President Obama delivered the annual State of the Union address on Tuesday. The President’s speech reflected on education as the most vital input for America’s economy. The American economy is well on the path of recovery from the aftermath of subprime crisis. The economy is generating more jobs and at a faster rate as compared to 1999 and the unemployment rate has fallen, deficit is shrinking and the industrial activity has also been revived. According to the State of the Union address of President Obama, the credit is well-deserved by the hardworking middle class families. President’s address focussed on expanding opportunities for the Middle class so that they can contribute a fair share towards re-building of the American economy. However, problem abound for the middle class in terms of unequal access to opportunities and the financial struggle to realise their dreams.

The President noted that by 2020, two out of three jobs will require Higher Education. Higher education has also played a key role in creating and filling newer jobs. The existing workforce of America is better equipped to survive the 21st century knowledge economy than ever before. The President applauded the efforts of America’s educational institutions, teachers as well as students on the improvised education and knowledge metrics viz, higher math and reading scores for young kids, an all-time high graduation rate and a substantial increase in the number of College graduates as well. The president’s address loomed largely around creating knowledge and skills enhancing opportunities for middle class families which rests to a great extent on high quality higher education for young students.

The current economy is opportunistically skewed towards skilled labour force, especially the skill developed through garnering all around knowledge. High Schools and Colleges will play a key role in creating this Human capital. However, often the brighter lot is left unexposed due to unaffordability of top class education. While most of the premier educational institutions of America charge huge sums of Tuition, the affordable colleges and high schools languish in terms of quality. The President’s address focussed on these two priorities.

For the purpose of expanding opportunities for the middle class Americans, the President reiterated his earlier announced America’s College Promise proposal. The Proposal sought to make two years of community college virtually free for students in America. The community colleges are sometimes the sole hope not just for fresh students but also for the already employed folks, looking to retrain themselves for promotions and economic shifts and veterans and single parents looking to re-enter the workforce as well as . President’s promise will help many of these Americans to achieve their career aspirations without giving up their wages or breaking back with student’s loans. While Community colleges will be required to offer high quality educational and vocational programs, the students will also have to enrol on half-time basis and maintain a GPA of at least 2.5.

The president also appealed to the businesses to invest more in human capital by offering on-job training programs, tying up with community colleges for filling high-paying and vocational jobs such as coding, and nursing, and robotics and contribute towards workforce development by offering educational benefits and paid apprenticeships to help workers reap the benefits of knowledge economy with higher and more equal wages in future.

Mr President also promised to increase the reach of free and open internet especially in all classrooms to facilitate young digital innovators.

Parenting plays a key role in early learning of every child and Mr President devoted a large portion of his address to addressing the biggest problem of all middle class families, especially the young parents. It is the issue of affordable quality childcare.  Most middle class families today have both parents working in the workforce. However, it comes at a huge price of childcare and early learning developments of the tiny tots they leave behind at home. The financial struggles of the middle class families have risen over 70% since 1985 with over 7.2% of their expenses factoring only for childcare, compared to 6.3% in 1986. President Obama was quick to note that the childcare expenses for raising two boys in Minnesota was equivalent to one year’s tuition at the University of Minnesota.

While, mounting costs of quality childcare are making working parents an economic necessity, the lower pays and high rates of taxes are also making many women workers drop out of the workforce.

Mr President gave hope to many middle class families by hinting at including issues such as childcare in his budget plan and to be dealt as a top economic priority. Apart from call for paid sick leaves and wage raise and gender-wage equality; Obama’s speech hinted towards a new tax cut of up to $3,000 per child, per year for middle class and low income families with young children, to provide affordable quality childcare.

What are your thoughts on Obama’s Middle Class Economics and America’s College Promise Proposal? Do share with us in comments! 

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