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State of the Union deserves more student attention

Did you watch President Obama’s State of the Union address last week? We didn’t. It turns out that he talked about financial aid and foreign students. He even talked about tech jobs and became the first president to mention “start-ups” in a State of the Union.

Here’s a quick rundown: Among emphasis on high-tech manufacturing, a stable economy with fair taxes, energy self-sufficiency, and increased national security, Obama first encouraged America to become “a country that leads the world in educating its people.”

Part of that is improving K-12 education, Obama said. He outlined paying teachers more and paying them for performance, but at the same time lessening the onerous burden of standardization, which encourages schools to teach to the test.

Obama also laid out several suggestions just for college students. “Congress needs to stop the interest rates on student loans from doubling in July.” Did you even know that was going to happen? The problem is that we didn’t help the situation at all. As college students who understand these difficulties firsthand, we should be taking an active political role in shaping the future for students just like us.

State schools should have more money, but they should also learn to teach in a more cost-effective manner. “So let me put colleges and universities on notice,” Obama warned. “If you can’t stop tuition from going up, the funding you get from taxpayers will go down.” This is a perfect example of an issue that requires the input, or at least the attention, of college students.

Obama also addressed the fact that we welcome foreign students and then make them go home once they graduate. “That doesn’t make sense,” he said.

Finally, Obama urged Congress to help start-ups and small businesses succeed and to support technological development so that America will have new jobs and industries, “the same kind of research and innovation that led to the computer chip and the internet.”

So none of us watched the State of the Union (although we did see a cool four-minute video called “Behind the Scenes: Writing the 2012 State of the Union Address”). However, the political landscape needs the attention of college students. What a change from our usual political fare: Wikipedia hunger strikes to protest SOPA and Photoshopped politicians on Reddit.

More needs to be done; it’s our responsibility to be more aware of what’s going on, to reach out to our representatives, and to make a difference.