College Affordability and Student Loans Discussed at White House Roundtable Event

Dexter McCoy discussed college affordability and student loans with Secretary Arne Duncan and Dr. Jill Biden.

Dexter McCoy discussed college affordability and student loans with Secretary Arne Duncan and Dr. Jill Biden. (Photo credit: U.S. Department of Education)

Ed. note: This is cross-posted on the U.S. Department of Education blog. See the original post here.

Dexter McCoy knew that going to college was the right decision for his future, but after graduating this spring from Boston University, he has something else on his mind: repaying about $30,000 in student loans.

Far too many American students, like Dexter, and their families are worried about paying for college or are struggling with student loan payments. Over the past five years, the Administration has been listening to students tell their stories and has taken steps to help – including increasing the maximum Pell Grant by about $1,000 and providing loan repayment options like Pay As You Earn, which caps monthly payments at an amount that based on how much you’re making so student loan bills are more manageable.

But we want to do more. That’s why today, Dexter joined more than a dozen recent graduates, education advocates, economists, and college presidents for a discussion with Dr. Jill Biden and Education Secretary Arne Duncan at the White House about college affordability and student loans.

“It’s the story of many people my age across the country,” Dexter said. “It’s really important to me that the White House is taking steps to address this issue.”

Secretary Duncan and Dr. Biden believe that a college education is absolutely critical to strengthening the lives of American families and the country’s economy.

“We all recognize that going to college has never been more important than it is today. Unfortunately it’s also never been more expensive,” Secretary Duncan said. “Somehow, we have to find ways to reduce that burden.”

As the voices around the table continued to stress, higher education has increasingly felt out of reach for middle-class families and students, with many feeling overwhelmed and not sure how to navigate either the college selection or student loan repayment process, or like costs continue to escalate with little relief.

For Dr. Biden, the themes that were shared were similar to those she hears every day as a full-time community college teacher. Her students juggle work, families and school, but they are committed to getting an education and building a better life.

“That’s why college affordability is so critical,” Dr. Biden said. “And we need to make sure there’s an affordable path to higher education for all, and not just a luxury for a few.”

That’s something the Administration has taken to heart. As many leaders today stressed, being able to access and complete college is important not just for the lives of individual Americans, but also for the economic strength of our country.

On Monday, the President will talk more about this issue. Over the coming months, we will continue to act to ensure that all students – especially minority students and those from lower-income and historically underserved backgrounds – are able to afford a quality higher education.

Sara Gast is director of strategic communications at the U.S. Department of Education.

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