During this past Tuesday’s State of the Union address, I was proud to hear President Obama talk about the issues that matter to all Americans, especially those that impact us as students. From the skyrocketing cost of tuition to the importance of raising the minimum wage, the vision the president laid out was distinctly American — infused with the optimism and pragmatism that has always kept our nation moving forward.
By prioritizing the issues that are so important to our generation, Obama has committed to leading our nation toward a bright future. We know the cost of college is unacceptably high, and it definitely isn’t going to go down overnight. But this president has put college affordability front and center, creating a College Scorecard, informing students about financial aid opportunities and keeping student loan rates low. When Republicans in Congress were ready to abandon us by doubling interest rates, Obama stood up for us and saved money for students across the country.
Having come from a working-class family, my younger brother and I have taken on substantial loans in order to finance our education. Doubling our interest rates would have placed an even greater burden on us when it comes to applying for jobs and paying back our debt. Thanks to President Obama, my brother and I — as well as the more than 50 percent of UC students who have taken out loans — will not be hit with higher interest rates.
Notably, the president also contended Congress needs to step up to boost our economy and help the American people. By heeding the president’s call and raising the minimum wage, Congress would affirm that it is unacceptable for a person to work full-time and live below the poverty line. Raising the minimum wage is especially important to young people, many of whom rely on hourly jobs to help pay for their education.
Along these same lines, Congress should immediately renew emergency unemployment insurance. In California alone, nearly 214,000 people have lost these vital benefits. Without unemployment insurance, these people struggle to put food on the table for their families and lack resources such as gas money to effectively search for jobs. Obstructionist Republicans are blocking these bills in Congress, and we should stand up to them — now is not the time to play political games while hurting our economy.
Throughout his presidency, Obama has fought to expand opportunity for all Americans — especially young people. As a college Democrat, I am fired up to continue to stand with President Obama in this fight. It’s our responsibility to hold Congress and Washington accountable to ensure our futures are as bright as they can be.
Nicholas Kitchel is the National Council Secretary of College Democrats of America and a UC Berkeley senior.