President Barack Obama signed into law HR4872, the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010, to an invitation-only crowd at Northern Virginia Community College-Alexandria’s Schlesinger Hall. Obama was joined by Second Lady Jill Biden, who teaches ESL at NVCC-Annandale, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Virginia Congressmen Tom Perriello and Bobby Scott. Health care reconciliation was packaged together with language from the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act, another major policy triumph for Americans young and old.
In another promise delivered, Obama did away with the middleman in student loans, saving taxpayers over $80 billion over the next ten years. Obama also made sweeping increases in Pell Grants, and capped student loan repayments at 10% of annual income. Starting this July, millions of middle and lower class college students will no longer have to fear rapacious private lenders backed by the government and will not face as crushingly large repayments upon graduation. Encouraging Americans to finish college and spend their 20s and 30s producing for the economy instead of working in indentured servitude to banks will be yet another defining legacy of the Obama administration.
As tuition increases spiral out of control and state governments cut whatever remaining gristle and tendon clinging to the skeletons of state universities, Obama and Congressional Democrats have finally summoned the courage to take on private, government-subsidized student lenders who spent millions on lobbying to keep captive young Americans. Higher education is the single most important way to ensure class mobility continues to exist in America.
Without government aid to middle class and lower income families, their chances of affording higher education are far lower. Funding student financial aid for those families will give them the chance to move up the class ladder as every immigrant family to the United States dreams.
As we saw during Congressional debates, Republicans care only for the interests of cutting income taxes for the richest Americans. Combined with the elimination of the estate tax, their policy of encouraging wealth concentration within upper-crust families and discouraging government from opening the doors to higher education make it clear whose side they are on.
Even more than the health care bill, student financial aid reform shows Obama’s commitment to the young voters who propelled him to office. Finally, at long last it seems that someone is listening.