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Although the White House says that President Barack Obama’s visit to UNC Tuesday is not driven by political motives, some say this tour is a re-election campaign in disguise.

In addition to visiting UNC, the president will travel to the University of Colorado at Boulder and the University of Iowa on April 24 and 25 to discuss an impending increase in student loan interest. During Obama’s time in Chapel Hill, he will film a segment for late-night comedian Jimmy Fallon’s show in a likely effort to reach even more young people. The segment will air Tuesday night.

Obama will speak about a 2007 provision, set to expire July 1, that halved subsidized Stafford student loans. If Congress does not extend the cut, interest rates on those loans will increase from 3.4 to 6.8 percent. Read more about which loans will and will not be affected.

White House Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a press briefing that the purpose of the tour is to call on Congress to prolong the provision by at least one year and has nothing to do with the coming election.

“I could care less about politics and ideology,” he said. “This is about we need an educated workforce. And it’s fascinating to me that in a really tough economic time like this, we have 2 million high-wage, high-skilled jobs that are unfilled because we’re not producing the employees with the skills that employers are looking for.”

Skeptics, though, said that the tour is part of the president’s re-election strategy. Ben Feller, writing for the Associated Press, offered this take on the visit:

His clear political mission: rallying young voters whose support he needs again.

Obama’s trip next week will take him to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Colorado at Boulder and the University of Iowa. All three provide him potentially giant audiences in states he carried in 2008 and ones that are key to his re-election prospects against presumptive opponent Mitt Romney.

All three schools are large, public universities in battleground states. President Obama won all three states in 2008. His success in each was largely dependent on young voters, particularly in Colorado and North Carolina. Obama carried North Carolina by less than 15,000 votes, winning nearly three-quarters of voters in the 18-29 age group.

Each of the three universities is located in a county where more than 70 percent of voters voted for Obama in 2008. In neither North Carolina, Colorado nor Iowa is there a large university in another, more supportive voting district.

Ferrel Guillory, a professor in UNC’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication, said he has no doubt this tour is a campaign strategy and even expects a rally after Tuesday’s speech. Guillory is also an adjunct faculty member in the Department of Public Policy, has worked for North Carolina’s government and contributed to books on politics and government.

“This is not a primary visit,” he said. “This is a general election visit. We’ve reached the point in which the two main candidates are known.

“Part of the Obama presidential campaign strategy is to make another effort at voter mobilization among young voters.”

Guillory said there are three reasons why President Obama would come to North Carolina during this tour:

1. It’s part of a series of visits to a swing state.

2. His campaign depends largely on mobilizing young voters, and this is an issue that could get them stirred up.

3. Access to education is a critical issue, especially after state budget cuts.

This year, Obama has already traveled to schools in Michigan, Ohio, Florida, New Hampshire and Virginia – all reported to be swing states by 270towin.com.

Ticket update, Monday, 4:25 p.m.: All tickets for President Barack Obama’s policy speech were distributed as of 3:40 p.m. on Monday, according to the University website. All tickets for the Jimmy Fallon event have been awarded to and distributed to seniors. Standby tickets were given out Monday within 30 minutes. 

President Barack Obama will visit UNC’s campus Tuesday, giving a policy speech on student loans and taping an episode of Late Night With Jimmy Fallon.

Information on Obama’s policy speech

Information on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon

UNC has said that the University won’t foot the bill for either event — the speech is an official White House event, and the Fallon show will fund the taping of their program.

The policy speech

Time and location: 1 p.m., Carmichael Arena

Ticket info: The event is free and open to the public. Tickets for the event have already been distributed. 

All tickets for Obama’s policy speech were distributed on Monday, and are no longer available.

Those with tickets cannot put up tents or camp overnight around Carmichael Arena.

Ticket-holders can arrive at Hooker Fields next to Carmichael Arena starting at 5 a.m., and doors will open at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, according to the UNC site.

Sunday’s ticket-seekers’ scrum

The line to receive a ticket to the speech began long before Sunday’s 1 p.m. distribution time, according to the Daily Tar Heel. The group of students waiting for tickets originally reached as far as Stadium Drive before being relocated to wrap around part of the Michael Hooker intramural fields and overflow down the stands and around the track of Fetzer Field.

Despite a cold and rainy day, by 2 p.m. Sunday a DPS officer estimated there were still about 1,000-1,5000 people waiting in line.

The line for tickets to President Barack Obama's policy speech wrapped around the track at Fetzer Field before extending up through the stands and out to Carmichael Arena. Eric Pait/reesenews

Students waiting in line for a ticket to President Barack Obama's policy speech did not let the rain faze them. Many brought umbrellas or ponchos in order to stay dry while waiting in the massive line. Eric Pait/reesenews

Obama will speak to students about calling Congress to prevent student interest rates from increasing at UNC on Tuesday in the Carmichael Arena, the White House stated in a press release.

On Tuesday the doors to Carmichael will open at 10 a.m. and only those with tickets will be admitted. Attendees should expect to spend several hours waiting in line for security and should not bring bags. Signs and banners will also not be permitted.

The speech is expected to start around 1 p.m.

Classes won’t be canceled, though faculty members may chose to allow excused absences for students who seek permission to attend the event.

 

Jimmy Fallon taping

Time and location: Unknown time, Memorial Hall

Ticket info: All tickets have been distributed for the event, primarily to UNC seniors. They were notified whether they were selected for tickets by April 22, according to the Fallon show’s website.

Standby tickets were rewarded to present students at 1 p.m. Monday and ran out in about half-an-hour. Recipients of standby tickets were given numbered tickets and wristbands. Standby ticket holders were asked to return at 1 p.m. Tuesday at Memorial Hall and will be given entry depending on the number of regular ticket holders do not arrive in time for the show. Standby entry will be given in order of standby ticket number.

Jimmy Fallon and his team will be on campus Tuesday to film a segment for his late-night show with President Obama, which will air that night. The president’s special appearance was announced on Twitter by both Fallon and Dan Pfeiffer, the White House communications director:

It will be filmed in Memorial Hall on Tuesday, but it has yet to be announced when filming of the show will begin.

Seniors were the only ones to be emailed a link to apply for tickets to the event. The link closed on Saturday, and all those who were awarded tickets were notified on Sunday morning, according to an email to seniors from the Office of University events. The show overbooked, and recipients still have to wait in line outside Memorial Hall to pick it up.

Students will not be able to attend both the show and President Obama’s speech due to security shut downs and timing issues, according to an email.

This stop is one of three colleges the president is visiting next week as Congress prepares to consider whether or not they will allow a 2007 provision that cut student loan interest rates in half to expire. He will also visit the University of Colorado at Boulder and the University of Iowa. The release states:

More than 7.4 million students with federal student loans will see their interest rates double on July 1 unless Congress steps in to keep them low. For each year Congress allows the rate to double, the average student with these loans racks up an additional $1,000 in debt. At a time when Americans owe more on student loans than credit cards, President Obama believes we must reward hard work and responsibility by keeping interest rates on student loans low so more Americans get a fair shot at an affordable college education, the skills they need to find a good job, and a clear path to middle class.

The White House’s press release also stated that they will launch a social media effort using Twitter, Facebook and Google+ using the hashtag #DontDoubleMyRate.

Both the White House and UNC release promise to be updated with information as it becomes available.