Education Among Top Tweeted Inquiries to #AskObama
by Jordan J. Frasier | George Mason University
President Obama took a step toward connecting directly with younger tech-savvy citizens Wednesday, as he became the first president in history to live tweet and answer 140-character questions during a Twitter Town Hall held in the East Room of the White House.
Twitter reported that nearly 170,000 tweets were sent to the president with the hash tag #AskObama, most focusing on important topics to college students: the economy and education.
Early in the town hall Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, who moderated the event, asked Obama a question tweeted by a student in Ohio who asked the president how higher education can be made more affordable.
Obama said his administration has already taken a significant step toward providing students with more resources through a higher education package passed last year. In that package, the president said subsides that were going to banks have been rerouted directly to students through Pell Grants and lower student loan rates.
“This is about tens of billions of dollars’ worth of additional federal dollars that were going to banks are now going to students directly,” Obama said.
The president said another part of his higher education program goes into effect in 2013 when students will not have to pay more than 10 percent of their income in repayment of educational loans. Obama used his own law school debt as an example of how burdensome repayment can be, especially when he was paying more on the school debt each month than he was paying on his mortgage.
But as students around the country face tuition increases this fall, Obama also said it’s up to colleges and universities to keep costs down. He said students who expect fancy food and recreation facilities on campus might need to lower their expectations in order to keep costs down.
Community colleges also play a role in the president’s higher education plans by creating what he called “lifelong learning systems.” Obama said community colleges are under-utilized resources where people, even with four-year degrees, can go to brush up on new skills and technology needed in changing work environments.
After questions about the debt ceiling, job creation and even a tweet from Speaker of the House John Boehner, Obama returned to the topic of education through a tweet from California asking about a lack of skilled workers and smart citizens.
The president said that during America’s transition from an agricultural society to an industrial society the nation invested in high schools to produce skilled workers. Then he said after World War II the nation used the GI Bill to invest in higher education to help advance the economy. Now as the economy becomes more and more knowledge based, Obama said it’s no time to “short shift education.”
“Every time we’ve made a public investment in education, it has paid off many times over,” Obama said.
The president said investment in education comes from national priorities that focus not just on bringing more money into education but also reforming the system so that it works for students.
Some investment in education can come from reductions in defense spending, Obama said. The president said reducing defense money will be a gradual process as America reduces its role in Iraq and Afghanistan, but he said doing this will give “a lot of head room to fund things like basic research or student loans or things like that.”Jordan J. Frasier is a staff writer for NextGen Journal. He’s a senior at George Mason University studying political science and journalism. Jordan is a news editor for Connect2mason.com and is a network news intern in Washington D.C. Connect with him on twitter @jordanjfrasier and at jordanjfrasier.com.