This blog post was written by Hatchet Reporter Mary-Ellen McIntire.
President Barack Obama emphasized the importance of education in solving the nation’s challenges in his third State of the Union address Tuesday.
Obama also noted the rising cost of college attendance and called on lawmakers to provide financial relief to students.
He urged Congress to stop interest rates on student loans from doubling, as they are set to do in July, and to permanently extend the tuition tax credit his administration created.
The president also called on Congress to double the number of Federal Work Study jobs in the United States over the next five years. GW faced $400,000 in federal funding cuts for work-study positions last semester, forcing departments to pay a higher percentage of student salaries – a unique move as peer universities chose instead to slash the number of jobs available.
“States also need to do their part by making higher education a higher priority in their budgets,” Obama said.
He called on colleges and universities to keep tuition costs down, warning, “If you can’t stop tuition from going up, the funding you get from taxpayers will go down.”
Obama said he has met with a group of college presidents whose schools had successfully lowered tuition. Some colleges redesigned courses to help students graduate quicker, he said.
Students opting to save money by cutting their final semester has been a trend at GW, although statistics are not available because the University does not officially track students who leave a semester early.
“Higher education can’t be a luxury,” Obama said. “It is an economic imperative that every family in America should be able to afford.”
Obama also addressed the importance of pre-college education.
While tight budgets have forced states to fire thousands of public school teachers, Obama said that a good teacher can increase the lifetime income of students.
“Give them the resources to keep good teachers on the job, and reward the best ones. And in return, grant schools flexibility: to teach with creativity and passion; to stop teaching to the test; and to replace teachers who just aren’t helping kids learn.”
Obama also proposed that every state require all students to stay in high school until graduation or until they turn 18 years old.
“When students are not allowed to drop out, they do better,” Obama said.
The emphasis on education policy in the national address is a continuation of Obama’s “We Can’t Wait” campaign. Launched last October to address student debt, University administrators said few GW students would benefit from the plan.