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Obama: college too expensive

U.S. President Barack Obama gives the State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress, Tuesday, January 24, 2012, in Washington, D.C. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/MCT)

Taylor Holland

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One of the most daunting challenges high school students face when they graduate can be the cost of college, President Barack Obama said Tuesday during his State of the Union Address.

“At a time when Americans owe more in tuition debt than credit card debt, this Congress needs to stop the interest rates on students loans from doubling in July,” Obama said. “Extend the tuition tax credit we started that saves middle-class families thousands of dollars. And give more young people the chance to earn their way through college by doubling the number of work-study jobs in the next five years.”

Obama said states also need to do their part by making higher education a higher priority on their budgets. Colleges and universities have to do their part as well, he said, by working to keep costs down.

“Some schools redesign courses to help students finish more quickly,” Obama said. “Some use better technology. The point is, it’s possible. So let me put colleges and universities on notice: If you can’t stop tuition from going up, the funding you get from taxpayers will go down.

“Higher education can’t be a luxury – it’s an economic imperative that every family in America should be able to afford.”

The speech, the third State of Union of his presidency, Obama focused on the nation’s economy.

“We can do this,” he said. “I know we can because we’ve done it before. At the end of World War II, when another generation of heroes returned home from combat, they built the strongest economy and middle class the world has ever known.”

He said his grandparents understood they were part of something larger; that they were contributing to a story of success that every American had a chance to share – the basic American promise that if you worked hard, you could do well enough to raise a family, own a home, send your kids to college and put a little away for retirement.

“The defining issue of our time is how to keep that promise alive,” Obama said. “No challenge is more urgent. No debate is more important. We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well, while a growing number of Americans barely get by.

“Or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share and everyone plays by the same set of rules. What’s at stake are not Democratic values or Republican values, but American values. We have to reclaim them.”

Following the address, Joe Mahoney, executive director of the University of Alabama College Republicans, said he thought Obama’s speech brought the nation closer to electing a Republican in the next election.

“Obama repeated the same failed policies and same failed tactics that got us into this mess three years ago,” Mahoney said. “The Republican movement is growing stronger because the Democrats, with Obama at their head, have failed time and time again on improving job growth, improving debt and creating the business-friendly environment that is necessary in the 21st century. Obama needs to be defeated this November.”

Jamie Woodham, president of the College Democrats, said he and the rest of the organization were extremely pleased with Obama’s address.

“We felt he touched on a lot of subjects that needed to be brought up – women’s rights, gay rights, ending foreign wars, our dependence on foreign energy,” Woodham said. “Overall, we’re extremely pleased with the address.”

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Obama: college too expensive