Recognizing that colleges and universities play a significant role in economic recovery and expansion, President Obama laid out a plan last night in his third State of the Union address for job training at community colleges, keeping higher education affordable for students and families and supporting research as an engine for growth.
The president proposed a new initiative to train and place 2 million Americans in jobs through partnerships between businesses and community colleges, asking Congress to “give more community colleges the resources they need to become community career centers.”
He also spoke at some length about college affordability, calling on Congress to stop the interest rate on subsidized Stafford student loans from doubling on July 1 and to make permanent the American Opportunity Tax Credit, which provides up to $10,000 for tuition over four years of college. He also proposed doubling the number of Federal Work-Study jobs for students.
The president called on states to do their part by making higher education a higher priority in their budgets. He also addressed college campuses directly, telling them if they “can’t stop tuition from going up, the funding you get from taxpayers will go down.” As Inside Higher Ed pointed out this morning, although no details were offered about that warning, a companion document for the address said the president would propose shifting “some federal aid away from colleges that don’t keep net tuition down and provide good value.” How he would do this is unclear.
Another current unknown is how any of these proposals would be implemented and funded.
“What I’m struck by is how little we know about what the administration intends, even after the speech has concluded,” ACE Senior Vice President Terry Hartle told Inside Higher Ed. “The fact is, a lot of this is going to have to go through the meat grinder on Capitol Hill.”
Despite staunch opposition to immigration reform in the current political climate, the president asked Congress to pass the DREAM Act, a bill that would create a path to citizenship for young illegal immigrants who are college students and military service members. He also encouraged lawmakers to increase the number of visas for highly skilled immigrants, many of whom complete graduate degrees in the United States but are not authorized to work in this country.
More information on the president’s ideas for higher education is expected Friday morning, when he visits the University of Michigan.
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