President Barack Obama's visit got off to a bit of a shaky
start on Thursday has he flubbed part of his opening remarks while welcoming
several of the area's top elected officials, including U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins,
whom he mistakenly referred to as the "mayor" of the city of Buffalo.
In his remarks during a speech that started at just after 11 a.m. inside the University at Buffalo's Alumni Arena, the president corrected his error with some prompting from the crowd and identified Higgins as a Congressman while correctly recognizing Byron Brown as the city's mayor. He also quickly moved to cover his faux pas by reminding those in the audience that he's not as young as he was when he took office.
"Here's what happens when you get to be 52 years old," Obama quipped.
The bulk of Obama's 38-minutes speech took on a more serious tone as he discussed what he described as a "crisis in terms of college affordability and student debt" in America. The president called for sweeping changes in the country's higher education system, including a proposed college ratings system, which he said are needed to ensure the next the same educational opportunities as their parents and grandparents.
"We can't price the middle class and everybody in middle class out of college education," Obama told a mostly enthusiastic crowd filled with students and faculty members from UB and other Western New York colleges and universities.
Obama discussed three areas of higher education his administration views as priorities moving forward, including improving the value of a college education for families and taxpayers, jumpstarting college competition through efforts that encourage innovation in learning and finding ways to help students and families better manage and afford loans and debt.
Noted that the average college graduate leaves school with a debt load of $26,000 and the cost of attending institutions of higher education has risen significantly in recent years, Obama said the system's "current trajectory is not sustainable" and "major new reforms are needed to "shake up the system."
He described the need to "do things differently" as an "economic imperative" for America.
"We can't price the middle class and everybody in middle class out of college education," Obama said.
Obama said he'd like to see a new college rating system implemented by 2015. He said the system would evaluate colleges on a number of economic and educational measures, including tuition cost, amount of debt students incur upon graduation, rates of graduation and amount earned by graduates once they enter the workforce.
(c)2013 the Niagara Gazette (Niagara Falls, N.Y.)
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