffalo

President outlines plans to make college more affordable in front of college students in upstate NY.
44:11 | 08/22/13

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Transcript for President Obama Kicks Off Bus Tour at U. of Buffalo
This is a special report from the EC. Thagard and his in new York and this is an ABC news digital special report President Obama is on the road today. Had planned to make college more affordable for students rely on to play. Plan would create a federal rating system. Eventually make the aid available to more students go into more efficient higher ranked schools for joining -- from Washington. -- execution on wash just tell us -- about the plan the president will propose today momentarily in fact right. By the university -- -- and is. Quite ambitious proposal that we expect him to talk about. As you said a little bit it's going to link a rating system to financial aid so that the universities will be greeted on on different measures. Whether it like tuition. Wouldn't. Rating systems and other. Other measure is -- order to get it. To get financial aid and so there could be some consternation -- universities themselves but it's a step towards what the -- -- talking about. All right well let's listen in the president about to begin. His address at the university of buffalo. Okay. And buffalo good. -- -- -- -- -- Making sure we all think the soul -- for the wonderful introduction ever big round of applause. -- Obama -- here somewhere where. -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- Number other people I want to acknowledge their first ball our secretary of education -- Governors -- the contrary to your governor Andrew Cuomo is there. And your outstanding. -- -- -- Congressman Brian Higgins. And resume. When you get the B 52 -- -- One -- 51. -- -- -- Let your congressman and -- men are doing outstanding work. We just rode on the bus over from. The airport -- telling me a good. Bubbles on the moon that -- -- Kudlow the -- -- knowledge and what SUNY chancellor. University president said change. -- -- -- -- Got all the students in the house. Today. Is a check in their -- So I want to thank all the students were taken a few minutes from. -- -- -- -- -- -- Your many bridges. Just to come out here. Wrong. I hear -- the last sitting president to speak here. Was Millard Fillmore. -- he was actually chancellor of the university of the same time. Which sounds fun but I've -- -- -- -- -- So. This is our first stop. To their road trip. Through new York and Pennsylvania. After this I hadn't -- her appearance. -- -- To -- what some high schoolers. Tomorrow I'm -- vivid certainly Binghamton. Lackawanna college in Scranton. I but I want to start here at university of buffalo. I don't want I want you referred to report probable reasons first. I -- you're focused on the future as I said talking to the you know he was describing new medical tests school and new opportunities. Tomorrow so so there's great work being done of this institution. I also know that everybody here must be fearless because the football team kicks off against. Number 20. Okay. -- -- -- -- The most important I know there. The young people here are committed. Don't -- to earning your degree. To help bring this university. To make sure that everyone of you finishes in formal. Make sure you're prepared for whatever comes next and that's what I want to talk about here today. You -- over the last. -- I've been visiting towns across the country. Talking about good feel -- -- pickup. I love you do. Or. Another talking about what we need to -- of the country. To make sure the we've got a better bargain for the middle class. And nobody was working hard to get into the middle class. A national strategy to make sure that everybody who works hard had the chance to succeed. In this 21 century economy. -- I think all of -- -- -- -- for the passport after years we've been fighting back from. A brutal recession. The cost millions of Americans their jobs and their homes and their six. But what the recession also did was it showed -- for -- wrong. We've seen an erosion of middle class security. So together we save the auto industry. Together we took on a broken health care system. We invested. Okay. We invested in new technologies. We start reversing our addiction to foreign oil. We changed to tax code was tilted too far in favor of the well at the expense of working families. A all. And -- today. Our businesses have created seven point three million new jobs over the last 41 months. We now generate. More renewable energy than ever before. We sell more goods made in America the rest of the world than -- Health care costs are growing at the slowest rate in fifty years our deficits are calling -- the fastest rate. In sixty years. Here in buffalo. You know the governor the mayor were describing. Over billion dollars investment. Riverfront being changed construction booming. Signs of progress and it's over. Thanks to the -- and the resilience. Of the American people. We've cleared away the rubble from the financial crisis we started lay the foundation. For a stronger more durable economic growth. But. -- any middle class then we'll tell -- As well folks -- buffalo. We're not where we need to be yet. Because even before the crisis it. And it sound like buffalo knows something about this we were living through a decade it were a few. At the top we're doing better and better. Most families were working harder and harder just to get -- Manufacturing was leaving him. Jobs moving overseas. Losing our competitor. -- today. Analysts it's -- it's a struggle for a lot of folks. So reversing this trend. Should be. Must be Washington's highest priority it's my highest -- Plug. -- not always Washington's -- As rather than thinking keeping focus on a growing economy -- creates good middle class jobs. You know we've seen a faction of Republicans in congress -- just -- Maybe America shouldn't pay its bills been -- been run up. We should shut down government. If they can't shut down obamacare. That won't -- economy. That won't create jobs that won't help our middle class. We can't afford. In Washington the usual -- distractions. And political posturing. We can't afford that right now. What we need is to build on. The cornerstones of what it means to -- middle class in America. Focus on good job of good -- a good education Oklahoma bureau affordable health care. Bread and butter pocketbook issues that that you care about them. Every single day that you're thinking about everything single day and we've got to create more pathways. In the middle class for folks who won't work for. That's what's always made America great. You know it's not just how many billionaires we produce. But our ability to get everybody who works hard the chance to pursue -- own measurement and that's what America. There are many things that are more important that idea. Economic mobility the idea that you can make it if you try. -- a good education. All the students -- November. -- -- That's why your families have made big sacrifices. Because we understand that in the face. -- greater and greater global competition in a knowledge based economy. A great education is more important than ever. A higher education is the single best investment. You can make in your future and I'm proud of all the students for making -- enough. And that's and that's not just. These but right now unemployment rate for Americans. -- at least a college degree. Is about 13. Lower than the national average. The incomes of folks who. Have at least a college degree. Are more than twice. Those Americans without a high school diploma. So more than ever before some form of higher education. Is the surest path into the middle class. What I want talk about today is. What's become a barrier and a burden for too many American families and that is the soaring cost -- higher education. Rick this -- and everybody knows you -- see. A college education on the other hand college. Has never been more expensive. Over the past three decades. The average tuition at a public. Four year college. Has gone up by more than 250%. 2100%. A typical family's income. Has only -- -- 16%. So think about tuition gone up 202%. Income gone up 60%. That's a big day. Now it's true that a lot of universities -- try to provide financial aid them and work study programs and and and so not every student. In fact most students are probably not paying the sticker price. But tuition we understand that -- what we also understand. Is if it's going up to victory. In -- incomes are only gone up six -- At some point families are having -- make up some of the difference forced to -- to make up some of the difference. Meanwhile over the past years states have been cutting back on -- higher education budgets. New York's done better than a lot a lot of states but the fact is that we've been -- -- more money on prisons. Less money on college. And meanwhile. Not enough colleges have been working to figure out how do we control costs -- -- we cut back on costs. So. All this 66. Students. Six observed families. But also. Taxpayers and than a bigger prize. The average student who borrows for college now graduates owing more than 26000. Dollars. Some all are more than -- And -- heard I've heard from a lot of these young people were frustrated. That they've done everything they're supposed to do. Geiger grade and high school applied to college. Did well in school. But now they come -- they've got this crushing debt. That's crippling their self self rule their sense of self reliance and their drinks it becomes harder and start a family. And -- -- home if you're servicing. A thousand -- -- the best ever month. Becomes hard to sort of business if you were servicing. How thousand dollars worth of data and my. Right. A we're meanwhile parents. You know you're having to make sacrifices which means you may be dividend savings that should be going to your retirement. To pay for. Your son or daughters. Or help pay for your son -- daughter's education. So. At a time when a higher education has never been more important. Or -- more expensive. Too many students are facing a choice that they should never have to make. Either they say go to college. And pay the price for not getting a degree and -- the price would last a lifetime. Poorer you do what it takes to go to college. But then you -- the -- original Bill -- and often got so much death. Now that's a choice we shouldn't accept. And by the way that's a choice that previous -- generations then have to accept. This is a country that. Early on made a commitment to put a good education within the reach of all -- -- the -- court and we were ahead of the curve compared to other countries. When it came to helping young people go to school. -- -- folks. Are folks in buffalo understand this. Remember I was talking about the city of buffalo. Bad and the great work lives and is being done through the program called say yes to make sure that no child in buffalo have to miss out on -- holiday. But even though there's a great program in this setting a lot lot of places. The program doesn't exist. But a generation or two generations ago. We made a bigger commitment this country that gave my grandfather the chance to go to college on the GI bill after -- came back for more work to. This is the country that helped my mother get through school while raising two kids. Michelle and -- Michelle and I were only where we are today because scholarships and student loans gave us a shot at a grade education. We and we know a little bit about. Try to pare back its -- still. -- meaning come from the -- family so. -- graduated from college and law school with a mountain of debt. And even though we got good jobs we barely finished paying it off. Just before -- like to -- a son. Right. -- in my forties when we finish paying off -- about. And and we should have been saving for Malia and Sasha Barnett. But we were still -- -- off. What we got them and we were luckier because most of the debt. Was from lost all our undergraduate debt was not as great because tuition have not start should not there's. So bottom line -- it's we've we've got a crisis in terms of college affordability. In student debt. And again over the past four years. What we've tried to do -- to take some steps to make college more affordable so we enacted historic reforms to the student loan system. So taxpayer dollars stop patting the pockets of big banks and instead help more kids afford -- What would -- -- -- -- old system the student loan programs want to banks. They don't have any risk of federal government guaranteed loans but they're still taking billions of dollars other programs several zoos give -- directly to students. -- and put more money. To helping students. Then we got we set up a consumer watchdog. And and that consumer watchdogs already helping students and families navigate the financial options that are out there to pay for college and we're not getting ripped off by shady lenders. And we're we're providing more tools and resources for students and families to try to finance college and then if believe -- still trying to figure out how to finance college. Check it out and student aid dot -- student -- dug up. Then we took action to cap loan repayments at 10% of monthly income. For many borrowers were trying to. Responsibly manage -- better. So overall we make college more affordable for millions of students and families through tax credits and grants and student loans to go farther than they did before. And then just a few weeks ago Democrats -- Republicans work together to keep student loan rates from double and that -- typical. Undergraduate more than 15100. Dollars. For. Those who -- So -- that's all a good start. But it's not enough. The problem is that even if the federal government -- -- more more money in the system if the cost is going my 250. Percent. Tax revenues -- -- 250%. And so vote at some point the government will run out of money. Which means more and more are also being. Loaded on to students. And their families. -- the system's current trajectory is not sustainable. And what that means -- state legislatures are gonna have to step up they can't just keep cutting support for public colleges and universities. It means. That's just that's just true. Colleges. Are not going to be able to just keep on increasing tuition year after year. And then passing -- on the students and families and taxpayers. -- Students don't have doesn't care. We can't price the middle class and everybody working to get into the middle class out of a college education we're gonna have to do things differently. We can't go about business as usual. Because if we do battle what are younger generation our workers are -- country -- competitive disadvantage for years. Higher education is still the bus ticket to upward mobility in America and we don't do something about keeping it. Within reach it will create problems for -- economic mobility for generations to come. And that's not -- Yeah. And whether we're talking about a two year program before your program. The technical certificate. Bottom line is higher education cannot be -- tool it's an economic compare every American family should be able to for the good. -- So that's the problem will -- -- Today. I'm proposing. Major new reforms that won't shake up the current system. Create better incentives for colleges to do more -- -- and deliver better value for students in the friends. And. Some of these reforms will require action from congress. So we have to work on them. Some of these changes I can make on my -- -- have to. Were going to be partnering with colleges to do more to keep costs down. We're gonna work with states to make higher education a higher priority in the budgets. One last thing we can't ask more of students who were receiving federal aid as well. And I've got to tell -- ahead -- time these reforms won't be popular -- whatever but it. Especially those who -- Reagan. I'll just -- under the current system. But my main concern is not where. Those institutions my main concern is the students those institutions. Are -- deserter. Because this country is only going to be as strong as our next generation. And I've got confidence. Yeah I've -- -- start our country's colleges and universities will step up. Just like chancellor -- -- the folks who -- earlier trying to step up. And lead the way to do the right thing for students so -- be specific my plan comes down to three main goals it. First. We're gonna start -- colleges and not just by -- don't. Which colleges the most selective. Not just by which causes the most expensive. Not just -- which college at the nicest facilities you know you can get all that in the existing ratings systems. What what we want to do is break them all who's offering the best value so students and taxpayers get a bigger bang for the -- Number two we're gonna jump start new competition between -- not just. On the field -- on the court but. In terms of innovation that encourages affordability. And encourages student success and doesn't sacrifice educational -- That's going to be the second component of and a -- -- We're gonna make sure that if you have to take on -- -- her -- agree that you have ways to manage at a fort. A war. Let me just talk about each of these -- our first priority. Is aimed at providing better value for -- making sure the families. And taxpayers are given what we pay for it. Today I'm directing Marty Duncan our secretary of education. To lead an effort to develop a new rating system for America's colleges before 12015 college you know. Right now private rankings like US news and world report. Puts out each year. Their rankings and encourages -- -- to focus on ways to how to Wii game the numbers and you know it actually rewards them in some cases for raising cost. I think we should -- -- is based on opportunity are they helping students from all kinds of backgrounds succeed. -- -- On -- -- students and parents so that means metrics like how much debt because the average -- -- with. How easy is it pay off. How many students graduate on time. How well do those graduates do in the workforce. But the answer is will help parents and students figure out how much value of college truly offers. There's schools daughter who -- terrific balance. But there are -- schools out there that have hired people -- The graduation rates. And taxpayers shouldn't be subsidizing that students to go to schools where the kids are -- Reuters. That doesn't do anybody any good. And our ratings will also measure how successful colleges are enrolling in graduate students were on pilgrims. -- -- might harm principle that our ratings have to be carefully designed to increase not decrease the opportunities for higher. Education for students who -- economic or other disadvantages. So. You know who's gonna take -- little time. But. We think this can empower students impairments to make good choices. -- they'll give. Any college wrong. The chance to show that is making serious and consistent improvement so remain out of college men everywhere needs to be right now on value but they'll have time. To try to get better. And we want all the stakeholders in higher education students parents businesses college administrators professors. To work with secretary Duncan on this process in over the next few months -- -- -- a series of public forms around the country to make sure we get these measures right. And then over the next few years we're gonna work with congress to use these ratings to change how we allocate federal aid for college costs. We are going to deliver on a promise I made last year. -- -- -- promise we made last year which is colleges that keep their tuition down. And are providing high quality education. Other ones that are gonna see their taxpayer funding -- It is time to stop subsidizing schools that are not producing good results and ward school -- -- -- -- -- Encourage states to follow the same principle. Right now most states fund colleges based on how many students to enroll. Not based on how well those students -- or even if they graduate. Now some states are trying to better approach. You got Tennessee. Indiana Ohio they're offering more funding to colleges do a better job. -- preparing students for graduation and job. Michigan is rewarding schools -- keep tuition increases law. So they're changing the incentive structure. And I'm -- all states to come up with new and innovative ways to fund their colleges in a -- that drives -- better results. Her for the young people here I just want to save adjusters were expecting more from our schools. That get funding from taxpayers. We're gonna have to expect more from students. Who get subsidies -- grants from taxpayers. So. Wanted to make sure students who receive federal financial aid. Complete their courses but more receiving grants for the next semester. And -- were. It. Won't make sure the build in flexibility so we're not penalize him. Disadvantaged students were. Lessons were holding down jobs to pay for school things happen. But the bottom line is. We need to make sure that you're getting financial aid you're doing your part to make progress towards a degree and by the way that's good for you to -- Because if you take out -- You don't get that -- read you are not going to be able to pay off that debt. -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- A second goal we want to encourage -- -- Good yeah. -- -- more colleges. To embrace. Innovative new ways to prepare our students. Four -- -- -- first century economy. And maintain a high level of quality without breaking the bank. So let me talk about some alternatives there aren't helping. Southern New Hampshire University gives course credit based on how well students master the material not just on how many hours they spend in the classroom. So the ideal would be if you're learning the material faster. You can finish faster. Which means you -- -- and you save money. University's Johnson Dan -- do the same night. -- you've got central Missouri university. Well I went there and -- partnered with local high schools and Community Colleges so that. They're students can show up that college and graduate -- half the time because -- already starting to get college credit. While there in high school or Walter and a two year college so by the time they get to a four year college. They're saving money. Universities like Carnegie Mellon Arizona State. There are starting to show that online learning can help students master the same material in less time and often at lower cost. Georgia Tech which is a national leader in computer science. Just announced -- will begin offering up online master's degree in computer science at a fraction of the cost of a traditional class. But there's just a rigorous. And that is producing engineers we're just as good. So lot of other schools. Are experimenting -- these ideas to keep tuition down. They've got other ways to help students. Graduating last time at less cost wrong while still maintaining high quality. The point is it's possible. And it's time for more calls to step up. Would even better ways to go and we're gonna provide additional assistance to states and universities they're coming up with -- good ideas. Even as we've worked to bring down costs for current and future students. We've got off students sort of -- that. The chance to actually -- -- -- -- Nobody wants to don't know. Especially after what we've seen. In families -- gone through during this financial crisis. We're taking on -- in order on the college educations always been viewed as something -- -- -- overtime. We've got to make sure though that it's manageable. -- -- before even with good -- it took. Michelle and me a long time to -- per student loans. While we should've been -- differently and such skulls of cases we're still paying off our himself we know how important is to make sure that his management. So that it doesn't keep you from taking a job you really care but we're getting married or buying -- -- all. Ms. -- there's some folks have been talking -- -- recently about whether the federal student loan program should make -- cost the government money. Here's the here's the bottom line government shouldn't see student loans as a way to make money should be a way to help -- -- walls themselves. How much this federal student loans cost students. How can we. Help students manage those costs better. -- national mission is not to profit off student loans are national mission must be to profit off having the best educated workforce of them in the world that should be. -- -- -- -- -- I mentioned a little bit earlier two years ago I kept loan repayments at 10% of -- students post college income we call -- As -- war. And yet it along with some other income driven repayment plans have helped more than 2.5 million students so far. But they're they're there to obstacles that are preventing that more students from taking advantage of it. One is -- to many current and former students aren't eligible. Which means we gotta get congress to open up a program for more students. They -- going to be. Be pushing them to do that we're a little. A lot of students during another -- For the program. So starting this year we're gonna launch a campaign to help. More borrowers learn about the repayment options. And -- help more student borrowers enroll in pay as you -- -- You know if you went to college -- took out that you want to be a teacher. And starting salary for a teacher is. You know let's say 35000. Well. Only 10% of that. Amount is what your loan repayment it is not to make him more money. Should be paying more back. The -- -- everybody has just go to college everybody has a chance to pursued their dreams. And that program is already in place. We want more students to take advantage -- going to be advertising -- have. Now if we move forward on these three fronts increasing value encouraging innovation helping people responsibly manage their debt. I guarantee you we will help more students afford college. Will help more students graduate from college will help veterans get rid of that that. And -- get a good start and and -- we're. -- -- -- -- -- From what I hear folks in buffalo -- know something about hard work. Folks in America knows something about home were. And we've come a long way. -- -- -- -- word on this issue and on every other issue that's gonna help make sure. We continue to have the strongest. Most thriving middle class in the world we're gonna keep pushing to build a better bargain for everybody in this country who works hard. To make sure that -- -- the -- where you work hard and study our panel responsible. You are rewarded. No matter what you look like him where you come from what your last name -- -- They have President Obama did -- Buffalo talking about making college more affordable for more American. We plan rating. So that American men who have the best value. Of the. -- we also talked about it. Hurricane innovation in schools and helping students manage and -- their debt once they graduate three tier plan their by the president and we're gonna bring back. -- -- Washington. Students correspondents there should Shana. What did you make of the president's address. -- is very interesting because. Words like opportunity value being freer but they aren't really terms that you think about when you think about university education you think about -- going. To the best school the highest -- in school in the ratings that we know without. You really think about -- what's my best value. And that's really what the president's speech -- about he launched that he just made announcement about this new rating system that they're gonna roll out where they're gonna. And financial -- federal financial aid. Wheeled car sponsor is new rating system which will be what was he different measures into -- like values like opportunity. Tuition debt and it's all because as -- you heard the president say this. Crushing debt debt that a lot of university students are under now 26 at the averaged 26000 dollars per student. He believes it's going to be a high priority for -- administration. What's interesting here is that universities are already -- privately for things like. Right quality of their faculty. The types of buildings technology and services that they offer -- the president here making the point. That those savings can actually cost a lot more and increase the value that you get in the end spending a lot of money. Directly educating students so we're looking at ratings system that could be very different from what we're used to in terms of the credit rating system and some schools may not be happy about. We're absolutely could get them very near -- and he did for the president talk about. The regular rating system in US news and world report one of them that he mentioned where they -- take into account. Things like you just mentioned new school buildings class size. I. Bet that not -- this new rating system this new rating system will be one example he gain is how. Fast you could finish and that would be less expense and obviously that's not in the university's. -- financial interest currently said this would be very different. You know we -- congress -- and have a very difficult time just coming to an agreement on keeping students federal interest rates. After -- federal interest loan -- down. How we can imagine this would be very difficult. To take up before congress again however -- they don't need to be involved in every point of this plan. Exact -- you heard the president say that it was interesting -- a different reaction in the crowd he said. We are we are gonna have to work -- congress and there was some kind of shouts from the crowd and then he said but some I can -- my own in this huge warp from that. For in the country but he will have to work with congress in the way how distant things are -- Washington. There will be now actually some -- you jerk reaction from across and I. Although some of these reforms didn't have -- as partisan support so we'll just have to have a close watch on that -- with -- reaction is. Right now. Obviously there's a lot more going on is something that temperatures been on the books for the president for some time but we have breaking news in Egypt's. With Hosni Mubarak being let out of jail we have a situation in Syria. And all kinds of things going on the NSA government surveillance program. More scrutiny. Interesting timing for the president to take on this domestic issue. -- and you're really seeing that it's because it's a priority of the president he. Has spoken about this throughout his time in office it's definitely something that he feels passionate about and -- -- he. -- also being out there with -- he always gets a great responses to even from the time for ran for the first time for president. But it's really to get those costs down. To give more opportunities students he mentioned himself which he also lives to talk about his personal experience today he said that -- in his wife Michelle the firstly didn't pay off. Their own student loans until they were in their forties when they should have been saving already for their daughters. And so is something that he -- feels personal about. But also on the other hand education the -- it does not get that kind and and cost of -- -- kind of coverage I'm sure that the administration would like. So -- did he decide to launch this bus tour through New York to Pennsylvania to try to try attention to it. Decisions on wall such thank you so much -- joining us from Washington. President of a -- read an explanation of the president's plan for the future of higher education. On NBC news renowned time and America. This has been a special group. Report from me.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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