Students Should Tune in to the State of the Union

“In the United States of America, no one should go broke because they chose to go to college.” President Obama took time during his State of the Union address on Wednesday to point out flaws in the nation’s higher education system and announce the actions his administration plans to take in order to make college more affordable. As concerned students, the Foghorn staff paid close attention to when and how education reform would take place. Unfortunately, many students around campus seemed oblivious to President Obama’s plan for reform. In fact, some students didn’t even know the State of the Union address was taking place. Several of the televisions around campus and in dorm lounges were not turned on, denying students crucial information about education reform, as well as the economy, healthcare, and the War in Iraq.

Regardless of political persuasion (or, in some cases, political apathy), students should care about the State of the Union for a few key reasons. First, President Obama described his ideas for lowering the cost of higher education. In this description he mentions increasing tax credit to up to $10,000 per family, forgiving student loans, and increasing Pell grants. These actions could greatly affect the financial burdens students and their families currently shoulder. Even if students are skeptical of President Obama’s plans for reform, it is still imperative that students are aware of how these changes could affect their lives and what actions they can take to either support or oppose changes in the education system.

In addition to education reform, President Obama talked at length about the job market and how to stimulate the economy through job creation. Most current USF students will graduate and become part of the workforce in the next few years, but the current recession has limited student options after college. Understanding where jobs are being created and which career paths are sustainable will greatly enhance students’ ability to find a job after graduation. The State of the Union is a great place to develop an understanding of what the executive branch is doing to support job creation. More research about specific jobs and majors may be needed, but the State of the Union provides the entire nation with information about the changes expected in the coming year.

President Obama made several statements in his speech that will affect students here on the USF campus. Fist, he has promised to have all troops removed from Iraq by August 2010. This means that ROTC students on campus are less likely to be deployed overseas after graduation and some of the money currently invested in Iraq will be redistributed, potentially to education or domestic job creation. Second, the President vowed to end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, acknowledging that gay Americans have every right to “serve the country they love.” This action will create more job opportunities for gay students at USF, as well as potentially upset conservative groups on campus and in the community. Third, President Obama directly addressed health care. The many families in the USF community without health insurance undoubtedly need to be informed about how healthcare reform could affect them. Those families with health insurance must assess the needs of their neighbors, as well as their personal views on government taxation and the public option. Students at USF have a responsibility to educate themselves both inside and outside of the classroom and without basic knowledge of the governance of the country, students may not be able to make informed decisions about their careers, finances, or social and moral obligations.

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