Obama’s Education Focus in State Of The Union Address

President Obama's State of the Union Address acknowledged many of the economic difficulties facing American society. And while the President placed emphasis on making college more affordable, he also talked about the importance of expanding job-training programs.

Twitter was set alight during the address. More than 700,000 Tweets were sent during his address, with almost 36,000 relating specifically to his comments about education, reports Maggie O'Neill at City Town Info.

The Huffington Post noted that Obama's focus on making education cheaper for all is nothing new. Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan have been visiting schools nationwide to talk about the subject.

"Let me put colleges and universities on notice," Obama said.

"If you can't stop tuition from going up, the funding you get from taxpayers will go down."

Frederick M. Hess at the American Enterprise Institute, however, believes that Obama is offering nothing new.

Hess believes Obama has used education as a vehicle to show centrists and moderates that he's not an ideologue.

"Obama has used education reform to make the case that his calls for higher taxes and more federal activity are about "transformation.""

Obama has found support from the Wall Street Journal and David Brooks for his Race to the Top initiative.

Hess believes that it's likely that education will be a key piece of Obama's reelection strategy. But why, then, did Obama only award seven minutes tn education and, in Hess's words, offer "no notable ideas or initiatives?"

In the address, Obama called for giving schools "the resources to keep good teachers on the job, and reward the best ones" if schools "replace teachers who just aren't helping kids learn," and encouraged states to "require that all students stay in high school until they graduate or turn eighteen."

Obama has also called for Congress to further subsidize student loans and extend the temporary tuition tax credit in an attempt to stem rising college debts, which last year tipped $1 trillion.

Overall, Hess concluded:

"Quite a comedown from the heady days of 2009. But, given that we're broke and have been living way beyond our means, maybe it signals we're in for a healthy dose of humility on the education front."

College debt is a growing concern nationwide. The cost of going to college has tripled over the last quarter century and, according to the College Board, in the past year alone, tuition and fees at public universities grew by 8.3 percent.

Andrew P. Kelly, also at the American Enterprise Institute, believes that the White House Blueprint suggests the president "is proposing to shift some Federal aid away from colleges that don't keep net tuition down and provide good value."

Value is a critical term for Kelly.

"Thinking in terms of return on investment makes more sense than just out of pocket costs (cheap community colleges may deliver little by way of labor market returns).

"But doing so requires collecting data on the labor market outcomes of students. Currently, the feds only do so for for-profit colleges and vocational programs at community colleges. Placing value at the center of this larger effort will mean extending those data to all sectors of higher education."

Getting college costs under control is imperative for Kelly. Americans won't keep accepting Obama's word unless they start seeing some headway soon, says Kelly.

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