State of the Union: College affordability a top concern

During his last State of the Union address, President Obama vows to ‘keep fighting’ to enact free community college plan

sotu-collegeHigher education spent a few brief moments in the spotlight during President Obama’s final State of the Union address on Jan. 12.

Access to affordable higher education was at the forefront of his comments.

“We agree that real opportunity requires every American to get the education and training they need to land a good-paying job,” Obama said.

“And we have to make college affordable for every American. Because no hardworking student should be stuck in the red. We’ve already reduced student loan payments to 10 percent of a borrower’s income. Now, we’ve actually got to cut the cost of college. Providing two years of community college at no cost for every responsible student is one of the best ways to do that, and I’m going to keep fighting to get that started this year,” he said.

Last year, Obama introduced America’s Promise, which would cover expenses for students attending qualifying community colleges as long as those students meet certain criteria and maintain a 2.5 GPA. Some states have followed suit and introduced initiatives to mirror Obama’s goals.

The focus on higher education will heighten as the presidential candidates’ debate their various college access and affordability plans.

Both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have both proposed that federal efforts and money should help make college more affordable.

Sanders has proposed six steps to make college debt-free, which he outlines on his website. Those steps include making tuition at public colleges and universities free and cutting student loan rates.

Clinton’s New College Compact proposes that students should not have to borrow money to pay for tuition or books at a four-year public college in their state. Family contributions will be evaluated to ensure they are affordable and realistic.

Republican candidate Donald Trump has touched on higher education as well, saying in interviews that the federal government should not make money off of student loans.

Marco Rubio’s proposals include establishing automatic income-based repayment as the universal method for federal student loans. He also proposes reforming the accreditation system to include non-traditional education.

Jeb Bush has commented in previous interviews that he believes colleges should have to be held to certain standards surrounding graduation rates and student debt.

Laura Ascione