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The Mass Media

Biden Administration hosts White House Campus Press Briefing

A+student+walks+into+the+One+Stop%2C+located+on+the+Upper+Level+of+the+Campus+Center.+Photo+by+Saichand+Chowdary+%2F+Mass+Media+Staff.
Saichand Chowdary
A student walks into the One Stop, located on the Upper Level of the Campus Center. Photo by Saichand Chowdary / Mass Media Staff.

On Sept. 25, the White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and Communications Director Ben LaBolt, as well as many other White House officials, hosted a campus press briefing via Zoom to discuss matters pertaining to college students and their newspapers, particularly surrounding climate change, student loans and mental health. The Mass Media was one of the newspapers invited to attend this conference. This conference was the first of the 2023-2024 academic year, and discussed the aforementioned topics, while also having time for questions from student journalists around the nation.

The press conference came in the midst of Vice President Kamala Harris’ “Fight For Our Freedom College Tour,” which has primarily focused on visiting and bolstering schools that are historically Black colleges and universities, community colleges, schools with large Hispanic populations, state schools and apprentice schools, according to a White House press release on the tour (1). Vice President Harris visited schools in Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Nevada and Arizona.

As for the press conference, the event began with introductions from LaBolt, Jean-Pierre and Youth Policy Advisor Richard Sweeney, before LaBolt began discussing the first topic, which was student loan debt.

According to the press conference, the Biden administration understands the importance of access to higher education and the need to fix the broken loan system in order to allow as many students as possible access to this education. Because of this, the Biden administration has implemented multiple avenues for students to receive loans. The first was dedicating $40 billion to colleges and universities via the American Rescue Plan and implementing the largest increase to Pell Grants in history. The second came with the implementation of the Saving on a Valuable Education plan, an income-based loan repayment plan that builds on existing foundations.

The SAVE plan takes into consideration income, family size and time spent on payment in order to decrease the amount of money many borrowers will spend. According to the press conference, the SAVE plan will also forgive loans after a certain number of years, allowing borrowers to focus their money elsewhere. Many borrowers will save around $1,000 per year, while some will have their monthly payments cut entirely, according to a White House press release on the loan plan. (2) Those who have an annual income of less than $30,000 a year will have their payments reduced to zero until they can bring their income above $30,000.

Following the briefing on student loans, the conference moved on to discuss climate change. Within this brief, three main points were discussed, all covering different aspects of climate change and preservation. The first was the passing of the Inflation Reduction Act in August 2022, which was one of the largest climate initiatives in history. This act marks the transition toward renewable energy, as the IRA plans to reduce carbon emissions and fossil fuel usage across the country and focus energy funding into clean electricity, according to the Department of Energy. (3)

This comes with the announcement of the American Climate Corps., an organization that will provide skill-based jobs to young people and teach them resources like conserving and restoring lands and waters, deploying clean energy and advancing environmental justice, which will pave the way for high-quality, good paying clean energy and climate resilience jobs in public and private sectors following their paid training period, according to a White House press release on the initiative. (4)

The Biden administration also has created an initiative to create more green and blue spaces, parks and national parks in order to better beautify the nation. The initiative will allow better access to parks and green and blue spaces to all people, as over 100 million people do not have access to a park within ten minutes of their homes, according to a White House press release on the subject. (5) It is also theorized that this initiative will offset climate change-based natural disasters, such as extreme heat and flooding.

The final portion of the briefing before the Question and Answer section was dedicated to mental health. The Biden administration is putting a focus on destigmatizing access to mental health, with $95 million in grants being given to 35 states in order to place better mental health professionals in schools, as stated in a press release on the mental health plan. (6) The Biden administration also plans to require mental health be as accessible as physical health, with the goal being that those seeking out mental health care will not have to spend months in a queue in order to seek care. The administration will also be investing $200 million into strengthening 988, the new Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.

Following the section on mental health, the press conference opened to a short Question and Answer portion, where student journalists asked pre-approved questions on debt relief, incentives for those attending community colleges and the plan to fight climate change following the Supreme Court ruling against the Environmental Protection Agency. The questions about debt relief and community college were answered by Deputy Director for the National Economic Council Bharat Ramamurti, while the climate change question was answered by Associate Communications Director Maria Michalos.

For more information on the press conference, as well as future plans from the Biden administration, scan this QR to read the press statement (replace with visit and link on website).

https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2023/09/14/fact-sheet-president-biden-and-vice-president-harris-are-delivering-for-young-americans/

  1. https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2023/09/07/vice-president-harris-launches-nationwide-fight-for-our-freedoms-college-tour-to-mobilize-students-and-young-people-in-the-fight-for-their-rights/
  2. https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2023/08/22/fact-sheet-the-biden-harris-administration-launches-the-save-plan-the-most-affordable-student-loan-repayment-plan-ever-to-lower-monthly-payments-for-millions-of-borrowers/
  3. https://www.energy.gov/lpo/inflation-reduction-act-2022
  4. https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2023/09/20/fact-sheet-biden-harris-administration-launches-american-climate-corps-to-train-young-people-in-clean-energy-conservation-and-climate-resilience-skills-create-good-paying-jobs-and-tackle-the-clima/
  5. https://www.whitehouse.gov/ceq/news-updates/2022/09/23/fact-sheet-biden-%E2%81%A0harris-administration-advances-commitment-to-create-more-equitable-access-to-parks-and-nature-in-communities/
  6. https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2023/05/18/fact-sheet-biden-harris-administration-announces-new-actions-to-tackle-nations-mental-health-crisis/
About the Contributor
Katrina Sanville, Editor-In-Chief