President Obama is ready to bring his campaign for new budget priorities to Upstate New York. The president launches a two day bus tour across Upstate on Thursday with stops in Buffalo, Syracuse and Binghamton, all focused on the issue of education. YNN's Bill Carey says the message from the chief executive is a call for more investment in education to make higher education more accessible and more affordable.
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- It's a costly proposition. The average cost of attending a four year college has now hit close to $40,000 a year. But for many families, it's a cost they say they cannot avoid.
"I wouldn't have gotten my job if I didn't have a college education," said Lauren Kesterke.
Kesterke graduated last December from the University at Buffalo. It wasn't easy getting there. She needed a scholarship and a combination of loans to pay the bills. Bills that are now coming due.
"Right now, my federal loans are up to about $31,000. And my private loans are at $5,000. And I believe I have another set of private loans that won't be due until next year. That's another $4,000," Kesterke said.
Kesterke may be better off than some others. She was able to land a job quickly. Many of her friends are still searching. And even with a job, she's facing monthly payments of more than $300.
"It's difficult," Kesterke said. "It's hard to think that I'm going to be making these payments for the next ten years. That seems like an awful big commitment that I didn't really think about when I first went to school."
Another challenge? Simply getting to go to college, an option that was often off the table for many families.
Here in New York, both in Buffalo and Syracuse, the "Say Yes" program is in place, offering tuition to students attending SUNY schools and some private partner colleges.
"Maybe being the first student ever to go to college from their family. Maybe they lost a parent. Maybe they encountered some other tragic circumstances. And to see them go through college and then prepare for law school, graduate school, landing their first job. It's pretty remarkable," said Patrick Driscoll, Say Yes Syracuse Director.
It's a program Driscoll says can change lives and communities.
Driscoll said, "Being able to open a door to an opportunity like college, is, again, very significant."
Any steps to open the doors for more young people will cost money. The President, on his travels across New York and Pennsylvania, will argue that in the coming budget debate, cutting spending on education and student aid may, in the short run, save money. But, he will claim, in the long term, it will shortchange the country.