Vice President Dick Cheney (search) took on critics of the Bush administration's Social Security (search) overhaul plans Thursday, arguing that channeling part of workers' salaries into the stock market would yield bigger retirement nest eggs and help pull many Americans out of poverty.

"Young workers who elect personal accounts can expect to receive a far higher rate of return on their money than the current system could ever afford to pay them," Cheney told an audience of college students and administrators at The Catholic University (search) of America.

Moreover, he said, personal accounts "would conal independence."

"Many low-income workers who have nothing to spare after taxes would have a chance to begin saving for their later years," the vice president said.

Cheney contended that the administration's bid to allow workers to divert a small part of their income into personal accounts would "help the nation resolve the long-term challenges to Social Security" -- an assertion disputed by many outside analysts. The critics say personal accounts would do nothing to solve the system's basic problem of a dwindling pool of workers paying into the system, and surging numbers of retirees.

The White House invited conservative students affiliated with such groups as the College Republicans and the Heritage Foundation (search) to hear Cheney's 15-minute speech. Members of student government and university administrators were also invited.

Cheney followed President Bush's practice of framing Social Security's "coming crisis," while remaining silent on questions the administration has left unanswered, such as whether Bush envisions large-scale borrowing or future benefit cuts.