Affirming affordability

HIGHER EDUCATION: In this year’s State of the Union address, the President provides a solid framework saving higher education.

We have been told the state of our union is strong. And while it may not always seem that way to college students as the cost of school increases in the face of recession, budget cuts and austerity measures, President Barack Obama’s vision for higher education casts a glimmer of hope on a gloomy future.

In his annual address to Congress on Tuesday, Obama recognized the need to keep college affordable, dedicating significant time to the topic.

His words contrast starkly with Gov. Jerry Brown’s failure to mention higher education even once in his 2012 State of the State speech, especially considering California’s cuts to higher education funding are over a quarter of the nation’s $6 billion overall decrease, according an annual study by the Center for the Study of Education Policy at Illinois State University.

Though more remains to be revealed about the President’s plan for affordable higher education — details he is expected to outline in a speech at the University of Michigan today — it is encouraging that the issue is big on his radar. His warning that federal funding for colleges and universities will decrease if tuition continues to increase is a bold declaration and sets a good tone for his re-election campaign this year.

By giving so much attention to education affordability, Obama is sending a message to leaders like Brown that state funding for colleges must be a priority.

While many of the President’s ideas remain mere sound bytes, they provide the basis for concrete results that ring welcome to many students. From tuition tax break extensions and student aid increases to comprehensive immigration reform that would allow undocumented graduates to give back to the country that educated them, each proposal is a potential solution worthy of consideration.

If nothing else, President Obama’s State of the Union address this year affirmed that college is a vitally important part of the American promise and reminded the whole nation that higher education “can’t be a luxury.”