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Obama signs healthcare, education reform

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Obama signs healthcare, education reform
U.S. President Barack Obama walks from Air Force One at Andrews Air Force base upon his return to Washington March 29, 2010 after an unannounced trip to Afghanistan. UPI/Yuri Gripas/POOL | License Photo

ALEXANDRIA, Va., March 30 (UPI) -- Laws reforming the U.S healthcare system and higher education mark "two major victories" for Americans now and in the future, President Barack Obama said.

Obama signed into law a bill containing both fixes to the new healthcare reform law and reforms to higher education he said would "ease tuition burdens" of students and their families.

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"Today we mark an important milestone in health insurance reform and higher education reform," Obama told an audience at Northern Virginia Community College in Alexandria, Va., Tuesday "(This) day affirms our ability to overcome politics to meet the challenges of our times."

Passage of healthcare education reforms represents "two major victories in one week that will improve the lives of Americans for generations to come," the president said.

Obama outlined some of the changes to healthcare reform the sidecar legislation addresses, including tax credits for small businesses and individuals needing assistance to buy health insurance, providing relief from the so-called "doughnut hole" seniors experience when buying Medicare prescription drugs and helping erect community health centers.

Healthcare reform may have garnered the headlines, but "what's gotten overlooked ... is what happened in education," Obama said.

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He said the new law fixes a 20-year-old "sweetheart deal" in which the federal government gave money to financial institutions to act as middlemen for student loans.

"Together we finally won that battle," Obama said. "The success of every American hinges more than ever on their education."

Obama said the education reform will save an estimated $68 billion over 10 years. He said portions of the savings will be used to fund the popular federal Pell grants and upgrade the nation's community college system.

The education reform measure also changes the way students repay their loans, lowering the amount to be repaid to 10 percent of a graduate's income by 2014, down from the current 15 percent. It also would cap the loan at 20 years if borrowers make their monthly payments. The loan lifetime would cap at 10 years if the borrower works in a public service field.

Obama said the new foundation for the nation's economy and future is healthcare and education.

"With this bill ... we are finally undertaking meaningful reform in our higher education system," he said. " So this week, we can rightly say the foundation on which America's future will be built is stronger than it was one year ago."

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