President Obama took to Tumblr for the first time and answered users' questions—posed by Tumblr CEO David Karp—about college affordability and student loans at a live-streamed White House event Tuesday afternoon. A few lucky Tumblr users were invited to attend.
The president has not been shy about social media; he has hosted a Reddit AMA, Twitter chats, and Google+ Hangouts. The White House even has its own Tumblr. However, Obama said he chose to discuss college and debt during a Tumblr Q&A because, "We’re constantly looking for new ways to reach new audiences… [and] a lot of Tumblr users are impacted by student debt." It’s a smart move, considering 40% of Tumblr’s 350 million monthly users are between the ages of 18 and 34, and the average college graduate has around $30,000 in loans to repay.
Obama emphasized that college is an investment, and students need to invest wisely. "[It is] imperative for young people to be good consumers of education," Obama said and referred them to online government resources—like a debt repayment estimator—that will help young people make good financial decisions.
When asked about successful college dropouts like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs or Karp himself (who never even earned his high school diploma), Obama conceded, "You might take a calculated risk, and start some wacky company called Tumblr," but he likened Karp to a prodigy like LeBron James and said most people need some type of advanced education to be successful in any field.
This event is part of a week-long White House communication strategy surrounding higher education. On Monday, Obama signed an executive order to cap student loan payments at 10% of a person’s monthly income, and the Senate will vote on a bill this week that would allow those with debt to refinance their loans at lower interest rates. "I hope the Tumblr community helps spread the word. … Everybody on Tumblr should be contacting their senators and finding out where they stand on the issue," Obama said.
The Q&A touched on other topics, including Title IX protection for transgender students and school shootings—which prompted Obama to call the lack of gun legislation reform the "biggest frustration" of his presidency.
[GIF: The White House on Tumblr]