By Valerie Morris
Page Layout Editor

Photo courtesy of White House

In President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address Jan. 24, he highlighted the importance of community colleges to train skilled workers. Citing the high unemployment rates, Obama described it as ‘inexcusable’ that many companies needed workers and were unable to find anyone with the required skills. The President went on to say that community colleges are valuable assets that can be instrumental in turning the economy around and providing more jobs locally.

 “Model partnerships between business like Siemens and community colleges in places like Charlotte, Orlando, and Louisville are up and running,” said Obama. “Now you need to give more community colleges the resources they need to become community career centers – places that teach people skills that local businesses are looking for right now, from data management to high-tech manufacturing.”

“The President believes that community colleges are the portal to providing two million Americans with the skills they need for the jobs that are available, and he reinforced the importance of industry-based partnership to ensure alignment of educational programs and employer demand,” said Marcia Ballinger, Provost/Vice President for Academic and Learner Services. “We are delighted that the President continues to recognize the community colleges as the gateway for training our workforce in this economy.”

According to Obama, community colleges offer a shorter route for workers to receive training to get a job, but it can often be a difficult road with the high cost of education and length of time needed to receive a degree. During the address, Obama urged states to consider higher education an important issue.

“We can’t just keep subsidizing skyrocketing tuition; we’ll run out of money. States also need to do their part, by making higher education a higher priority in their budgets,” said Obama. “And colleges and universities have to do their part by working to keep costs down.”

Obama revisited the topic of education several times throughout the address, making it clear that education should be a priority.

“Higher education can’t be a luxury – it’s an economic imperative that every family in America should be able to afford,” said Obama. He even put higher education institutions ‘on notice’ saying “If you can’t stop tuition from going up, the funding you get from taxpayers will go down.”

Students weigh in on the State of the Union address

 A few LCCC students had mixed opinions about whether the tuition raise reflected Obama’s push for institutions to keep costs down. “I always have reservations about a presidential speech. Actions speak louder than words,” said Kayla Barnes, journalism student. As a business owner, Barnes said she didn’t agree with Obama’s stance on taking away tax deductions for businesses.

“He came out strong. I enjoyed his points on college since it affects me,” said Matt Pahulick, another journalism student. He added that he agreed with Obama’s stance on other topics such as preventing students from dropping out of school and not giving tax breaks to companies that outsource jobs.

Among Obama’s other goals for higher education was to guarantee that students don’t graduate with large amounts of tuition debt. Some of his suggestions to prevent that were to extend tuition tax credits, and to increase the number of work-study jobs, to “give more young people the chance to earn their way through college.”

Karl Schneider contributed to this report.