Education
              FILE - In a Dec. 31, 2012, file photo President Barack Obama pauses as he speaks   in the South Court Auditorium at the White House in Washington.  When President Barack Obama speaks at the University at Buffalo Thursday Aug. 22, 2013, about making college more affordable, supporters of an innovative scholarship program are hoping for a plug.   (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, file)

It’s personal: Obamas carried $120,000 student loan debt for decades

Photo of Robby Soave
Robby Soave
Reporter

For President Obama, the student loan crisis is personal.

The Obamas had not repaid all of their $120,000 student loan debts until his election to the Senate in 2004.

In a series of speeches last week, Obama pushed for measures that he hopes would force colleges to control costs for massively indebted students. He also expressed the view that law school should only last two years, rather than three.

These views are likely informed by Obama’s own college debts, which were recently quantified by The Chicago Sun-Times.

Though Obama received a scholarship to attend Occidental College, the money ran out after his freshman year. He paid the rest of his undergraduate tuition through loans and assistance from his family.

Michelle Obama took out loans to pay for college at Princeton University and Harvard University as well. The Obamas carried these debts for the first 25 years of their marriage.

The president and the first lady also racked up $40,000 each attending Harvard Law School. Including undergraduate loans, the Obamas owed a combined $120,000 after college.

They did not settle their debts until 2004, when Obama signed a $1.9 million book deal to write “The Audacity of Hope.” He was also elected to the U.S. Senate that year.

Cumulative outstanding student loan debt now totals $1 trillion — something that many higher education analysts consider unsustainable. Still, legislators fixed interest rates on student loans to financial markets over the summer, which will keep them low and incentivize borrowing for at least a few years. (RELATED: Expert: Student loan deal ‘basically self-defeating’)

One of Obama’s oft-touted proposals would forgive loan debt if graduates instead repaid a portion of their income for a long enough period of time.

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