Obama takes student loan push on the road

 

After two days of rallying for a Senate bill designed to help student borrowers refinance their loans in Washington, President Obama will hit the road on Wednesday in hopes of building momentum for the Democratic legislation.

At a high school commencement in Worcester, Mass., Obama will urge Congress to pass the bill, which would allow more than 40 million Americans currently holding student loans to refinance at a lower rate.

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"In addition to the executive actions the President has taken to lift the heavy burden of student loan debt, he will urge Congress to do the right thing and protect many more students from crushing debt by passing the commonsense legislation championed by Senators Warren and Franken as well as Representative Tierney," a White House official said.

Obama's speech will coincide with a procedural vote in the Senate on the bill, which is expected to face still Republican opposition. Members of the GOP have said they oppose the legislation's pay-for — the so-called "Buffett Rule" which would limit the deductions available to millionaires.

At an event at the White House on Tuesday, Obama asked users of the blogging platform Tumblr to pressure their lawmakers to vote for the bill.

"The reason that's important is because rates have been low, and typically there's going to be a pretty big spread between the interest rates that a lot of students have on their debt right now versus what they could do if they refinanced, the same way that a lot of people refinanced their mortgages to take advantage of historically low rates," Obama said.

Earlier this week, Obama signed an executive action that will expand the number of student borrowers eligible for a federal program that caps monthly payments based on income. During that ceremony, Obama also urged Congress to sign the bill, angrily criticizing Republicans for paying "lip service to the next generation and then abandon them when it counts."

"It would be scandalous if we allowed those kinds of tax loopholes for the very, very fortunate to survive while students are having trouble just getting started in their lives," the president said.

The president will also herald Worcester Technical High School, where he's speaking to graduates, as a model for how he hopes high schools can retool. Worcester Tech is a recipient of federal Race to the Top funds, and offers hands-on, career-oriented learning opportunities in math and science.

"We are not producing enough engineers, enough computer scientists, enough math teachers and science teachers and enough researchers," Obama said Tuesday.

"Part of what we're trying to do is work with public schools to take away some of the intimidation factor in math and science," he added. "Part of what we're trying to do is make sure that we are reaching to demographics that are very underrepresented."