State of the Union Address

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January 31, 2014 · by mlivolsi · Spark Notes

Prepared by: Wes Huffman (

January 29, 2014

Yesterday, President Obama delivered his fifth State of the Union (SOTU) address.  A summary of education elements of the speech prepared by Washington Partners, LLC is attached.

Specific to college affordability and student loans, President Obama highlighted the recent White House summit of college presidents and others on access, success, and affordability.  He also said, “We’re working to redesign high schools and partner them with colleges and employers that offer the real-world education and hands-on training that can lead directly to a job and career.  We’re shaking up our system of higher education to give parents more information, and colleges more incentives to offer better value, so that no middle-class kid is priced out of a college education.  We’re offering millions the opportunity to cap their monthly student loan payments to ten percent of their income, and I want to work with Congress to see how we can help even more Americans who feel trapped by student loan debt.  And I’m reaching out to some of America’s leading foundations and corporations on a new initiative to help more young men of color facing tough odds stay on track and reach their full potential.”

In addition to the President’s speech, the White House releases numerous fact sheets and other documents to support it.  In an “Opportunity for All” fact sheet, the White House states the following on college affordability:

  • Increasing College Opportunity and Graduation. A child born into the bottom 20% of the income scale has a less than 1-in-20 shot of making it to the top if they do not go to college.  Earning a college degree changes those odds to closer to 1-in-5.  That’s why earlier this year, the President and First Lady hosted a first-ever White House Call to Action on College Opportunity with over 150 new commitments from colleges, universities, businesses, philanthropists, and non-profits to improve college access and success for low-income students. The President is calling for a continued mobilization throughout 2014 to foster new commitments to action to help more low-income students access and succeed in college, including from additional colleges and universities, businesses, nonprofits and other leaders.
  • Making College More Affordable for American Families. Higher education is the single most important investment students can make in their own futures. At the same time, students are taking on increasing amounts of debt to pay for it. That’s why since taking office, President Obama has made historic investments in college affordability, increasing the maximum Pell Grant award for working and middle class families by more than $900, creating the American Opportunity Tax Credit, and enacting effective student loan reforms eliminating bank subsidies and making college more affordable. In August, President Obama outlined an ambitious new agenda, including the development of a new system of college ratings to incentivize colleges to focus on affordability and value and to help students and families make better college choices.  Because higher education leaders across the country are already finding new ways to help students learn more at lower cost, the agenda includes partnering with college and universities, entrepreneurs, researchers, and thought leaders from the education and technology fields to help empower students and families with the tools and resources to help them make informed decisions about going to and paying for college and to support innovations and technologies that can lead to breakthroughs on college cost and quality. This year the President will continue pursing executive actions to spur the development, validation, and scaling-up of these cutting-edge innovations.

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