DENVER, Colorado — US President Barack Obama Wednesday dwelt upon his own struggles with student debt, as he laid out a plan to ease the burden of college loans and reached out to young voters in key swing state.
The president, on his second visit to the Rocky Mountain electoral battleground of Colorado in a month, said he and his wife Michelle spent years paying off a combined student debt load of $120,000.
“This is something Michelle and I know about first hand. I’ve been in your shoes. We did not come from a wealthy family,” Obama told students at the University of Colorado.
“Our folks didn’t have a lot of money. We didn’t even own our own home. We rented most of the time that we were growing up.
“We were able to land good jobs with a steady income. But it still took us almost 10 years to finally pay off all our student debt,” Obama said.
“We want you in school. But we shouldn’t saddle you with debt when you’re starting off,” Obama said, referring to the high fees, in the tens of thousands of dollars a year, many US students face on the way to a degree.
Obama’s plan, to be enacted by executive order, will mean payments would go down for 1.6 million Americans who are stuck with student loan debt, officials said.
It allows graduates to cap their loan payments at 10 percent of their income — a measure which had originally been due to come into force in 2014, but will now be available two years early.
The administration also plans to consolidate student loans so that borrowers do not have to make repayments to multiple lenders each month.
“These changes will make a difference for millions of Americans. It will save you money. It will help more young people figure out how to afford college. It can put more money in your pocket once you graduate,” he said.
The plan was among a series of initiatives that Obama unveiled during a three day trip to California, Nevada and Colorado using his executive powers, as he slammed Republicans Congress for blocking his job creating legislation, using his new slogan “We Can’t Wait.”
Young voters will be especially crucial to Obama’s reelection hopes in Colorado, a swing state where he fired up young, first time voters in 2008 on his way to the White House.
By coincidence, Obama was in Denver exactly three years ago to the day, in days before his presidential election victory, talking to a massive crowd of more than 100,000 people, many of them young voters.