Biden Highlights Growing Investment in College Aid
By Michael A. Fletcher
ST. LOUIS -- Vice President Biden today convened a meeting of the Middle Class Task Force, where he highlighted for an audience of students, parents and educators the Obama administration's initiatives aimed at making college more affordable.
Pointing out that the cost of a four-year college education has more than doubled in the same time that middle class incomes have crept up by just 10 percent, Biden said that an unprecedented effort is being mounted to address the growing gap.
Even though most students do not pay the "sticker price" for college because of grants and loans, the cost of increasingly vital education has spun farther out of reach for too many Americans, Biden said.
"This is something we are genuinely, genuinely committed to changing," Biden said at the forum, held at the University of Missouri, St. Louis.
Biden said that the Obama administration has already started working on closing that gap by including large increases in Pell Grants and education tax credits in the economic stimulus package. The administration also has proposed streamlining the college loan process by directly administering all federally guaranteed loans, cutting banks out of that process, a controversial proposal that the administration says will save $94 billion over the next decade.
"This is the largest investment in education since the G.I. Bill," said Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who accompanied Biden to the St. Louis meeting.
Sharing the forum with his wife, Jill Biden, a community college professor, Duncan, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Gov. Jay Nixon (D-Mo.) and Cecilia Rouse, a member of the Council of Economic Advisers, Biden paced through the audience taking questions about how to increase access to higher education.
Before the start of the meeting, the task force, which is headed by Biden, issued a report that listed those initiatives, while pointing out that colleges have to do more to lower costs, which have far outpaced inflation.
All of these changes are needed, Biden said, because of the increasingly important role that education plays in determining the economic and life chances of Americans.
"You are looking at two middle class -- years ago -- kids who got to stand before you today because of access to education," Biden said, pointing to his wife. "This comes from the gut, what we're talking about here."
After the meeting, Biden was to tour a Boys and Girls Club here before returning to Washington this evening.
Posted at 1:29 PM ET on Apr 17, 2009
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