WASHINGTON — U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) issued the following statement on President Barack Obama’s remarks concerning higher education in his State of the Union. Senator Cardin was accompanied to the State of the Union Address by Robert Caret, Chancellor of the University System of Maryland and former Towson University President. Chancellor Caret represented the more than 165,000 undergraduate and graduate students across 12 campuses in Maryland.
“President Obama’s focus in his final State of the Union on breaking the gridlock in reforming higher education is, in many ways, a watershed moment. The president made it clear that he will not be a ‘lame duck’ as his term draws to a close and that he wants to work across the aisle to bring about meaningful change. Making higher education more affordable and accessible should be a top priority for Republicans and Democrats alike.
“Too many Americans currently are being priced out of higher education. American students and families face the prospect of the American dream being pushed beyond their grasp by rapidly mounting student loan debt loads. Students who have financed their higher education goals through student loan debt face limited employment opportunities and will have fewer resources with which to save for retirement, a first home, investments, or to start a small business. This hurts us all.
“Maryland families who know the importance of higher education should not be forced to undertake generational debt in order to achieve a foothold in the middle class. The president understands that a well-educated and highly skilled workforce is vital to sustain our prosperity in a globalized 21st-century job market. For the past several years, I have traveled across the state to hear directly from students at Maryland’s diverse collection of community colleges public and private four-year colleges and universities, and Historically Black Colleges and Universities about the urgent need to make higher education more affordable and existing student debt loads more manageable.
“As I listened to President Obama tonight, I was reminded of a student I met at a Baltimore area university who ranked near the top of her class. When we met, she was nearing the conclusion of her sophomore year, but said that she would be dropping out of school due to the financial stress her student loans placed on her family. While she observed friends from high school immediately start their lives in the workforce to assist their families, she felt the cost to obtain her education harmed her family’s economic future. This student is now left with student loan debt, but no degree to show for her hard work.
“The federal government has a responsibility to create additional pathways and to remove roadblocks for students to obtain a quality, affordable higher education. After all, for generations, we have been telling our children that the American dream is achievable for those individuals willing to pursue an education and work hard. I stand ready to work with President Obama, the private sector and members from both parties to ensure that all Americans can obtain a quality, affordable higher education.”