During his Wednesday night speech at the Democratic National Convention, Bill Clinton forcefully drew attention to a 2010 student loan reform President Obama signed into law, which the GOP platform calls for a repeal.
Young voters turned out in droves in 2008 to the party's benefit. Early in the speech, he told them Obama deserved their continued support.
"You need to tell every voter where you live about this," Clinton told the crowd between rounds of applause.
Obama's 2010 student loan reform "lowers the cost of federal student loans," Clinton said. "And even more important, it give students the right to repay those loans as a clear, fixed, low percentage of their income for up to 20 years." He said the package restructures federal student loans, so students wouldn't drop out for fear they can’t repay their debt to the government.
The Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act was tacked on to the health care reform law, and expanded federal direct loans and Pell Grant funding, while eliminating a program which backed private banks' education loans. Essentially, banks were cut out as middlemen and students were allowed to borrow more at a lower cost directly from the government. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office said net savings could amount to $62 billion in 10 years.
The Obama administration also enacted an income-based repayment option for federal loans.
"And it means that if someone wants to take a job with a modest income, a teacher, a police officer, if they want to be a small-town doctor in a little rural area, they won’t have to turn those jobs down because they don’t pay enough to repay they debt," Clinton said. "Their debt obligation will be determined by their salary. This will change the future for young America."
Some four-year public universities now cost nearly $16,000 to attend -- a bill that doesn't include room and board, food or the cost of textbooks. The percentage of young people with four-year college degrees has gone down, and the U.S. has dropped to 16th in the world rather than making progress towards Obama's goal of being the global leader by 2020.
The lines between the two parties when it comes to dealing with higher education could hardly be clearer.
The Democratic party platform, for example, highlights increasing Pell Grant awards and Obama’s student loan reform efforts while calling for more financial aid support, a Race to the Top-styled program to encourage colleges to bring costs down and denounces for-profit colleges.
The Republican party platform differs significantly and calls for a complete end of federal student loans, which comprise 85 percent of the student loan market. Republicans have repeatedly called the 2010 reform a "government takeover" of the student loan industry, which is not true, according to fact checkers.
Republicans insist a greater diversity of loan choices will result in a higher degree of college scrutiny from students and a realistic approach to borrowing. The GOP mention little about college accessibility, and presidential nominee Mitt Romney has encouraged students wishing to borrow from their parents or shop for the best deals.
"I don’t know about you," Clinton said, "but on all these issues, I know we’re better off because President Obama made the decisions he did."