The State of the Union address is often full of big promises and few specifics. But in President Obama's State of the Union this year, he laid out a number of concrete ways Washington can make a college education more affordable for students.
Putting a college degree within reach of all Americans is a top priority in the President's quest to create jobs. College costs are at an all-time high; according to numbers released by the College Board in October 2011, the average annual cost is $8,244 for in-state students at public colleges in 2011-12 and $28,500 at private four-year colleges.
"Higher education can't be a luxury -- it is an economic imperative that every family in should be able to afford," President Obama said in his State of the Union address.
5 proposals to keep college affordable
The President called on Congress to put its resources to work making college education a reality for millions of students. Here are five proposals Obama outlined in his speech that could directly impact your bottom line.
- Keep interest rate on student loans at 3.4 percent. Obama called on Congress to stop student loan rates from doubling this July, potentially adding thousands of dollars to the total cost of your loan. Obama's other proposals designed to rein in the cost of your loan include an interest-rate discount for consolidating student loans in the government's direct loan program and a cap on the maximum percentage of discretionary income you'll pay in an income-based loan repayment programs.
- Extend the tuition tax credit. The American Opportunity tuition tax credit is set to expire this year, unless Congress acts to extend it. Obama pressed legislators to extend a benefit that could save you up to $2,500 a year for four years of college.
- Double the number of federal work-study jobs in the next five years. About 700,000 college students rely on these jobs, which allow them to earn their way through college. Obama proposed growing the program to 1.4 million jobs nationwide, making it easier for you to land one of these flexible, study-friendly jobs.
- Keep college tuition in check. If the President has his way, your tuition bill will stop going up each year. Obama called on both colleges and states to take responsibility for rising costs and find other ways to make ends meet. Or else. "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," Obama said. In recent months, the President has discussed cost-cutting strategies with university presidents; redesigned courses and new technology are some of the changes that could accelerate your path to graduation, saving you thousands in tuition.
- Transform community colleges into community career centers. Opportunity is calling in science and technology industries, with available jobs outnumbering candidates by two to one. To close this talent gap, the President wants community colleges and local employers to work together to develop vocational training programs. In one success story, Siemens partnered with a local community college to develop a laser and robotics training program. The company footed the tuition bill for students and then hired graduates to work in its factory.
Obama's 2012 State of the Union sent a clear message to students, colleges and Congress: Our nation's future depends on an affordable higher education system. If legislators and college administrators heed his call, your path to a degree could become a little easier.
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