“In America, it should not matter who you are, where you come from, what your last name is, who you love. Everybody deserves a chance to make it. Everybody deserves opportunities, and hope, and dreams and futures.”
-President Barack Obama during his speech at Macomb Community College.
Since the implementation of Tennessee’s Promise to help make tuition free for community college students, the idea has spread across more than six other states. Recently on Sept. 9, President Barack Obama visited Macomb Community College to discuss this exact issue.
“You see, education has always been the secret sauce, the secret to America’s success,” Obama said in his opening remarks concerning higher education, according to a video recording of the event.
He explained that at a time, about 100 years ago, the farming economy of the United States began to evolve into an industrial economy and became one of the first countries to strive to provide a high school education for everyone, no matter their income. But that was when we were “ahead of the curve.” That was at a time when America’s workforce was the most educated which, in turn, created a great economy and great businesses. However, over time, this has changed.
“Other countries have caught up,” Obama said. “Good jobs, in some cases, have went overseas, and rather than redouble our efforts to make ourselves once again at the cutting edge and educate more and more of our young people, we decided to cut taxes for the very top and we stopped investing as much as we needed to in higher education.”
Although for some those decisions were beneficial, it left out the middle class, which Obama said was working harder. He commented how hard America’s been working the last seven years, battling against the repercussions of 2008’s recession.
“Today, our businesses have created more than 13 million jobs over the last five and half years which is the longest streak of job creation on record,” Obama said. “But look, it’s not enough to get back to where we were. It’s good that we’ve recovered but for the sake of future generations, we got to do better than that.”
Because of the escalation of Americans graduating from college, more than ever before, it’s even more important for income inequality to stop hindering adults from obtaining higher education and at a cost that won’t burden their wallets for years to come. Obama wants community college to be free of cost.
“Everything is moving too fast and if you don’t have the skills for new jobs that pay better, if you don’t have the knowledge to adapt and be creative with new machinery, new systems, new techniques, you’re going to fall behind and then the wages for unskilled work will go down and you’ll be trapped,” Obama said, addressing the MCC students.
As Obama continued his speech, he commented that although college graduation rates are at an all-time high, he wants to do more, thus announcing his plan to invest $175 million into apprenticeship programs, such as healthcare and advanced manufacturing, across 46 community colleges in the nation. Jill Biden, second lady of the U.S. and a Virginia community college professor, along with former Wyoming governor, Jim Geringer, will lead the Community College Promise Board. They will partner with various labor groups, non-profits, businesses, charities and colleges to “make sure that every person who works hard has a shot at higher education,” according to Obama.
Overall, his hopes are that community colleges can become as free as public high school. The idea of free college tuition has continued to be a relevant and a spotlight national topic. He says that his administration has been a part of the largest movement in apprenticeships in the last 10 years and this new investment will only build that force.
“It’s easy for politicians to say, ‘All of you are the future,’ every speech, ‘You guys are the future.’ But it’s not good enough just to say it. You gotta’ walk the walk, not just talk the talk,” Obama said. “So this is a concrete way to reduce the cost of higher education for young people (and) to improve the skills of workers for higher paying jobs to grow the economy.”