Fw: Travel Pool Report 2

----- Original Message -----
From: Andrew BEATTY [mailto:xxx@email.com]
Sent: Monday, September 14, 2015 01:34 PM
To: Barnes, Desiree N. EOP
Subject: Travel Pool Report 2

Air Force One landed at a military section of Des Moines International Airport at around 1:27 CT.

Of note, the White House Rep Bobby Scott was on board the plane.

During the roughly two hour flight Press Secretary Josh Earnest took questions. Here are a few highlights.

2016: Answering a questions about why the president chose to go to Des Moines during the primary campaign season, Earnest referenced  Secretary Arne Duncan's annual "Back-to-School bus tour" but went on to say: "The President would really like to see a robust debate in the context of the 2016 campaign about what we can do to strengthen our economy and open up a college education to more middle class students."

"This is going to be critically important to the long term success of our country and our economy. It would be good for the country for there to be a robust debate among the candidates on this issue. We would welcome a variety of candidates putting forward a variety of ideas about what we can do to make college more affordable."

He said POTUS would encourage Republicans and Democrats alike to come forward with their plans for making college more affordable.

EDUCATION - Earnest went through some of the education initiatives that POTUS has taken since coming to office including, expanding Pell Grants, tax credits, cutting interest rates on student loans and allowing borrowers to cap loan payments at 10% of income.

Earnest touched on measures designed to simplify the Federal student aid application  "students today on average fill out the FAFSA in about 20 minutes, only one third of the time it took seven years ago."

Today, Earnest said, Obama would announce new steps to allow prospective students to apply for aid earlier "beginning in 2016 students and their families will be able to fill out the FAFSA in October, at the same time that they are beginning to apply to college, rather than in January."

"Learning about their aid options much earlier in the college applications selection process will allow families to calculate the true cost of attending college and make even better decisions."

CHINA - Earnest would not be drawn on whether there would be measures taken regarding cybersecurity before Xi Jinping's visit next week. He said National Security Advisor Susan Rice and others had a "pretty candid exchange of views" with some of their Chinese counterparts over the weekend (see readout from NSC). "We've been pretty blunt in describing the concerns that we have with China's behavior in cyberspace," Earnest said.

"We certainly were pleased to have the opportunity to have that discussion with the Chinese, and I would anticipate that discussion will continue when the president has the opportunity to meet with his counterpart."

SYRIA - Earnest said that US officials were in still in touch with counterparts in Europe and elsewhere to discuss measures to respond to the humanitarian crisis. "This is a genuine human tragedy," he said. Blame was laid on the "failed political leadership" of Bashar Al-Assad.

There was no new take on what Russia is doing in Syria, but he reiterated that the interests of Russia are "not in complete" conflict with the rest of the international community, particularly when it comes to tackling the Islamic State group.

He said that if Russia decides to act unilaterally in support of Assad they face further international isolation.

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