ANN ARBOR, Mich. - At a campaign-style rally this morning, President Obama told an energetic crowd of students that colleges have a responsibility to control tuition costs because a higher education "is not a luxury; it's an economic imperative that every family in America should be able to afford."
"We can't just keep on subsidizing skyrocketing tuition," the president argued as he announced a proposal to withhold federal aid from colleges and universities that fail to get their tuition costs under control.
"We are putting colleges on notice," he said. "You can't assume that you'll just jack up tuition every single year. If you can't stop tuition from going up, then the funding you get from taxpayers each year will go down. We should push colleges to do better. We should hold them accountable if they don't."
The president assured the 4,000 students packed into the University of Michigan Field House that he understands the financial burden they bear.
"Michelle and I can still remember how long it took us to pay back our student loans," he said. "I just want all of you to understand, your president and your first lady were in your shoes not that long ago."
Last year, graduates who took out a loan left college owing an average of $24,000, according to the White House.
Today's event marked the end of the president's three day State of the Union tour, which included stops in Iowa, Arizona, Nevada and Colorado, and was the largest by far.
Students waited upwards of five hours yesterday for a coveted ticket and lined up in the snow this morning at dawn to see the president, an impressive feat for morning-adverse college students.
Michigan student Lucy Holland, who just became old enough to vote and supports the president, told ABC that "the Republican primaries have been very divided, conflicted."
Grey-haired Bob Milstein squeezed in among the college students to get a glimpse of the president he believes is working for the 99 percent. "He's been trying hard against an opposition that keeps saying 'no,'" he said.