Vice President talks to Norfolk students about college affordability

Posted at 12:27 PM, Apr 03, 2012
and last updated 2012-04-03 12:40:56-04

NORFOLK, Va. (WTVR) - You don't have to ask many college students if their education is hard to pay for.

According to financial experts at CNN, the average public college takes nearly a third of the annual income of a typical family with college-aged kids.

Vice President Joe Biden is in Norfolk today, talking to students at Maury High School about ways the Obama administration is trying to make college more affordable.  Norfolk is a Navy town, and the vice president told the students and parents there today that many military families are the same as others finding it hard to pay the average $22,000 a year price for tuition, room and board, fees and books for the average public college.

In a packed auditorium, Biden told the young crowd that the Obama administration is trying to make it easier for them to afford a higher education after they graduate this year.  He said they've done three things to help families:

  • Increase tax credits for each child in a household.
  • Put more money into Pell grants.
  • Reduced the amount students have to pay back on a student loan each year.

There is speculation that this is also a campaign trip of sorts for the Democrats, eyeing Virginia and swing state voters.  Some of that speculation is being fueled by the fact that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is also in Norfolk visiting the NATO headquarters there and speaking at a banquet tonight.

For Biden, the talk was all about college.  He said the way to help families of all financial status pay for it is to get the economy back on track for the middle class.

"When the middle class is not growing, everybody suffers,” Biden told the students at Maury High School. “The wealthy (and)  the poor.  It is the backbone of America.  And the thing that's the most critical portion for middle class people... Do you know anybody, rich or poor who doesn't dream about sending their kids to college?"

This won't be the last high-profile democratic visitor to Virginia over the next few months.  First Lady Michelle Obama will address graduates at Virginia Tech in May.

We contacted the Republican Party of Virginia to get their response to the vice president's comments on college affordability.   Chairman Pat Mullins said in a release, “College students don't want more empty platitudes like hope and change.  They want what every American wants: a job.”  The RPV says unemployment for college grads is too high.