President Barack Obama signed the Student Aid Bill of Rights, a memorandum that directs several government agencies through 19 new executive actions that aim to further protect student loan borrowers, Tuesday morning.
The bill of rights includes four articles that focus on accessibility of higher education, with regards to attaining affordable loans, adequate resources to fund their education and a right to help from the government in paying back that student debt.
More than 40 million Americans have student loan debt and more than 70 percent of students in the United States graduate with debt averaging $28,400 at public institutions, according to the document.
In a speech Tuesday at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Obama explained the motivations behind the new executive actions at an appearance at Georgia Tech University later that day.
“Jobs and businesses will go wherever the best workers are,” Obama said. “And I don’t want them to have to look any further than the United States of America. I want businesses investing here. I want Americans getting those new jobs. That’s how we’re going to lead the world in this century just like we did in the 20th century.”
The first executive action calls for the Secretary of Education to implement a simplified complaint system for student borrowers by July 1, 2016.
Additionally, the act calls for more government help so students can meet their monthly payments through a series of reforms within the Department of Treasury.
The act also urges the Department of Education to look for innovative ways to address the student loan repayment process with increased research on the issue.
During his speech, the president also alluded to his recent initiative to make the first two years of community college free.
“I believe that America is not a place where higher education is a privilege that is reserved for the few,” Obama said. “America needs to be a place where higher education has to be available for every single person who’s willing to strive for it, who’s willing to work for it.”
The Student Aid Bill of Rights comes after several other recent initiatives from the president regarding increased accessibility to higher education, including raising maximums for Pell Grants, the creation of the American Opportunity Tax Credit and income-based repayment systems for student loans.
Obama acknowledged that the Student Aid Bill of Rights may not entirely solve issues surrounding student debt, but said he hopes it is a step in the right direction.
“So we’re trying to tackle this problem from every angle,” Obama said. “There’s no silver bullet. But we’re trying to make sure that across the board, more and more young people can afford to go to college, and then afterwards, aren’t so burdened with debt that you can’t do anything else. We want to make this experience more affordable because you’re not just investing in yourselves, you’re investing in your nation.”