As prepared for delivery
WASHINGTON - Good
morning. I am very pleased to be here today for what I know will be an
interesting and important discussion.
A week ago, I visited an eighth grade science class at a
public charter school in Cleveland. It was a good conversation with a
group of students about their plans and dreams for the future. I got a chance
to discuss the importance of education in science, technology, engineering and
math and hear about their projects for an upcoming science fair. At the end of
my visit, I asked the students, “How many of you plan to go to college?” Every
single hand in the class shot up.
I walked away encouraged, and motivated, to do what I can to
make sure those hopes and dreams become reality. This is a commitment the
President shares. And it is why I am so glad that the Commission has chosen to
focus today’s event on how we can do more to provide young Americans with the
financial resources, knowledge, and tools they need to earn a college degree or
make other critical choices throughout their lives.
This Administration is committed to helping young people get
the skills and knowledge they will need to pursue successful careers and
contribute to our economy. That is why
we want to expand access to education beyond high school. Workers with
post-secondary training are more likely to be employed, earn higher wages, and
rise up the economic ladder. Indeed,
education helps create new businesses and jobs, supports the middle class, and
spurs productivity and growth.
Yet even as the value of higher education increases, rising
costs mean that more Americans are finding this opportunity out of reach. With state support for higher education
declining, students and their families increasingly count on education grants
and affordable loans through Federal financial aid. This Administration has
focused on expanding these opportunities over the last several years, including
an unprecedented expansion of Pell Grants, which help millions of Americans go
to college. But we can do more to help
students and their families use these options wisely and make more informed
choices about higher education -- from where to go, to what to study, and how
to pay for it.
These decisions—made early in life—mean the difference
between an individual who is prepared to enter the workforce and has put
themselves on a course for success, and
an individual who is so weighed down by onerous debts that it is hard for them
to move forward. We must do everything we can to make sure young people can
achieve their dreams. Helping new
workers pay back debt on reasonable terms, and ensuring that younger students
do not take on more debt than they can afford, is critical to meeting that objective.
For this reason, the Obama Administration has worked over
the past several years to improve repayment options available to student loan
borrowers. Because of the President’s actions, more Americans can qualify for
an Income Based Repayment plan to cap their student loan payments at 10 percent
of their current discretionary income. As
long as they make their payments on time, their remaining federal loans will be
forgiven after 20 years. This change
should help ease the debt burden on millions of young workers and enable them
to take advantage of the opportunities ahead. Yet we can and must do more.
Unemployment, especially among young people, is too
high. We must take steps to help
businesses innovate, expand, and hire so that more Americans can find good
The President's budget lays out several initiatives that
will expand opportunities for workers.
It creates advanced manufacturing hubs around the country, invests in
research and technology, and helps expand domestic energy production –
including clean energy and natural gas.
It puts construction workers and contractors on the job right away to
repair our aging infrastructure – so America has the roads, railways, and ports
to compete in the future. It helps
communities hit hardest by the recession and it adjusts the minimum wage so
that working full-time will mean you are
not stuck below the poverty line. And, crucially, it invests in training our
workforce with the skills our economy demands and which will lead to higher
wage jobs. Every one of these
initiatives is fully paid for, and will not add a dime to the deficit.
Of course, all of that is necessary but not sufficient. In
today’s economy, it is also essential for Americans to develop basic financial
knowledge and learn how to navigate a complex financial system. We need to make sure young people can make
smart decisions about what financial products to use. That young people can
plan and save for the long term while managing expenses and debt in the
short-term; and that they can handle income shocks while still achieving their
personal and financial goals.
It is critical to begin building these financial skills
early in life. By starting young,
children can learn the difference between wants and needs, the importance and
power of saving, and the positive and productive role carefully managing money
can play in their lives. That is why
many experts, including the President’s Advisory Council on Financial
Capability, have recommended that financial education be integrated into the
I am honored that my colleague Richard Cordray is joining me
here today as vice chair of the Commission.
I know how much he cares about making sure that our young people have
the financial knowledge and tools they need to succeed – and how critical that
mission is to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as well as to us here at
I am also delighted to see so many of you. The diversity of
agencies represented on this Commission demonstrates how critical financial
literacy and financial decision-making is to all areas of our lives. And the collective work of its members,
especially those who have been part of the Starting Early for Financial Success
initiative, has been essential to making sure that every American has the
opportunity to pursue their goals and achieve their dreams.
Finally, I would like to thank all of my colleagues across
the federal government for their support on this important issue. I look
forward to continuing to work with all of you.