An increase in financial aid, student loan reform and greater support for community colleges topped President Barack Obama’s higher education agenda as outlined in his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress Wednesday night.
In a speech that focused on jobs, the economy and national security, Obama spoke briefly of his legislative goals for the nation’s colleges and universities.
“In the 21st century, the best anti-poverty program around is a world-class education,” Obama said.
The president went on to urge the Senate to pass the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act, which was passed by the House of Representatives in September. The bill would eliminate bank-based federal student loan programs and use the billions of dollars saved to expand financial aid.
“Let’s take that money and give families a $10,000 tax credit for four years of college and increase Pell Grants,” Obama said.
Arguing that the bill would “revitalize” the nation’s community colleges, Obama also called for strengthened student loan repayment plans, limiting payments to 10 percent of a person’s income, and forgiving all debt after 20 years, or 10 years for those who work in public service.
“In the United States of America, no one should go broke because they chose to go to college,” Obama said.
“And by the way, it’s time for colleges and universities to get serious about cutting their own costs because they, too, have a responsibility to help solve this problem.”
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell supplied the GOP’s official response to the president’s speech, agreeing with the president about the importance of higher education.
“All Americans agree that a young person needs a world-class education to compete in the global economy,” McDonnell said in a televised appearance from the House of Delegates’ chambers at the Capitol in Richmond. “As a kid, my dad told me, ‘Son, to get a good job, you need a good education.’ That’s even more true today.”