Obama Advocates Student Loan Plan at U. Offering Class on ‘Disney’s Women and Girls’

Fred Lucas | April 26, 2012 | 6:41pm EDT
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President Barack Obama addresses students at the University of Colorado Boulder in Boulder, Colo., on Tuesday, April 24, 2012. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

(CNSNews.com) – President Obama this week advocated his plans for federally subsidized student loans and his desire to keep college costs down at the University of Colorado, a school whose Women and Gender Studies program includes a course on “Disney’s Women and Girls,” and where the full cost for an on-campus in-state student this year was $26,877.

Speaking Tuesday at the Boulder, Colo. campus, one of three college campuses he visited over two days, the president pledged to push for more student financial assistance, to keep up with the increasing cost of college. But he also said colleges must play their part.

“We can’t keep on subsidizing skyrocketing tuition, or we're just going to run out of money,” Obama said. “So what I said to colleges and universities is, you guys have to do your parts to keep costs down. And I've told Congress, steer federal aid to those schools that keep tuition affordable and provide good value and serve their students well.”

“We’ve put colleges on notice,” he continued. “If you can’t show us that you’re making every effort to keep tuition from going up, then funding from taxpayers will go down.”

At the same time, Obama promoted his administration's decision to assume direct control of the federally subsidized student-loan program and called on Congress to act to stop an interest rate increase in student loans.

"Before I took office, we had a student loan system where tens of billions of taxpayer dollars were going to subsidize banks in the student loan program instead of going to students," said Obama. "So we changed it.  We cut out the middleman.  We said, why do we need the banks?  They're not taking a risk.  These are federally guaranteed loans; let’s give the money directly to students."

There is something Congress needs "to do right now," Obama said. "They have to prevent the interest rates on federal student loans from shooting up and shaking you down."

He also called on Congress to double the number of work-study jobs in five years.

Obama did not address any causes for the increasing costs, or the question of whether a school’s allocation of resources to courses and programs is a factor.

Among the courses listed in the University of Colorado’s Women and Gender Studies course catalog is one dealing with the way women are depicted in Disney movies.

“It comes as no surprise that the mediated world in which we live is awash in Disney products. From theme parks to films to a television channel to a global media presence, Disney’s reach is extensive,” the course description says.

“Disney’s media products are, for the most part, uncritically accepted as good, clean entertainment and, most importantly, good for children. Indeed, Disney-branded productions are seen as a kind of media ‘safe haven,’ praised both for not pandering to the sex and violence crowd and for offering content that provides positive role models for young girls, introduces audiences to important moments in history, and offers culturally diverse characters.”

Princess Merida, voiced by actress Kelly Macdonald, in a scene from the Disney animated feature "Brave." (AP Photo/Disney-Pixar Animation)

“In this course we will examine these assumptions,” the description continues. “Working from the perspective of media literate consumers looking through a feminist lens, we will take a critical look at a representative sample of Disney’s animated films, paying particular attention to Disney’s representations of gender, race, class and sexual orientation. Too, we will examine some of the practices of the corporation itself in order to better understand the Disney phenomenon in its totality.”

The description says the course “[m]ay be repeated up to 6 total credit hours for different topics.”

Other courses available in the Women and Gender Studies program include “Femininities, Masculinities, Alternatives,” “Gender, Sexuality, and Popular Culture,” and “Sex, Power, Politics.”

President Obama spoke Wednesday on the campus of the University of Iowa in Iowa City, where the Gender, Women’s and Sexuality Studies program offers courses including “Politics of Reproduction” (“debates over women's reproductive experience, including its medicalization”) and “Queer Rhetoric” (“overview of queer theory and its application to different communicative situations including television, film, and everyday life; development of critical thinking skills in relation to cultural constructions of gender, sexuality, race, and other identity categories.”)

Obama’s suggestions for keeping tuition down includes a proposal for states to spend more.

“Of course, public universities like this one also understand that states have to do their part, state legislators have to do their part in making higher education a priority,” Obama said in Colorado. “Last year, over 40 states cut their higher education spending. Not good. These budget cuts have been one of the biggest factors in your tuition going up. So we’re challenging states to take responsibility. We told them, if you can bring – find new ways to bring down costs of college, make it easier for students to graduate, we’ll help you do it.”

According to the College Board, the full cost for an in-state student to attend the University of Colorado at Boulder for this academic year and pay the tuition and fees, room and board and other costs was $26,877. The full cost for an out-of-state student was $48,055.

The full cost for an in-state student to attend the University of Iowa for this academic year and pay the tuition and fees, room and board, and other costs was $21,120, according to the College Board. The cost was $38,454 for an out-of-state student.

A University of Colorado spokesperson could not be reached for comment.

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