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Discussing debt with the president
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Before President Barack Obama delivered his speech at the University of Iowa Field House on Wednesday afternoon, he met with a small group of students at the Iowa Memorial Union to discuss financial aid issues and hear their personal stories. Iowa Now asked three of those students to share their accounts of the experience.
Junior finance major from Eldridge, Iowa
After being searched by the Secret Service, we were all sitting around the table while a German shepherd roamed the room searching for anything out of place. Then, everyone at the table suddenly went silent, and the faces of everyone facing me went blank. I turned around and, sure enough, standing there was the president of the United States.
We nervously introduced ourselves, and then we each told him our financial situation and how we have been paying for our college education. He was so calm and made everyone at the table feel relaxed. It honestly seemed like he was just an old next-door neighbor we were catching up with.
President Obama meets with (from left) Martin Lopez, Blake Anderson, Marissa Boles, Myranda Burnett, and Jordan Garrison-Nickerson prior to his speech on college affordability. Photo by Brian Ray.
The president sincerely cared about each of the five students and was attentive to each person when he or she was speaking. I thought it was amazing that he already knew quite a few things about us. He let us know he had read our portfolios in the car ride over, so he already had a picture for who each of us were and what we were about. Before I told him my financial situation, he already knew my name, hometown, and where my parents moved to last summer. I have a tremendous amount of respect for President Obama, not only for the position he is in and the responsibility he holds, but because after meeting him, I can confidently say he is truly a genuine person.
Sophomore social work major from Nichols, Iowa
My experience meeting President Obama was great. He was very relaxed, which helped a lot in creating a relaxed environment, since I’m sure many of us were nervous.
Right off the bat, I could tell he was interested in hearing our stories about our experiences at the University of Iowa, and about our financial situations with loans that help us fund our education. He was also open to telling us about his experiences with dealing with debt once he had graduated from law school. He stressed the importance of college education. We talked about the struggles our parents have had financially and why they have not been able to help us with our funding for college. President Obama said he wants to help.
Overall, meeting with President Obama was one of the best experiences I’ve had at Iowa. I feel honored to have had such a great opportunity.
Junior therapeutic recreation major from Burlington, Iowa
It was such an honor to meet President Obama. With only four other students and me at the table with him, it was an amazing experience.
The security had us in place at the table before the president arrived, and when they told us he was coming in, we all got quiet, not knowing what to expect. When President Obama walked in, he asked us why we were all so quiet, and immediately he helped us relax.
I think it goes without saying, but he really is such a wonderful speaker. I sat on his left, and after shaking all of our hands, he sat down and turned to me first. We shared our quick introductions, how we are paying for college, and what having our loans means to us. We shared concerns about paying for college, and President Obama shared his and Michelle's story. I shared how I rely solely on scholarships and loans in order to be able to afford schooling, and that I am concerned with the additional money I would owe if the interest rates for the loans were to double. He said he understood, since he and Michelle had just finished paying off their college debt eight years ago.
It was great that we were able to speak with him and hear what he is trying to do to lower the cost of higher education. I think this sort of outreach to the younger generations of college students really is incredible, showing how President Obama cares for the American people, and I am just glad that I could be a part of it.