President Obama gave another push for his reforms to lower college costs at Binghamton University during a hourlong town hall event in which he answered questions about higher education, racial equality and how to control health-care costs.
Obama, answering questions from a small group of students and professors, wasn’t asked about other hot-button issues, such as national security concerns and the ongoing battles in Egypt. And with protesters flooding Binghamton on either side of the debate on hydrofracking, Obama didn’t address the issue — though he did talk about the need for renewable energy and how natural gas can be a short-term bridge to better technology.
Obama stuck to the major theme of his two-day tour across upstate New York: the growing cost of college tuition. He said it’s pricing out many families and young people. He said he graduated law school with about $60,000 in loans.
“The only reason Michelle and I have been able to accomplish what we’ve been able to accomplish is because we got a great education,” Obama said. “I think the essence of the American dream is that anybody who is willing to work hard is able to get that good education and achieve their dreams.”
On Thursday in Buffalo, Obama laid out a number of ways to bring down tuition costs, such as a performance-based system for colleges to receive federal aid and greater pressure on states to provide funding to colleges.
“At a time when that’s never been more important, college has never been more expensive,” Obama said. “And in fact what you’ve seen over the last three decades, the cost of higher education has gone up 260 percent, at a time when family incomes have gone up about 16 percent.”
In response to a question about energy, Obama said, “We’re going to have to prepare for a different energy future than the one we have right now. Now, we’re producing traditional energy, fossil fuels, at record levels. And we have actually achieved, or on the verge of achieving as about as close as you can get to energy independence as American is going to see.”
But he added, “I mean, natural gas, oil, all that stuff is going up. In some cases, what you have seen is that, for example, transitional fuels, like natural gas, have replaced coal, which temporarily are reducing greenhouse gas. But the bottom line is that those are finite resources. Climate change is real.”
And he started off his speech by making sure to mention the local Binghamton delicacy: the spiedie.
“I decided stop here for a couple of reasons. Number one, I’ve been told that it’s very important for me to get a spiedie’s while I’m here. So we’re going to pick one up and try it on the road.”
The crowd laughed and applauded.