Obama asks Congress for student tax credits


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President Obama asked Congress during his State of the Union speech Tuesday night to help make college more affordable for Americans so the United States can rely on a more educated and innovative population.

Obama asked Democratic and Republican lawmakers to extend the tuition tax credit, which was introduced in the economic stimulus bill passed in 2009. The credit allows students or their families to deduct up to $2,500 per year per student from their federal taxes.

Locally, the decision to cement the credit program was met with support from both Republican and Democratic students at the University of Iowa. But Republicans said the Obama administration needs to handle the decision responsibly.

University of Iowa political-science Associate Professor Cary Covington said tax credits will probably help increase students’ access to higher education.

“Anything that helps defray the cost of college education is going to make it easier to stay in college,” he said.

During his hour-long speech, Obama said accessibility is of the utmost importance.

“The education race doesn’t end with a high school diploma,” he said. “To compete, higher education must be within reach of every American.”

Covington said the question is whether the tax credits are the best way to use the country’s resources, but in the short run, they would help.

In addition to education, Obama said he supports the expansion of high-speed rails throughout the country, increased access to high-speed Internet, and allowing military recruiters back on school campuses after the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

The president also backed his controversial health-care reform and aimed to cut spending, agreeing to look into substantial budget cuts with lawmakers.

But political science professor Tim Hagle said Obama may not have addressed the economy specifically enough.

“One of the criticisms I’ve seen is that the President didn’t get to real core issues that seem to be at the heart of the anxiety people have,” Hagle said. “What to do with deficit and spending.”

Amid applause, fist pumping, and cheers, a crowd of around 65 people watched the speech on a large projection screen at the Mill, 120 E. Burlington St., on Tuesday. Members of the UI University Democrats attended the party.

Though Dane Hudson, the president of the student group, said he believes direct financial aid would be the best choice, he said, tax credits for college students are a great incentive.

“A tax credit is the only way it’s going to work,” he said.

Natalie Ginty, the chairwoman of the UI College Republicans, said she agrees the credits can be valuable assistance for students, but the government has to be cautious.

“The issue for us is not revenue whatsoever, it’s how we spend the money,” she said. “It’s about being responsible with spending.”

While the credits are aimed toward college students, community members support the president’s goal as well.

“I would love to see that happen, anything that helps students,” said Rosanne Cook, an Iowa City resident and community organizer with Organizing for America.

Midway through the speech, Hudson said he thought tax credits for college students is especially relevant today.

“It’s going to be essential to earn a college degree,” he said in between applause, adding it is important to make college accessible to people who normally would try to find a job without a degree.

The president also addressed elementary- and secondary-education issues. As the baby boom generation begins to retire, Obama said, the country needs 100,000 new teachers in several different areas.

“If you want to make a difference in the life of a child, become a teacher,” he said. “Your country needs you.”

Obama also said the “hundreds of thousands of students excelling in our schools who are not American citizens,” shouldn’t be worried daily about deportation.

“As soon as they obtain advanced degrees, we send them back home to compete against us,” he said. “It makes no sense.”

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