Obama in Ann Arbor; 'Make college more affordable'

President Barack Obama delivered a speech on college affordability at the University of Michigan Friday morning, expanding on some of the proposals he laid out in his State of the Union address.

Obama told the crowd of more than 3,000 he is proposing changes to federal aid programs to combat rising tuition rates across the country.

"If (colleges) can’t stop tuition from going up, then the funding (they) get from taxpayers each year will go down. We should push colleges to do better," Obama said. "We should hold them accountable if they don’t.”

Under Obama's plan, federal aid would be cut for colleges and universities that continue to raise tuition.

Last year, Michigan universities increased their tuition rates by an average of 7.1 percent, in large part because of a 15-percent cut in state aid. Central Michigan University increased its tuition rate by 3.45 percent. Obama denounced cuts to state-level aid to colleges and universities throughout the country.

"We're telling the states if you can bring down the cost of college and find ways for more students to graduate ... we will give you additional federal support," Obama said.

He announced the beginning of a "Race to the Top program for college affordability." States that invest in higher education will receive more federal support for education, Obama said.

The president called on Congress to extend the recent tuition tax credit, which is set to expire in July.

CMU Political Science Professor James Hill said in an email the importance of a higher education should trump any fears about the cost of such proposals.

"While I am always mindful of the cost of new government initiatives, if there is a promising investment to be made with positive long-term potential, it is in education," Hill said.

Obama also spoke on the development of green energy and the environment.

"Right now, America is producing more of our own oil than we were eight years ago," Obama said. "That's good news. But ... no matter how much oil we produce, we’ve only got 2 percent of the world’s oil reserves. And that means we’ve got to focus on clean, renewable energy."

Obama said the development of green energy is good for the environment and will create jobs across the country.

He also urged Congress to extend the payroll tax cut set to expire at the end of February, and then reiterated his desire to raise taxes for the wealthy to reduce the deficit and pay for government programs.

"When it comes to paying our fair share, I believe we should follow the Warren Buffet rule," Obama said. "If you make more than $1 million a year, then you should pay a tax rate of at least 30 percent. On other hand, if you make less than $250,000, your taxes shouldn't go up."

Michigan Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow were in attendance, as well as Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and U-M quarterback Denard Robinson.


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