President Barack Obama's State of the Union address focuses on education

President Barack Obama mentioned higher education several times in his January 20 State of the Union address. The President's sixth State of the Union address, given to a joint session of Congress, struck an optimistic note about the state of the country and its economy while outlining plans for reducing income inequality.

The President's proposals for higher education were couched as ways to develop the nation's middle class. The goals he outlined include the reduction of student loan debt burdens and provision of a college tax cut for the middle class.

The President lauded the creation of the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC) early in his tenure as a success, and referenced previous Pell grant program increases and his recent proposal to make community college free. However, he admitted that the resulting system of tax incentives for higher education is complex. He proposed education tax reform that would consolidate tax-based financial aid. The President proposed increasing the dollar amount of benefits for 8.5 million of the 25 million taxpayer who currently claim education tax benefits. He also proposed up to five years of yearly direct federal assistance, up to $2,500, for students.

The President's education plans were not limited to on-campus higher education. He proposed an increased emphasis on apprenticeships and on-the-job training in science and technology fields, ideas. Obama called on private industry to increase investment in higher education as well.

Finally, Obama touched on higher education in his review of veterans' programs, suggesting continued investment in higher education for veterans of military service.