President Obama has signed legislation revising the health-care reform law he signed last week, and ending the long, contentious process of revamping the nation's health-insurance system. The bill also reforms the nation's college tuition lending program.
Some Democrats in the House of Representatives had insisted on the changes as a condition for supporting the legislation. The bill passed with no Republican votes.
The bill signing took place at a community college near Washington, where the president emphasized his plans for upgrading American higher education.
"With the bill I signed last week, we finally undertook meaningful reform of our health care system," he said. "With this bill and other steps we have pursued over the past year, we are finally undertaking meaningful reform of our higher education system. So this week, we can rightly say the foundation on which American's future will be built is stronger than it was one year ago," said the president.
The education portion of the law makes the U.S. government a direct lender for college tuition, ending subsidies to banks and other private companies for administering guaranteed student loans.
"For almost two decades we have been trying to fix a sweetheart deal in federal law that essentially gave billions of dollars to banks to act as unnecessary middlemen in administering student loans," the president said.
Mr. Obama says this change in the law will save $68 billion over 11 years. He says the money saved will be invested in community colleges and universities that serve mainly ethnic minorities, and strengthen a federal student grant program.
"We need to invest that money in our students. We need to invest in our community colleges," he said. "We need to invest in the future of this country. We need to meet the goal I set last year-and graduate more of our students than any other nation by the year 2020," said President Obama.
The legislation also limits annual student-loan repayments to 10 percent of a student's income, starting in 2014. The president says the average U.S. student finishes college with more than $23,000 in debt.
Republicans are opposed to the student-loan reforms, saying they, like the health-care changes, would be an unnecessary government takeover of a private industry.