Por Jahaziel Martinez
Alejandra Gonzalez finds herself standing in the crowd waiting to see President Obama. It will
probably be the first time she sees him, and like many students, she struggles with the debt she got to
get her Bachelor’s degree in education.
On June 7, the President of the country paid a visit to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas
(UNLV), a university struggling with budget cuts from the state and like many others universities
across the country, it has to find a way to make up for it by raising tuition and taking away services it
gives to students.
At the Cox Pavilion and around students, children and members of the political arena in
Nevada, President Barack Obama encouraged students to persuade congress to not increase the interest
rates on the loans students get to pay for their education,“by earning your degree, you’ve decided to
make the best possible investment in your future and in the future of America. And I’m proud of all of
you for making that investment, because it’s never been more important,” he said.
Gonzalez owes $15,000 in 2 grants she got so she could pay for school. The cost of education
just in the state of Nevada has increased more than 30% over the last 2 years; this tuition increases
have taken a toll on students pockets and it requires them to start getting more loans if they want to be
“They gave me 2 loans, the subsidized is for almost $3,000 and my choice is to take it.” Donald
Woods, a Junior at UNLV said. Many other students have to keep 2 jobs while going to school and pay
for their education, while others have to find ways to survive on this economy.
On his visit, President Obama also talked about the jobs bill he pushed in Congress last
September that wasn’t passed entirely. “They passed a payroll tax cut that’s put more money in every
working person’s paycheck right now. That’s good news. We thank them for it,” he said.
He went on to talk about the housing bubble, specially since the city of Las Vegas is one of the
places with the most foreclosures in the country. “Congress should pass the changes necessary to give
every responsible homeowner the opportunity to save an average of $3,000 a year by refinancing their
mortgage at today’s historically low interest rates,” he said amidst a round of applause by
attendees, “we did, through an executive order, a plan that allows those of you whose mortgages are
guaranteed by FHA to refinance, but we’ve got to have Congress to take additional steps to reach
everybody, to reach even more homeowners.”
President Obama went to to talk about the veterans that are coming back from Iraq and
Afghanistan and proposed a Veterans Job Corps, “because no one who fights for this country should
ever have to fight for a job when they come home.”
Another issue he touched upon was how solar energy could be propelled by extending tax
credits for clean energy manufacturers because those credits are set to expire at the end of the
near. “Nearly 40,000 good jobs are at stake.” He added that instead of giving tax breaks to oil
companies, the clean energy industry should be helped, “there’s a lot of sunshine out here (laughter).
We can turn that into electricity and put people back to work in the process. Let’s make that happen.”
Obama had to talk about the issues affecting most of his audience, student loans. So right after
he talked about clean energy in Nevada, he proposed stopping interest rates on student loans from
doubling at the end of June.
“Obviously this isn’t good for students and for the nation, because as a young professional I
can’t buy a house or the kind of things that I would want,” Gonzalez said after Obama’s remarks. The
cost of college in the last 20 years has more than doubled, faster than health care cost. “We are at a
point where the average student who borrows to pay for college graduates with $26,000 in student loan
debt,” Obama said, “Americans owe more on their student loans than they do on their credit cards.
Congress has strengthened aid such as Pell grants for low-income students, and a watchdog
agency was created, the Consumer Finance Protection bureau that works with the department of
education to give students and parents access to information on student loans and financial aid. The
President also encouraged students to push Congress through the use of social media to persuade them
into stopping the next increase on the interest rate of student loans. “For those of you who are about to
graduate, as long as you make your monthly payments on time, we will cap the payments you have to
make on your student loans at 10 percent of your discretionary income once you graduate,” Obama
“I think this is really good because a lot of students like me are struggling a lot to continue with
our education. A lot of us have dreams and we want to show that we can also be successful but the
truth is that the economy is in a difficult situation right now,” said Maria Landeros, a Senior at UNLV
that attended the event and who works at the same time to pay for her tuition.
If Congress doesn’t act by the end of June, by July 1st, interest rates on federal student loans
will double overnight.
“Some of these folks in Congress, they were saying we’re just talking about student loans to
distract from the economy. I guess they don’t get this is the economy. (Applause.) Helping you get the
skills that businesses are looking for, that’s one of the best things we can do for the economy.
(Applause.) Making college affordable, that’s one of the best things we can do for the economy.
(Applause.) Putting opportunity within the reach of everybody, no matter what you look like or where
you come from, that’s what America is about,” President Obama said.