- The Washington Times - Friday, April 24, 2009

President Obama restated his goal Friday of helping more Americans receive a college education but this time singled out bank lobbyists as the biggest opponent.

Mr. Obama’s plan calls for direct lending from the federal government to students, which would eliminate banks as middlemen and the taxpayer subsidies they receive when students default.

“They are gearing up for a fight. So am I,” said Mr. Obama, who was introduced at the White House event by Stephanie Stevenson, a University of Maryland junior.

The president’s plan also calls for a $2,500 tax credit while in college, increasing the annual amount of a Pell Grant and adding $2.5 billion to the budget for colleges to help students with career development.

“Few things are as fundamental to the American Dream as a college education,” said Mr. Obama, who called his plan to help middle-class students receive a college education the most significant since the GI Bill of 1944.

He said more than half of the fastest-growing jobs require a college degree or specialized training while tuitions costs at private colleges have doubled and those at public colleges have tripled over the past several years. Mr. Obama also said those without a college education are now twice as likely to be unemployed.

“Yet we have a student-loan system that provides subsidies,” the president said.

Mr. Obama said his plan will help 8.5 million more Americans receive a college education.

The maximum Pell Grant, which does not have to be repaid, is now $4,731. Mr. Obama wants to add $500 this year to an individual grant and make the maximum $5,500 next year.

The president also restated his long-term goal of the country again having the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020.

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