President Barack Obama is visiting the University of Iowa this afternoon as part of his tour to talk about renewing legislation to keep government-backed student loan interest rates from doubling. Iowa is a so-called swing state in the presidential race, but Congressman Bruce Braley, a Democrat from Waterloo, says the president’s trip is not just a campaign stop to court young voters.
Braley says the president is trying to break through the partisan gridlock in Washington, D.C. over this issue. “And I don’t think that the astronomical amount of student debt that graduating college students and community college students take out into the workplace is a trivial matter. This should be the type of thing that should get easy bipartisan support, and yet partisanship is exactly what is preventing us from extending what should be a very popular student interest loan program,” Braley says.
Braley says the Republican chair of the Education and Workforce Committee in the House is holding up the issue because he says we can’t afford it. Braley says it’s important to provide an affordable education to students and the president is right to push the issue.
“So, if the president can’t even get the Congress to come together to solve this simple problem –which is going to be immediate on July first, it’s not going to wait until election day until it becomes a pressing problem — then I don’t know what hope we have of getting anything meaningful done the rest of the year in Congress,” Braley says.
“So I think it is completely appropriate for him to be spotlighting this problem.” Braley was asked what is being done to address the root issue of the high cost of a college education in Iowa. He says there are a variety of issues that need to be addressed.
“There’s been a lot of conversation about this in the wake of the major changes happening at U.N.I. and during that conversation, it’s been brought out that the percent of college education funded by the state has dropped dramatically from what it used to be, and that is one of the biggest contributing factors to rising tuition,” according to Braley.
He says everyone also needs to look at how to promote efficiency in higher education just like is done with every other business and government. But Braley says we also have to look at the long-term benefits that we get with an educated workforce.