Brittany Schock / Asst. photo editor
Vice President Joe Biden made it clear that despite the tough economic times, education will be a top priority for President Barack Obama’s administration.
Biden spoke to a group of about 800 students, teachers and community members at Gahanna Lincoln High School Thursday on the topic of college affordability.
Biden, accompanied by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, said education is more important despite rising costs, referencing Ohio State’s tuition.
“The cost to attend Ohio State has nearly doubled since you all were born,” Biden said. “Parents are sitting there, biting their nails trying to figure out how to pay it.”
Duncan said the Obama administration has made a Pay-As-You-Earn system for students who have taken out loans.
“Instead of having to pay the $300 or $350 a month toward your loans, now we’ve capped that at 10 percent of your income,” Duncan said. “About a million people take advantage of that.”
Biden said the program makes living attainable for college graduates.
“So you can still be paying off your loans and make your car insurance payment,” Biden said. “Or you can pay your rent. Where I come from, you have to do that.”
Sen. Sherrod Brown also spoke at the event, introducing Duncan. Brown spoke about the Morrill Act of 1862 that lead to the creation of land-grant universities, like OSU.
“Everyone now has the opportunity to go to college, thanks to that great act,” he said. “Young people have this great opportunity.”
Biden touched on figures like 68 percent of all college graduates will rack up debt after completion of courses, and the average debt is around $27,000 per student. Yet he said he still feels college is necessary for students.
“In today’s economy, the question is if a university education is actually worth it,” Biden said. “I argue that yes, it is. The unemployment rate is half of what it is for a college graduate than what it is for a high school graduate.”
Duncan said the Obama administration has also worked on clarifying the Free Application for Student Aid.
“We simplified the form to coordinate with the (Internal Revenue Service),” he said. “We dramatically changed it to make it easier to understand.”
Duncan said Biden and the Obama administration have talked with universities about keeping tuition rates flat, despite the cuts in the state budget.
“We have challenged universities to cap their tuition costs, despite inflation and economic times,” he said. “And I know universities are doing all they can to keep costs down, like encouraging students to finish in three years instead of four.”
Brooke Ebersole, a senior at GLHS, said Biden’s speech benefitted a lot of people.
“He couldn’t have picked a better place,” Ebersole said. “The subject affected a lot of people and a lot of students can relate.”
Biden said the debate of whether to go to college is a personal issue for him, due to his parents’ struggle to provide higher education for him and his own struggle putting his three children through college.
“My own father always said ‘Joey, they can take away your job and your money, but they can never take your degree,'” Biden said. “Your own parents always want to be able to put you in a position to do better than they did. It’s a fight to do so for most.”
The event marked the second stop for Obama’s administration in the past two weeks in Ohio.