College Students Discuss Higher Education Affordability with Secretary Duncan

Secretary Duncan and Undersecretary Kanter talk with StudentsStudents are a crucial voice in education, particularly when it comes to policy debates. To continue its transparency efforts and ensure students have a seat at the table, the Obama Administration has engaged youth, parents, and higher education leaders regarding college affordability and accessibility through roundtables, forums and Secretary Duncan’s Student Voices Series.

Secretary Arne Duncan and Under Secretary Martha Kanter heard directly from college students and youth leaders from the United States Student Association during the most recent Student Voices Series.

Students shared stories on how the Pell Grant and TRIO programs have positively impacted their lives. “Without these programs, I would have not been able to continue my college education and graduate with a degree,” said one youth. Since President Obama took office the maximum award increasing more than $900 dollars and the number of students relying on Pell Grants to pay for college has risen by more than 50 percent.

After hearing from the students, Kanter told them “there are not enough real stories about students who are benefiting from programs that help them manage their educational debt. These stories could help others become aware of opportunities that they may also be able to benefit from.”

”The Obama Administration has made an unprecedented commitment to improve college access and completion for millions of American families,” Secretary Duncan said. The expanded income-based repayment program (IBR) and the new Pay as You Earn plan will help students better manage their debt, and the American Opportunity Tax Credit has lowered the cost of attendance for 9.4 million students and families annually. In addition, the FAFSA or Free Application for Federal Student Aid has also been simplified in order to make federal financial aid more accessible to students. And click here to read President Obama’s blueprint for college affordability.

Secretary Duncan told students their input is important and requested feedback from the youth on the new website, which outlines many programs to help Americans with educational debt.

Do you have a story of how the Pell grant, IBR or a TRIO program has helped you? If so, we would love to hear it.

Robert Gomez is a higher education and youth liaison in the Office of Communications and Outreach


  1. Dear Mr. Duncan, College will not be affordable if this is happening to other parents! Who can we please turn to help us straighten out what we find are very concerning errors in 2 of the loans we took out 10 years ago on our first two of our 4 children to attend college?
    These errors started when the government took over the direct parent loans in January 2012. It showed a very large increase in the two oldest loans which should almost be payed off. My husband and I have followed protocol. We called with our questions about the sudden large increases in two of our early loans, mail certified letters with supporting documents about our questions, we requested supervisory intervention with an explanation or meeting and yet we have only received paperwork twice reiterating the error but NO EXPLANATIONS!
    Now our loans have jump up again, more than our mortgage because we followed the recommendation of the phone agent that we take a month in forbearance to straighten out the errors. The errors remain and now we have interest on the forbearance.
    We started back on automatic payment again but the errors still stand and now our account with the government shows we are delinquent when in fact the bank statement clearly shows the automatic withdrawals to the government for the loans. We phoned again hoping to straighten out this new mess and still 30 days latter no reversal of our account, no supervisor, no real solution. We need help! This will ruin us financially unless someone can take this case and personally guarantee resolution. I turned to you because you value education so much and I feel you know the hardships we made to get these kids through school. Also I have tried to find a listing of supervisors in Direct Loans but there are no individual names to seek out responsible help, just general emails which have gone no where. Please help if you can. Sincerely, Ellen Moran Evergreen Park Il.

    • Ellen,

      Thank you for your comment, we know that this is a complicated process, but we recommend that you contact Juanita Ford, Escalated issues branch manager, to discuss your case. She can be reached at (312) 730-1462. Also, here is some information on how to dispute a loan.

      Cameron Brenchley
      Office of Communications and Outreach

  2. Should those who have been helped by IBR also include information on their total balance? Does the Department of Education make this easily available? If possible, borrowers should really weigh the “help” of lower monthly payments with the overall costs of the loan, but this information does not seem to be readily availabile

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