President Obama Defends Student Loan Push

President Obama wrapped up his two-day college tour this afternoon with an impassioned pitch for Congress to freeze low interest rates for student loans, telling a rowdy crowd at the University of Iowa, "This is personal. This is at the heart of who we are."

At a campaign-style rally, the president took aim at Republicans and House Speaker John Boehner's office for saying he is pushing low rate student loans to "distract people from the economy."

"These guys don't get it. This is the economy. … This is about your job security. This is about your future. If you do well, the economy does well," the president said to boisterous cheers from the crowd. "What economy are they talking about? You are the economy."

One hour later, back in Washington, Boehner, R-Ohio, announced a vote this week to keep student loan rates down for the next year.  

"We can and will fix the problem without a bunch of campaign-style theatrics," he said.

The president is urging Congress to extend a 2007 law that cut student loan rates to 3.4 percent. If lawmakers don't pass an extension, those interest rates will double on July 1 - "shooting up and shaking you down," the president told students.

"For each year that Congress doesn't act, the average student with these loans will rack up an additional $1,000 in debt," Obama said. "Now, let me see. I'll do a quick poll. … How many people can afford to pay an extra $1,000 right now?"

"No!" the audience shouted in response.

The president also visited the universities of North Carolina and Colorado Tuesday as part of his appeal to young voters, whose support will be critical in the upcoming election.

Finishing his tour in Iowa, the battleground state that catapulted him toward the White House in 2008, the president reflected, "Iowa always feels like home to me."