Wednesday, March 31, 2010



President Obama signed into law Tuesday a package of revisions to his
new health-care overhaul that includes a measure aimed at making higher
education more affordable.

The provision ends what Obama called a long-standing "sweetheart deal"
for banks in federally guaranteed student loans.

In a speech and signing ceremony at the Alexandria campus of Northern
Virginia Community College, Obama said the health-care reform
legislation and the revisions represent "two major victories ... that
will improve the lives of our people for generations to come."

He said the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 would
save taxpayers $68 billion in the coming years by cutting out the role
of banks and lending institutions as middlemen in federally guaranteed
student loans. The money is to be channeled into the Pell Grant
program, invested in community colleges and historically black colleges
and used to make student loans more affordable by capping repayments at
10 percent of discretionary income starting in 2014.

Republicans in Congress were unified in their opposition to the health-
care overhaul, and a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch
McConnell (R-Ky.) criticized the student-loan legislation Tuesday,
saying it would have "devastating consequences" for employees of
lending institutions. He pointed to estimates that 30,000 jobs could be
lost nationwide. The largest student lending firm, SLM Corp., known as
Sallie Mae, has said it could be forced to lay off nearly 30 percent of
its 8,600 U.S. employees.

Obama said billions of dollars that could have been spent helping more
students to attend college or easing tuition burdens went instead to
"padding student lenders' profits." He told the audience that major
banks "hired an army of lobbyists" to defeat the legislation and that
Sallie Mae "spent more than $3 million on lobbying last year alone."

Before signing the bill, Obama paid tribute to lawmakers who had "the
courage to do what's right" by supporting the health-care and student
loan legislation in the face of attacks he described as "fierce and
unrelenting -- and inaccurate."

Obama said the education measures would help meet his national goal of
having the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by

Because of the reforms, he told a cheering crowd at the community
college, "the foundation on which America's future will be built is
stronger than it was one year ago."

"Today we mark an important milestone on the road to health-insurance
reform and higher-education reform," Obama said. "But more broadly,
this day affirms our ability to overcome the challenges of our politics
and meet the challenges of our time."

Obama was introduced by Jill Biden, the wife of Vice President Biden.
An English teacher at the Alexandria school, she was asked by Obama to
host a summit on community colleges at the White House this fall.

"I am pleased to say that the reforms in this bill will make a huge
difference to those Americans who need it most," Biden said.