Obama champions indebted students


U.S. President Barack Obama put the plight of debt-laden students at the center of his party’s upcoming battles with the Republicans on Thursday, and his own effort to champion the middle class.

Riding in a shiny armored bus, Obama set off on a two-day tour of gritty upstate New York and Pennsylvania, trumpeting the economic themes that helped him win re-election last year.

He announced what his aides billed as an “ambitious” plan to tackle the often astronomical costs of college tuition, which is outpacing many families’ budgets.

He proposed measuring college performance through a new rating system that would help prospective students decide which schools provide the best value.

He also called on Congress to tie federal student financial aid to the colleges that provide the best bang for the buck.

The ratings, which Obama wants to be in place for the 2015 school year, would calculate criteria including access, affordability, the amount of loan debt, graduation rates and graduate earnings.

The U.S. Federal Reserve has estimated that there is nearly $1 trillion worth of outstanding college debt across the United States.

In 2011, the average amount of student loan debt for each graduate was $23,000.