Blog Briefing Room

Obama: Scuttled college plan wasn’t worth the fight

President Obama acknowledged Friday that the White House dropped his recently proposed changes to college savings plans because they weren’t worth the fight.
Obama said that he initially wanted to save money by essentially eliminating future 529 college savings accounts, which more directly benefitted higher-income Americans who had the money and means to use them. But lawmakers on both sides of the aisle met that proposal with fierce criticism, arguing that it could have a negative impact on middle-class families who wanted to save with the plans, named after their section of the IRS code. 
“It wasn’t worth it for us to eliminate it; the savings weren’t that great,” he said to the crowd of students and faculty at Ivy Tech Community College in Indianapolis, Ind.
“We actually, based on responses, changed our mind and will be paying for two years of free community colleges through other sources.”
The White House announced that it was dropping the proposal last week, but Obama had not yet commented publicly on the move.
The president took questions at the open forum, where he touted a slew of proposals from his fiscal 2016 budget, including his call to give community college students two years of free tuition if they stay on track to graduate and meet certain grade requirements. The White House estimates that it could benefit up to 9 million students, saving them about $7,600 over two years.
“Here in America it shouldn’t matter how much money your folks make,” he said
“If you are willing to work hard, you should be able to get that opportunity, and you shouldn’t necessarily have $100,000 worth of debt when you leave.”
Obama also framed his plan as one to augment the current college system, not cut into the demand for traditional four-year degree. He said that free tuition for students meeting those benchmarks creates a whole new option “cash-strapped” students, who can transfer to a four-year institution with accumulated credits or enter the workforce after completing the two years.
“Either way, you are saving money,” he said.
“And this is part of what we need to do: to be more creative about how young people get the skills they need without spending that much money or taking on that much debt.”
But the proposal’s price tag of $60 billion over 10 years has tamped down excitement from Republicans. GOP lawmakers told The New York Times on Friday that they wanted to be consulted before Obama released the plan, and a spokesman for Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said the president shouldn’t be focusing on “liberal, pie-in-the-sky ideas.”

Obama tasked his critics with offering their own solutions if they don’t like his path.
“If Republicans disagree with the way that I’m trying to solve these problems, they should put forward their own plans, and I’m happy to look at them,” he said.
“But what we can’t do is ignore the problems and pretend that they don’t matter, pretend that families aren’t out there struggling and doing their best.”

Tags Paul Ryan
See all Hill.TV See all Video

Most Popular

Load more


See all Video