In the second day of a two-day, cross-country swing to urge Republicans and Democrats to work together to keep college costs from rising, Obama told his audience he is ready to work with Congress to head off a doubling of loan rates scheduled to occur July 1.
Obama's remarks largely were a rerun of those he made Tuesday at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and at the University of Colorado in Boulder, when he told the crowds he just finished paying off his own student loans eight years ago.
"Now, the good news is, the Senate introduced a bill last night that would keep student loan rates from doubling. That's the good news. And what's also good news is some Republican senators look like they might support it," Obama said.
"But I've got to tell you, the Republicans who run the House of Representatives have not yet said whether or not they'll stop your rates from doubling," he said. "And they've hinted that the only way they'd do it is if they cut things like aid for low-income students. So let me scratch my head there for a second. Think about that. We're going to help some students by messing with other students. That's not a good answer."
Obama took a poke at Republicans who have accused him of pushing the student loan issue to distract from the economy.
"What economy are they talking about?" Obama asked. "You are the economy. If you've got skills, if you've got talents, if you're starting a business, if companies are locating here in Iowa because it's got a well-trained workforce, that's the economy. That's how we're going to compete. Making sure our next generation earns the best education possible is exactly America's business. Making sure that education is available to everybody and not just the few -- that is America's business. Our future depends on it."
He ridiculed a remark by Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., who is running for the state's Republican U.S. Senate nomination. Obama did not mention Akin's name but referred to a remark Akin made Saturday at a candidates' debate in explaining why the government should not offer student loans.
"America has got the equivalent of the stage-three cancer of socialism because the federal government is tampering in all kinds of stuff it has no business tampering in," Akin said.
"Stage-three cancer?" the president said Wednesday as the audience of students laughed. "I don't know where to start. What do you mean? What are you talking about? Come on. Just when you think you've heard it all in Washington, somebody comes up with a new way to go off the deep end."