“Higher education is not a luxury. It’s an economic imperative that every family in America should be able to afford,” President Obama said in his Jan. 27 speech at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
The President’s visit came at a critical moment as tuition costs for public universities are set to climb yet again the coming year. According to Time Magazine, state funding for higher education decreased 8 percent, or $6 billion, in the past year.
Due to slow economic recovery and the end of federal stimulus funds, 41 states including Michigan cut higher education funding last year.
For many American families, the growing economic burden of higher education is compounded when multiple children attend college simultaneously. Bad Axe senior Jackie Rochefort has a sister currently attending Michigan State University.
“Financially, my father is able to make ends meet to provide us both with a fully paid tuition. However, my mother recently acquired a second job to help with tuition, bills, and other expenses,” Rochefort said
In his speech, President Obama outlined his plan to make college tuition more affordable at public universities. Schools that keep tuition costs from rising would be rewarded with greater funding for federal student aid programs, such as work-study programs, Perkins loans, and supplemental grants for low-income students. The proposed funding would increase from $3 billion to $10 billion annually.
The proposed plan aims both to alleviate some of the stress on families struggling to make tuition payments, as well as combating rising levels of student debt. The President not only called upon colleges to do their part in reducing costs, but also state governments, who he argued need to make higher education funding a greater priority.
Critics argue the President’s demands could sacrifice the quality of higher education for affordability. However, the idea of tuition costs leveling off appeals to many young people currently facing growing amounts of student loan debt.
“It’s really frustrating when they continue to increase tuition (and state tuition) because society/employers stress the importance of having a college degree…and then it’s almost impossible to get one because it’s so expensive,” said Woodhaven sophomore Nora Riggs.
If President Obama gets his way, more American families should be able to put their children through higher education without breaking the bank.