From NBC/NJ's Aswini Anburajan
Edinburg, TX -- In a move to woo Latino voters, especially under 30, Obama held a roundtable on college affordability and a rally at the University of Texas Pan American here in South Texas today.
Sitting on a high stool surrounded by about 25 students and about a dozen cameras, Obama went through the broad parts of his education plan, which includes a $4,000 tuition tax credit for students per year of college in exchange for 100 hours of community service per year.
It's the campaign's hope that by stressing issues of concern to young people that they can appeal to younger Latinos. An Obama aide told reporters that Latinos in Texas are younger than those in other parts of the country and -- potentially -- more open to Obama's candidacy.
Referencing his days of being a college professor, Obama warned the students that he would start calling people if they didn't volunteer to speak up. He also, as he does often in these situations, invoked his own personal story and that of his wife's saying that they were paying off their student loans until recently.
"Michelle and I are very sensitive to the fact that the only reason we are where we are today is because we got an education. There were kids who were smarter than us more talented than us but they didn't have the choice that we did."
The discussion was livelier than most town halls, and students veered the discussion away from Obama's plans to a sticking point among many college students: loans are often determined by the federal government and higher education organizations based on parental income without proper consideration given to a family's situation or if students are living on their own.
Obama confessed ignorance on the issue of how loans are determined, saying that it would depend on if parents were claiming educating their children as a tax deduction.
But throwing a populist pitch into the fray he said, "The [current] model is built around a bunch of co-eds on Ivy League campuses." He refrained from mentioning that at one point he was one, too.
But while much of the criticism focused on obtaining loans, interest rates, and the need for more government aid, Obama made only a mention of how tuition and fee increases by universities have helped to ramp up student debt.
"I taught law at the University of Chicago for ten years and law profs write their own texts and assign it to their students and they make a big mint. It's a huge racket. We have to keep costs down, fees down, and students should lower their expectations," he said.
He also warned students that they didn't need to stay in school forever. "I don't want you staying in there for 20 years," he joked about the possibility of government funding.
And emphasizing skilled trades, he added that he didn't think "everyone needs a PhD."
"Be careful about those credit cards. Don't eat out as much, eat in," he said.
He ended the event with the plea, "Remember early voting. But I won't tell you who to vote for."