Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

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August 23, 2013

Smart initiative

President Obama outlines major changes to nation's higher education system in Amherst


Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — Obama detailed the plan for a crowd of roughly 7,000 inside UB’s Alumni Arena on move-in day, as about 5,000 students descended on campus, mini-fridges and futons in tow.

UB President Satish Tripathi welcomed U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who spoke briefly prior to Obama’s arrival, as live footage of Air Force One landing at Buffalo-Niagara International Airport played on the arena’s big screens to roaring applause.

Just before Obama took the podium, after his signature jog to the lectern, UB sophomore and Grand Island native Silvana D’Ettorre had the honor of introducing the president.

D’Ettore, after the speech, said she was instructed to keep her role in the ceremony a secret from all but her immediate family in the run-up to Obama’s visit, which Tripathi said was only confirmed late last week.

“When I was up on stage I was thinking this really isn’t that bad,” she said. “I was relaxed.”

Obama embraced D’Ettore, an aspiring dentist, and the two briefly exchanged words before the president addressed the crowd.

“He said I should be a dentist based on my smile,” she said.

In addition to the rating system, Obama also spelled out proposed changes designed to help spur competition among colleges through innovation, including pathways to earning degrees more quickly, promoting courses for college credit among high school students and online credits. 

In his third proposal, Obama hinted at an improved framework to help graduates who’ve taken on debt manage it, suggesting a graduate’s monthly loan payment should be capped at 10 percent of their post-graduation income.

”Government shouldn’t view student loans as a way to make money, it should be to help students,” he said. “Our national mission ought to be how to profit off of having the best educated workforce in the world.”

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