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Student leaders support Obama’s community college plan, differ on other State of the Union ideas

President Barack Obama delivers the State of The Union address on Tuesday in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. Credit: Courtesy of TNS

President Barack Obama delivers the State of The Union address on Tuesday in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. Credit: Courtesy of TNS

Ohio State College Republicans and College Democrats had mixed reactions to President Barack Obama’s proposed plans in his State of the Union address, but there was one thing they agreed on: free community college is an efficient way to fuel the economy.

Obama spoke about predominantly middle-class-focused plans during his State of the Union address Tuesday night, focusing on reform in areas like taxes, education and family leave.

The president proposed a $320 billion plan to raise the tax rate on couples making more than $500,000 from 23.8 percent to 28 percent. His plan also implements a higher tax rate on attaining financial inheritance, such as trust funds, and said he will also levy fees on top financial firms.

The money received from this new tax plan will go toward areas like tripling the tax credit for child care and providing new tax credit for two-income households.

Michael Lakomy, political director for OSU College Democrats and a second-year in accounting, said he thinks the new tax plan could propel the U.S. to greater success.

“If we continue to shift taxes to the poor, it will strangle the country,” Lakomy said. “I would much rather have the person buy one fewer yacht than one fewer meal for their family.”

Zach Pohl, chairman of OSU College Republicans and a fourth-year in logistics management, said the new tax plan executes redistribution of wealth, which he opposes.

“I’m against that in moral principle,” Pohl said. “The government should not be taking money from one place and putting it somewhere else.”

Obama also called for Congress to grant trade promotion authority for the president to negotiate free and fair trade from Europe to Asia, which he said would protect American workers.

The president also proposed a free two-year community college plan for both part-time and full-time students with a GPA of 2.5 or higher, provided that they graduate on time.

“To make sure folks keep earning higher wages down the road, we have to do more to help Americans upgrade their skills,” Obama said.

In addition to free tuition, Obama said Vice President Joe Biden is working to connect community colleges to local employers in order to train students for high-paying jobs in fields such as coding, robotics and nursing.

As a full-time college student working year-round, Lakomy said he is excited that policies are being proposed to address the issue of student debt.

“How the president presents what we know we can pay for, what we know Republicans can get behind because we did it in Tennessee, and one that will dramatically improve the lives of not just college students, but the rest of the nation as well, I think is a really cool idea,” Lakomy said.

In April, Republican-led Tennessee initiated a free two-year community college plan for all state residents to begin in fall 2015.

OSU Undergraduate Student Government President Celia Wright, a fourth-year in public health, said she liked Obama’s free community college plan.

She added that USG has been partnering with OSU organizations such as Students for Education Reform to push for easier access to all levels of education, as well as high school curriculum reform.

Pohl said he approved of the free community college plan under the condition that it fund only STEM students.

“This is a government program with a purpose to get more skilled workers into skilled jobs,” Pohl said.

Obama ended his speech by looking forward on a note of unity.

“I want (future generations) to grow up in a country that shows the world what we still know to be true: that we are still more than a collection of red states and blue states; that we are the United States of America,” he said.

“A brighter future is ours to write. Let’s begin this new chapter — together — and let’s start the work right now.”


  1. There is a better, cheaper alternative to paying for 2 years of community college. It’s called “get your act together in high school and take those classes your final 2 years”. The vast majority of community college students are being remediated in subject areas that they didn’t learn in high school. And far too many decide on vocational training AFTER they leave high school.

    There are only 3 groups of people who think this is a good investment: students who want 2 more years of free education while they decide what to do with their lives, those who think any idea of BHO’s is a great one, and the presidents of community colleges who stand to make a windfall at the taxpayers’ expense.

  2. Would any student who thinks that two, or one, year of community college would be “free” please withdraw from OSU and go back to grade school. You’re not ready mentally for an institution of higher education. Who in God’s name do you think pays for the buildings, the heat and electricity, the faculty salaries, the supplies, etc, if this “experience” is free?

    As for the high cost of college (including here at OSU) and those student loans, please justify why so many students have the best and newest cell phones, drive a nice car, wear the latest fashions, etc. I recently retired from teaching here and saw, first hand, how well decked out most students are, including those taking on the burden of student loans. You want to get out of such a huge debt burden? Do without until you are out in the work place and earning a decent salary. I did, and it worked for me. It’s simple math, so simple that you don’t even need a college education to figure it out.

  3. According to an editorial in the Wall Street Journal, one out of five who start community college earn an associates degree. Of those who do, one out of five earn a bachelor’s degree. The job market continues to be horrible, with an unemployment rate hovering around 6% (not bad) but participation rate at its lowest level in more than three decades. My college graduate son can’t get a real job because companies aren’t hiring. This program will simply give community colleges the opportunity to raise costs more while having little positive impact.

  4. This “free community college” deal will just ultimately make the problem of educations costs even worse. The reason college tuition is so high now is that colleges & universities jacked up their rates because all the students could get easy money from the federal government. You can be sure that Dr. Drake and all of your professors don’t give a flip about how you’ll pay off those debts. This “free” deal just moves the cost around and allows the colleges to continue raising their rates. Get rid of all the easy college tuition money and let the schools compete for students on a even playing field. Costs will either come down or schools will go out of business. Make no mistake, these schools ARE businesses!

  5. The Tennessee tuition program is self-funded through the lottery. No tax money is going to that.

    Who’s gonna pay for Obamaschool? I’ll tell you who, the middle class, thru their tax dollars. Sorry Obama, I’m already pinching pennies to save for my own kids to go to school, I’m not paying for someone else kids also.

    And anyone want to guess whether Obama makes this available to illegals, umm, I mean “undocumented immigrants”?

  6. “I would much rather have the person buy one fewer yacht than one fewer meal for their family.”

    Gotta love that statement. Does Lakomy and the OSU College Democrats he represents understand anything about the economy? Do they understand that that “yacht” can employ 100s of people for a year? Provide a solid income, health insurance, and other benefits that go far beyond that “one meal”? That those employees will then turn around and spend that money they are making, creating even more jobs?

    What we should be trying to do, using Lakomy’s yacht example, is get those 1%’ers to buy that “made in the USA” yacht, keeping the money within our borders, putting our citizens to work.

  7. “Obama education legacy: Pomp and fizzle?” Another photo-op fizzle…


  8. Obama always makes steps in the right direction but doesn’t deliver the best. The ACA is an example. He improves healthcare coverage for more Americans but uses the Republican plan of 1993 (see Kaiser Family Foundation) Bernie Sanders by contrast goes for HR 676 which is universal coverage in the Medicare mode for all Americans. Now applying the little bit of help with community colleges being available pales in comparison to all students being able to attend state universities at no cost under the plan by Bernie Sanders. Sanders funds it with a tax on Wall St and its speculators. Where Obama talked big change, Sanders is the big change and articulates the changes. This country needs Sanders.

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