Before an energetic crowd today at the University of Michigan, President Obama laid out his plans to keep college affordable for all students. The "rally-like atmosphere" saw about 4,000 people come out to hear the President talk, according to NBC's Shawna Thomas, who was in Ann Arbor for the speech.
The President discussed the need for colleges to recognize the importance of keeping tuition costs low, citing a "great education" as the reason he and First Lady Michelle Obama achieved their successes. "We could not have done that unless we lived in a country that made a commitment to opening up that opportunity to all people," Obama said.
Among the many points in Obama's blueprint for the economy that served as an outline for his State of the Union address Wednesday night, he proposes a Race to the Top competition for colleges that will challenge states to keep tuition affordable. Under the proposal, colleges that act responsibly in bringing down the cost of tuition and help more students of all economic backgrounds graduate will receive more federal support.
"You can't just assume you can jack up tuition every year," Obama said, referring to colleges that continue to raise costs every year as a response to states that consistently cut higher education funding. According to an article in University World News, nearly 40 states cut funding for higher education last year.
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan appeared on Morning Joe today to discuss Obama's plan for colleges, saying, "What most troubles the president is that far too many hard-working, middle class people are starting to think that college isn't for them, that it's just for wealthy folks...that has to change."
The President is also proposing an increase in Perkins Loans funding that he says won't cost taxpayers anything.
"We have to educate our way to a better economy," Duncan said.
Obama also called for colleges to release a "report card" to provide prospective students and their families with information about tuition, graduation rates, and potential earnings in order to help individuals choose the college that will best suit their needs and educational and career goals.
In order for Obama's proposals to come into effect, the plan would need to be approved by a Congress that can't seem to agree on much.