President Obama: Higher education, raising minimum wage among top priorities

President Barack Obama speaks to the media after Friday's sequester meeting at the White House. March 1, 2013 in Washington, D.C. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/MCT)

President Barack Obama made it clear that taking drastic cuts to higher education to prevent cuts in defense spending would be a mistake in his State of the Union address Tuesday.

Obama proposed working with states to hold colleges and universities accountable in keeping tuition rates down.

“Colleges must do their part to keep costs down, and it’s our job to make sure they do,” Obama said. “Tonight, I ask Congress to change the Higher Education Act, so that affordability and value are included in determining which colleges receive certain types of federal aid.”

In addition, it was announced the Obama administration would release a new “College Scorecard” that parents and students can use to compare schools in order to get a better bang for their “educational buck.

He also made investment in preschool and elementary school a priority.

“In states that make it a priority to educate our youngest children, studies show students grow up more likely to read and do math at grade level, graduate high school, hold a job and form more stable families of their own,” Obama said.

David Jesuit, a professor in Political Science at CMU, said any policy that pits science, technology, math and science against other areas of study is a bad one.

“We need to invest more in education at all levels and in all disciplines,” Jesuit said.

The president pointed to other countries’ focus on graduating their high school students with the equivalent of a technical degree from one of America’s community colleges.

“Let’s also make sure that a high school diploma puts our kids on a path to a good job,” Obama said.

Obama also proposed raising the federal minimum wage to $9 from $7.25.

"Here’s an idea that Gov. (Mitt) Romney and I actually agreed on last year: Let’s tie the minimum wage to the cost of living, so that it finally becomes a wage you can live on," Obama said.

Two months after the Newtown shooting, the president made a plea to Congress for stricter gun laws, including universal background checks and a ban on assault weapons.

Obama closed his address by paying homage to the victims of gun violence.

Jesuit said the closing of the speech was more emotional than most State of the Union speeches and that the president did a good job detailing his agenda.

“It is hard to determine what the single most important issue (was) from the president’s perspective,” Jesuit said. “Nonetheless, I would order his priorities as the economy, immigration and gun control.”

Obama suggested Congress should overhaul immigration laws and tackle climate change.

Though Obama devoted less time to foreign policy than in past years, he announced 34,000 American troops will be withdrawn from Afghanistan over the next year, putting the U.S. on pace for its 2014 withdrawal deadline.


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