Education has always been central to the American Dream: the promise that if you work hard, you can achieve anything. Unfortunately, the skyrocketing cost of student loan debt means that when millions of Americans should be building their careers, starting their families, and pursuing their dreams, they are instead being held back.
Much attention has rightly been paid to reforming student loans, such as making sure borrowers can refinance high-interest loans and expanding income-based payment options. These programs, though they would help millions of struggling borrowers, aren't a tourniquet, but only a bandage on a $1.2 trillion student debt crisis.
If his K-20 proposal actually becomes law, thousands of young people whose hopes for college seemed as remote as landing a corner office job will have an entry into a world of possibility. They will have access to both a college and career pathway for the array of jobs requiring Associates degrees or certification.
I recently got an email invitation from a Democratic congressional office to come to a "watch party" to view President Obama's State of the Union address. His "fourth-quarter priorities," according to the White House-inspired talking points of the message, are "home ownership, free community college, and high-paying jobs." That sounds pretty good. But if you unpack the specifics, the president is offering pretty weak tea. Obama proposes to have the federal government cover 75 percent of the cost, if states will participate. This could save students an average of over $3,000 a year. By contrast, the original G.I. Bill of Rights of 1944 covered living expenses as well as tuition. The point is that this Obama proposal is not going to be passed by the Republican Congress in any case, so why not think big and act bold? Why not propose something that would make a major difference in the lives of millions of moderate income Americans and dare the Republicans to oppose it?