Tumblr goes to the White House

Special+to+The+Prospector

Special to The Prospector

Lorain Watters, Editor-in-chief

President Barack Obama was invited to participate in a Q&A with Tumblr, a microblogging platform and social networking website founded by David Karp in 2007, about higher education—a first for the president and Tumblr community.

Students around the country were able to submit their questions regarding student loans, debt or life choices after high school to whitehouse.tumblr.com for a chance of having the president answer them directly.

“We are trying to work with every college university and community college, to, ideally, before accepting admission, you are given a sense of what your annual loans might be, financial packages in terms of debt for getting a four-year degree, and monthly payments,” Obama said.

On June 9, Obama signed by executive action income-based repayments for students who have taken out any loans after 2011.

“Repayments of loans will be capped at 10 percent of income. It allows for flexibility and it will be manageable for each month so income is not constrained. Over time, the debt could be forgiven,” Obama said.

According to Obama, obtaining a liberal arts or humanities education is still important in today’s society, but since our world is technology-driven, students should seek out the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the science, technology, engineering and mathematics field.

“Just to be a good citizen, you need some background in STEM. We are not producing enough engineers, researchers or math teachers. We have a shortage, but I’m not privileging one or another,” Obama said. “We are working with public schools to take away some of the intimidation of STEM. We are looking at demographics for who pursues STEM fields and we want to work with schools in terms of the best practices.”

According to whitehouse.gov, women in the STEM field earn 33 percent more than those who are not pursuing careers in STEM. However, a 2011 report done by the U.S. Department of Commerce reveals that only one in seven women pursue a career that is STEM-related.

“You are going to do best at something you care deeply about, but sometimes you need to do something practical to pay the bills,” Obama said.

U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass) will propose a new bill Wednesday, June 11 that will allow students to refinance their existing loans at lower rates.
Obama said that this will not add to the already existing deficit in the nation.

The Q&A then shifted when a student from the University of California in Santa Barbara asked Obama about gun violence.

After this morning’s shooting at Reynolds High School in Troutdale, Oregon, Obama experienced discomfort and expressed his disdain about the continuing problem of gun violence in schools.

“My biggest frustration so far is that this society has not taken the steps to take guns out of the hands of those who can do unbelievable damage. We’re the only developed country in the world who still does this, and it is happening once a week,” he said. “Our levels of gun violence are off the charts. No other developed country would put up with this. We’re a little different since we have the second amendment. I respect gun rights, but if we can’t get background checks on these people it makes no sense.”

The discussion ultimately ended with curiosity about Obama’s plans after his presidency, and while he wishes to drink out of coconuts on a beach, he still wants to help the youth of this generation.

“We (Michelle and Barack Obama) want to create more institutions to promote young leadership. Look out on the horizon, there is a lot of opportunity there,” Obama said. “I want to help young people fight cynicism after my presidency.”

For more information on higher education, visit whitehouse.gov.

Lorain Watters may be reached at [email protected]