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Administration Makes Economic Case for College

As tuition rises and more students go into debt for college, the government came out with a report yesterday reassuring Americans that the investment in higher education is economically worth it.

Also on Thursday at the White House, President Barack Obama pushed for college affordability urging Congress once again to keep interest rates on federal student loans from doubling by July 1.

"There's still 10 days for Congress to do the right thing," Obama said in his remarks at a gathering of college students in the East Room. "I understand that members of both parties say they want to get this done, and there are conversations taking place, but they haven't done it yet. And we've got to keep the pressure on."

The interest rate on federally subsidized Stafford loans for undergraduate and graduate students is slated to go from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent unless Congress takes action. Nearly 44 percent of all Stafford loans are subsidized, so students do not pay interest while in school.

Surrounded by students, the president acknowledged their work shining the light on the student-loan issue and rallying on campuses. "Don't stop until it's actually done. There is nothing more powerful than millions of voices that are calling for change, and all of your voices can make a difference," he said. "So keep telling Congress to do what's right, to get this done."

The new report, from the Department of Treasury, reinforced the administration's call to get more Americans to complete college as a means to enter the middle class and succeed. The report highlights the evidence that education raises earnings—and the earnings gap is the highest it has ever been. Median weekly earnings for a full-time, full-year bachelor's degree holder in 2011 was 64 percent higher than those for a high school graduate.

A college education gives Americans a better chance of economic mobility, as well. Without a degree, children born to parents in the bottom income bracket have a 45 percent chance of remaining there as adults while those with a degree have less than a 20 percent chance of staying in the bottom sector of income, according to the Treasury report.

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