BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Air Force One has landed in western New York. President Obama arrived at 10:14 a.m. Thursday. He was greeted by Governor Andrew Cuomo and his daughters, Congressman Brian Higgins and Mayor Byron Brown.
The president quickly entered Ground Force One. En route to UB, the president waved to crowds lining the streets. Western New Yorkers of all ages were there, excited after the president waved to them.
President Barack Obama and the presidential motorcade traveled seven miles to the UB North Campus.
Silvana D’Ettorre is a Grand Island native and a sophomore at the University at Buffalo. D’Ettorre introduced President Obama.
“I greatly admire his passion for ensuring that everyone, regardless of family income, gender or race, has access to an exceptional and affordable education,” she said.
President Obama addressed the crowd of over 7,000 people, taking aim at the escalating cost of higher education. He started his speech Thursday morning saying “Buffalo is on the move.” He credited New York State leaders and local leaders, however mixed up Brian Higgins and Byron Brown’s names causing a stir on social media.
Obama quickly launched into his views for higher education, saying the cost of college is a burden and a barrier for American families. The president said, “higher education cannot be a luxury,” and “this country is only as strong as our next generation.”
“[Higher education] is an economic imperative,” Obama stated. “Every American family should be able to afford to get in.”
President Obama wants to tie financial aid to college performance, starting with publishing new college ratings before the 2015 school year. Colleges would be rated on several criteria, including average tuition and student loan debt, plus graduation rates.
“What we want to do is rate them on who’s offering the best value, so students and taxpayers get a bigger bang for their buck,” Obama explained.
The president wants to challenge colleges by having them come up with a greater range of high quality options for students. Obama says it is time to stop subsidizing schools that are not producing good results and reward schools that deliver students of the future.
Obama said, “There are schools out there who are terrific values. But there are also schools out there that have higher default rates than graduation rates, and taxpayers shouldn’t be subsidizing students that go to schools where the kids aren’t graduating. That doesn’t do anybody any good.”
He’ll be asking Congress to link the new rating system to the way federal financial aid is disbursed.
“We’re going to jump start new competition between colleges,” Obama said. “Not just on the field or on the court, but in terms of innovation that encourages affordability.”
The president wants college debt to be manageable for college graduates.
During his speech, the president said “even with good jobs, it took Michelle and me a long time to pay off our student loans.” Obama estimates he and his wife took until their 40s to pay off their student loans – a time he says when they should already have been putting money aside for their children’s education.
He also wants graduates to understand their debt and be able to re manage their debt, and he described his pay-as-you earn plan.
“If you went to college, you took out debt. You want to be a teacher, and starting salary for a teacher is… let’s say $35,000,” Obama said. “Well, only 10 percent of that amount is what you’re loan repayment is.”
According to estimates from the Institute for College Access and Success, graduating seniors who borrowed to attend college in New York left school with an average of $26,000 in debt.
The president wrapped up his speech saying if you study hard and work hard, you should be rewarded.
“It’s going to take a lot of hard work,” Obama said. “Good news is, from what I hear, folks in Buffalo know something about hard work.”
The State Thruway Authority says drivers should be prepared for temporary closures and slow downs, both Thursday and Friday as the president heads from Syracuse to Binghamton. Parts of I-90 will be shut down along with its entrance ramps and rest stops until the president leaves the area.
Truck Driver Timmy King said, “Traffic is gonna back up on the exits and that so it’s gonna put you behind about an hour or so.” Truck Driver Timmy King said, “Just wait it out and be patient. What are you gonna do? You have to protect the president.”
Drivers are being urged to be alert and drive cautiously around the Thruway.