President Obama delivered his annual State of the Union address last night, discussing the rising costs of higher education in a speech that focused largely on the economy.
The president urged states to prioritize higher education in their budgets while also calling on Congress to expedite a law that would lower the maximum interest rate on student loans. He also addressed colleges and universities, stressing the importance of preventing tuition increases. "If you can't stop tuition from going up," Obama told institutions of higher education, "the funding you get from taxpayers will go down."
Higher education is "absolutely necessary in today's economy, so we have to keep that affordable," said Taylor Daily '13, president of Brown Students for Obama and vice president of the Brown Democrats. Daily watched the address with a Brown Democrats viewing party that filled Wilson 101.
While agreeing that education costs should be kept low, Brown Republicans President Terrence George '13 said it would be hard to speak to the feasibility of the plan without knowing more about the rationale behind tuition hikes.
Pointing to the need for immigration reform, Obama addressed issues of citizenship for college students who are undocumented immigrants. "Let's at least agree to stop expelling responsible young people who want to staff our labs, start new businesses and defend this country," Obama said. "Send me a law that gives them the chance to earn their citizenship. I will sign it right away."
Obama also proposed that high school students not be allowed to drop out until they turn 18.
The president framed his speech by invoking the strength of unity in the Armed Forces and calling on Americans to work together in the coming years.
"While the military metaphor had some disturbing implications, it's a good metaphor for bringing people together," said Conor Sullivan '14, who watched the address with friends.
Obama quickly moved into a discussion of the economy, discussing the challenges facing unemployed Americans and affirming a "commitment to train two million Americans with skills that will lead directly to a job."
Daily applauded this plan, adding that at present there are "a lot of talented people who don't have the opportunity to get the jobs that are out there."
Obama also stressed the importance of tax incentives to encourage businesses to operate domestically and issued financial institutions an ultimatum that the government would not bail them out again. He proposed spending money previously allocated for the war to pay the nation's debt and finance construction projects.
George said he wished Obama had addressed entitlement reform, calling it "the elephant in the room."
Obama also spoke about the need for clean energy and protecting the nation's supply of natural gas. George said he was disappointed Obama "had the audacity to mention America's domestic energy production just a short while after denying the Keystone XL pipeline."
Daily said he would have liked to hear more about Obama's specific foreign policy goals but was pleased by how Obama "presented his ideas clearly and effectively."