Tallahassee, Florida - Vice President Joe Biden traveled to Florida Monday to make the case for a new proposal aiming to make a college education more affordable. He outlined the proposal to students and faculty at Florida State University.
The vice president said tuition at public universities nationwide has increased nearly 300 percent over the past 20 years and student debt has soared at the same time.
The average college student in Florida graduates with $20,000 in debt. That's actually less than the national average of $25,000.
Biden says the Obama administration wants to reward universities that keep tuition affordable. The proposal would shift billions of dollars in federal cash to schools that rein in tuition hikes.
He responded to critics who say the government cannot afford the proposal.
"The question is not whether or not we can afford these initiatives. The question is how could we do anything other than push these initiatives. Ladies and gentlemen, there's nothing more important to our national interest than for us to have the single best educated population in the world."
Biden said a generation ago the United States had a higher percentage of the population graduating from college than any nation in the world. He said the U.S. ranks 16th today.
"The single most significant thing we can do is have the best educated population in the world. It literally is the thing, the key that leads to everything else form our economic security to our physical security."
Biden said the inability to afford college also has an impact on parents who struggle to find a way to pay for it. The vice president recalled his own father's anguish when he went to the bank to get a loan for young Joe Biden's college education and was turned down.
"And I said, 'Dad, what happened?' He said, 'Honey, I went to the Farmer's Bank today,' that was the state bank, and he said, 'I asked if I could borrow some money to get you to college. And they turned me down.' He said, 'I don't know what I'm going to do.' He said, 'I'm so ashamed. I'm so ashamed.'"
Biden did go on toearn a bachelor's degree from the University of Delaware and a law degree from Syracuse University.
Hedisputes the notion that the administration wants to scale back college aid, such as Pell grants, for students who attend schools that hike tuition.
"We're not going to go out there and go after the aid we give you. We're not going to say unless a university keeps tuition from escalating well beyond inflation that you can't use your college aid to go to that school."
Biden said anyone who thinks a college education is not worth the cost anymore should consider this: 62 percent of all jobs created in the next decade will require a degree beyond high school.
Plus, he said, someone with a bachelor's degree can expect to make $20,000 more a year than a person with a high school degree. The college grad also has half the chance of ending up on unemployment.
The Florida Legislature is moving to raise tuition eight percent next year at state universities. They would have the option to seek tuition increases of up to 15 percent.
Republicans dismiss the administration's tuition proposal, saying President Obama has failed to make college more affordable for Florida's students over the past three years and college costs are at all-time high.