11:07 A.M. EDT
SECRETARY DUNCAN: We just appreciate you folks making an effort. It’s a really interesting group of people; different backgrounds, different experiences, but with a sort of shared passion to figure out what we as a country can do to make college both more accessible and more affordable.
And what you all recognize is that going to college has never been more important than it is today; unfortunately, it’s also never been more expensive. And somehow we have to find ways to reduce that. And we’re working on lots of stuff, as are many of you, and give you -- have you give us your best thinking -- obviously, if you tell us what we need to hear, not what we want to hear. And the President, the Vice President, the First Lady, Dr. Biden, this is one where -- the highest levels of the White House. It’s this huge passion and commitment.
As Dr. Biden said, she has been teaching for a couple of decades now. That’s where her heart is. (Laughter.) That’s where her passion is. She hasn’t taken the easiest of jobs. She’s taught in therapeutic situations, she’s taught in prisons, she teaches at a community college. This is her passion. This is her life’s work. As I always say, she could be spending all her time at fancy parties and fancy lunches, and she teaches students every single day.
So we’re so lucky to have someone of her passion and commitment work on this every single day. I’ll turn it over to her then we’ll go to Dexter, and we’ll just sort of open it up and get folks thinking.
DR. BIDEN: Thanks. I leave all the fancy parties to Arne. (Laughter.)
SECRETARY DUNCAN: I wish. I wish. (Laughter.)
DR. BIDEN: Well, hello, everyone. And it’s my pleasure to welcome everybody here to the White House. And as a lifelong educator -- I like that a little better. (Laughter.)
SECRETARY DUNCAN: I’ll work it out. I owe you one. (Laughter.)
DR. BIDEN: Anyway, I’ve seen firsthand the power, really, of college education, and -- as well as many barriers to success, as Arne talked about. And as I said, I teach full time at a community college in Northern Virginia. And really, my students are juggling a lot. They’re working full time, and balancing family and community obligations, along with taking classes. But I see over and over, they are so committed to furthering their education because they know it’s the way to a better life for themselves and for their families.
And that’s why college affordability is so critical. And we need to make sure that there’s an affordable path to higher education for all, and not just a luxury for a few. And that’s why affordable student loans are essential.
And over the past three decades, the average tuition at a public four-year college has more than tripled. The average undergraduate student who borrows for college graduates with almost $30,000 of debt. So we all agree -- all of us -- that we need to do more. And I’m proud to be part of an administration that has made college affordability a priority, reforming the student loan system and doubling the Pell grants.
But we all know that we need to do more to make college affordable, and that’s why I’m so pleased to announce that the Senate Democrats are working on a proposal that would help more young people afford to repay college debt. We will also hear from -- this issue from the President on Monday.
So together, we can do more to lift this burden off our students. I thank you all for being here, and I really look forward to hearing your stories.