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Recapping Higher Education in President Obama’s State of the Union

President Obama delivers the State of the Union on January 20, 2015.

Kathryn Knight Randolph

January 21, 2015

Recapping Higher Education in President Obama’s State of the Union
If you caught any of President Obama’s State of the Union address, you probably noticed a strong theme. This year, his State of the Union centered around the middle class and “middle class economics,” which is “the idea that this country does best when everyone gets their fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.” While President Obama pointed to many ways in which we, as a nation, could get a fair shot and do our fair share, he was adamant that higher wages was vital to propelling America forward. This, he claimed, could be achieved by providing a community college education completely free to those students that are willing to work for it. Last week, President Obama teased his new proposal, America’s College Promise, and in his State of the Union address, he revealed even more. He highlighted plans in Tennessee and Chicago where this plan is already working and hopes to extend free community college options to students everywhere “so that two years of college becomes as free and universal in America as high school is today.”

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To recap, the America's College Promise plan would make a community college education completely free to all students willing to work for it. Students that hope to take advantage of this plan would have to maintain at least a 2.5 GPA and show that they are working to complete their program. In addition to America’s College Promise, President Obama hopes to work with Congress to help graduates who have student loan debt reduce their monthly payments.

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He also showcased Vice President Biden’s job training system. Through this program, community colleges are working with local employers to help students learn trades that pay well like coding, nursing and robotics. President Obama hopes to capitalize on the success of this program and make it universal to community colleges everywhere. Finally, President Obama asked more businesses to offer incentives like educational benefits and paid apprenticeships that give employees the chance to earn higher-paying jobs regardless of their education. With plans like this on the horizon, we can hopefully meet the demands of the future. For instance, President Obama stated that by 2020, two in three job openings will require some higher education. Fortunately, we have a lot of momentum going at this point. Young students today have the highest math and reading scores to date, high school graduation is at an all-time high and more Americans are graduating from college than ever before.

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Though the future of these programs and proposals rest on Congress, you can lend your opinion now. Are you in support of or against these new higher education measures from President Obama – why or why not? Also, if you’d like to take a look at the full State of the Union transcript, you can find it here.

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