Statement by AASCU President Dr. Muriel Howard in Response to President Obama’s State of the Union Address

The President is right: Education is one of the keys to keeping the American promise alive. In his State of the Union address, President Obama defined that promise in part as “if you worked hard, you could do well enough to raise a family, own a home, send your kids to college and put a little away for retirement.” He called keeping that promise the defining issue of our time.

I applaud the President for his commitment to education and the fact that he clearly understands that improving America’s current status and future standing depends on our willingness to invest in education. He touched on issues important to AASCU and our members: supporting good teachers in the K-12 sector; calling on Congress to maintain the current interest rate on federal student loans; doubling the number of work-study students over the next five years, and permanently extending the American Opportunity Tax Credit.

The President was right to challenge states to commit to improved funding for higher education. Working with our state colleges and universities, AASCU clearly understands the dynamics of failing state support. Public higher education has always been an affordable means to obtaining a four-year degree. Even as states diminish their support for public colleges and universities, and despite rising costs, the regional, comprehensive institutions remain the most accessible and affordable for students.

I am concerned about the President’s call that institutions of higher education must hold costs down or run the risk of losing federal support. While I understand his viewpoint, public institutions in 40 states do not have complete control of their pricing. Harming students at these institutions because of decisions made beyond the control of their college or university is an obstacle to keeping the American promise. We concur that controlling costs and seeking efficiencies is important, and AASCU institutions have numerous success stories to tell despite dealing with draconian state funding cuts.

AASCU is committed to working with President Obama on a number of the initiatives he outlined last night, including passage of the DREAM Act. Many of his priorities are in perfect alignment with our Public Policy Agenda for 2012. We, and our members, also are dedicated to ensuring that public four-year institutions remain affordable and accessible, while continuing to deliver a quality education. We are committed to the American promise.