Since his re-election, President Barack Obama has come through on several issues related to college students, while others still hang in the balance waiting for action.
“Through tax credits, grants and better loans, we have made college more affordable for millions of students and families over the last few years,” Obama said in his State of the Union address. “But taxpayers cannot continue to subsidize the soaring cost of higher education. Colleges must do their part to keep costs down, and it’s our job to make sure they do.”
One of Obama’s promises to students included creating a way to evaluate which colleges appeal to their specific needs.
Days after the president’s speech, the U.S. Department of Education released an interactive College Scorecard — a compilation of college tuition prices, enrollment numbers, graduation rates and other statistics that could be a factor in a student’s college decision.
Director of the Office of Admissions Jim Cotter said the scorecard shows Obama is trying to provide students with a simple way to compare similar information about colleges.
“I think it’s targeted enough that it may indeed allow students to make some pretty equal types of comparisons,” he said.
During his address, the president proposed increasing the federal minimum wage to $9 per hour, which would be an increase from Michigan’s $7.40 rate and could mean a bigger paycheck for some MSU students.
According to a poll conducted a few days after Obama’s speech by the Pew Research Center, about 71 percent of Americans support the increase.
On March 5, Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., and Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, introduced the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013 to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour by 2015.
“Despite all they do to keep our economy running, minimum wage workers earn just $7.25 an hour — not enough to pay the bills, much less aspire to the American Dream,” Harkin said in a statement.
The GOP has voiced concerns about the bill, which could fail to pass in the Republican-controlled House — a common occurrence state Rep. Sam Singh, D-East Lansing, said is holding back efforts toward reforming higher education. Singh is a member of the Michigan Legislature’s House Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education.
“With the conversations breaking down between the Republicans in Congress and (Obama) and the sequestration occurring, those hopes and promises for higher education have been (put aside),” Singh said.
Obama also encouraged Congress to change the Higher Education Act to include value and affordability in determining how much funding a college receives.
The Higher Education Act first was signed in 1965 and is reauthorized every five years. It last was signed in 2008 and is due for reconsideration this year. Congress has the opportunity to make any changes to programs, student loans, how students obtain financial aid or how colleges receive government funding, but has yet to introduce legislation so far.