Obama calls for state budgets to prioritise higher education

Barack Obama has called on state departments to prioritise higher education in their budgets – but has warned universities that spiralling tuition will be met with a cut in taxpayer funding.

January 25, 2012

In his State of the Union address yesterday, the US president said tuition fees were “the most daunting challenge” for students graduating from high school.

Although he asked that states prioritise higher education in their budgets more highly than they are doing at present, he added that colleges and universities needed to “do their part” when it came to keeping cost down.

Initiatives Mr Obama cited as part of cost-saving measures included the use of better technology in delivering courses or re-designing courses so that students are able to finish their degree more quickly.

“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,” he said.

“Higher education can’t be a luxury – it’s an economic imperative that every family in America should be able to afford.”

He called on Congress to do its part to make college affordable by stopping interest rates on student loans doubling, as they are due to do in July and extending tuition tax credits.

Another area in which Mr Obama exhorted authorities not to cut funding was in research at universities and in industry

“Don’t gut these investments in our budget. Don’t let other countries win the race for the future. Support the same kind of research and innovation that led to the computer chip and the internet,” he said.

He also took the opportunity to criticise opponents of the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, a bill which would allow a path to citizenship for illegal aliens who arrived in the US as minors.

Although the Dream Act was first introduced over a decade ago, several versions of the bill have failed to pass through both houses, mainly as a result of opposition from the Republican Party.

“The opponents of action are out of excuses,” Mr Obama said. “We should be working on comprehensive immigration reform right now.

“But if election-year politics keeps congress from acting on a comprehensive plan, let’s at least agree to stop expelling responsible young people who want to staff our labs, start new businesses, and defend this country. Send me a law that gives them the chance to earn their citizenship. I will sign it right away.”

sarah.cunnane@tsleducation.com

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