From the Chronicle of Higher Education:
Lenders “have mobilized an army of lobbyists,” he said in a speech that was introduced by Stephanie Stevenson, a financially struggling college student. “They are gearing up for battle. … So am I.”
“And for those who care about our future,” he added, “this is a battle we can’t lose.”
In terms of timing, the Chronicle also reported that we could be nearing the end game (or not):
His remarks came as Congress put the finishing touches on a compromise budget blueprint that could ease passage of the president’s plan — or complicate it. If negotiators agree to the House of Representatives’ version of the measure, and include budget-cutting “reconciliation” instructions to the education committee, the plan could sail through Congress. If they don’t, it will need greater support to pass and could face a filibuster in the Senate.
Congress could vote on the budget as early as next week.
The AP reported this earlier today about the prospects for the Administration's student loan plan:
The fast-track process would limit the Republicans' ability to get concessions and give Democrats far more control over the specifics of the health care legislation. Obama's plan to cut private banks and other lending institutions out of the market for student loans would also move on a filibuster-free path.
Bloomberg also cited sources that Democrats had reached a tentative agreement to use the reconciliation to ensure passage of their student loan plan:
The agreement calls for the same procedure, known as reconciliation, to be used to try to pass Obama’s proposal to cut federal subsidies to private providers of student loans, the aides said today.
After reading the transcript of his speech, Obama basically highlighted the Education agenda that his administration has put forward and then closed with his:
Right now, there are two main kinds of federal loans. First, there are Direct Loans. These are loans where tax dollars go directly to help students pay for tuition, not to pad the profits of private lenders. The other kinds of loans are Federal Family Education Loans. These loans, known as FFEL loans, make up the majority of all college loans. Under the FFEL program, lenders get a big government subsidy with every loan they make. And these loans are then guaranteed with taxpayer money, which means that if a student defaults, a lender can get back almost all of its money from our government.
And there's only one real difference between Direct Loans and private FFEL loans. It's that under the FFEL program, taxpayers are paying banks a premium to act as middlemen -- a premium that costs the American people billions of dollars each year. Well, that's a premium we cannot afford -- not when we could be reinvesting that same money in our students, in our economy, and in our country.
And that's why I've called for ending the FFEL program and shifting entirely over to Direct Loans. It's a step that even a conservative estimate predicts will save tens of billions of tax dollars over the next ten years. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the money we could save by cutting out the middleman would pay for 95 percent of our plan to guarantee growing Pell Grants. This would help ensure that every American, everywhere in this country, can out-compete any worker, anywhere in the world.
In the end, this is not about growing the size of government or relying on the free market -- because it's not a free market when we have a student loan system that's rigged to reward private lenders without any risk. It's about whether we want to give tens of billions of tax dollars to special interests or whether we want to make college more affordable for eight and a half million more students. I think most of us would agree on what the right answer is.
Now, some of you have probably seen how this proposal was greeted by the special interests. The banks and the lenders who have reaped a windfall from these subsidies have mobilized an army of lobbyists to try to keep things the way they are. They are gearing up for battle. So am I. They will fight for their special interests. I will fight for Stephanie, and other American students and their families. And for those who care about America's future, this is a battle we can't afford to lose.
So I am looking forward to having this debate in the days and weeks ahead. And I am confident that if all of us here in Washington do what's in the best interests of the people we represent, and reinvest not only in opening the doors of college but making sure students can walk through them, then we will help deliver the change that the American people sent us here to make. We will help Americans fulfill their promise as individuals. And we will help America fulfill its promise as a nation.