Obama promises education changes in address


President Barack Obama delivers the State of The Union address on Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015, in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)

Haley Phillippi

President Barack Obama revealed new plans for the last two years of his presidency and praised the improvement of the economy in his State of the Union address Tuesday night.

Obama was sworn into presidency six years ago,and recently, according to The Washington Post, Obama’s approval rating hit 50 percent for the first time in nearly two years.

He spoke in front of a joint session of the House and Senate, united under Republican control. Last year 33 million people, one of the largest audiences for the president, watched the State of the Union.

The sentiment of the president’s speech reflects his beliefs that government should aim higher than to simply “do no harm.”

Obama discussed his plan, called “America’s College Promise,” during the speech. The plan will reportedly cost $60 billion over the next 10 years. However, the plan is expected to save students an average of $3,800 in tuition per year.

“Our high school graduation rate has hit an all-time high, and more Americans finish college than ever before,” Obama said.

According to the White House, people with an associate’s degree earn 25 percent more than people who never attended college.

Obama said 40 percent of the country’s college students are choosing community college. He plans to send Congress a bold new plan to lower the cost of community college to zero per student.

“By the end of this decade, two in three job openings will require some higher education,” Obama said in his speech.

Students participating in Obama’s new plan will need to go to school at least half-time, maintain a 2.5 grade point average and must be making progress to graduate on time.

The proposal works by having the government cover 75 percent of the average costs and participating states paying the rest. The program could benefit as many as 9 million students per year. 

Obama plans to work with Congress to ensure Americans already burdened with student loans can reduce their monthly payments as well.

In the upcoming weeks, Obama will send Congress a budget that he says is filled with practical ideas, not partisan ones.

“Over the past five years, our businesses have created more than 11 million new jobs,” Obama said. 

The economy is on the rise with the unemployment rate falling to 5.6 percent in December. Obama is looking to create new policies to help lower-and-middle income Americans.

Among those new policies are proposals to give workers seven days a year of paid sick time. 43 million workers have no paid sick leave. 

“We’re the only advanced country on Earth that doesn’t guarantee paid sick leave or paid maternity leave,” Obama said. 

Obama is pushing to give federal workers six weeks of paid maternity leave once their children are born. He’s also striving for local governments to come up with their own sick leave programs.

National security, oil prices, women’s health issues, Internet access and affordable childcare were among the highlights of the State of the Union.

Obama even had the Republicans applauding sarcastically when he said, “I have no more campaigns to run. I know because I won both of them.” 

In response to Obama’s State of the Union, the Republicans promise to make Congress more productive.

“There’s a lot of work we can achieve if we work together,” Sen. Joni Ernst, Republican lawmaker from Iowa, said in her response.

“We heard the message you sent in November — loud and clear,” Ernst said. “And now we’re getting to work to change the direction Washington has been taking our country.”

Both Republicans and Democrats have made promises to work together moving forward. The State of the Union offers both the president and Congress an opportunity to actually work to accomplish goals.

Haley Phillippi is a general assignment reporter for The Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected]