Thursday, April 16, 2015

Obama visits Queen City with women in mind

Posted By on Thu, Apr 16, 2015 at 4:29 PM

As a soon-to-be college graduate getting ready to brave the big girl world (aka the working world, the post-college slap in the face, whatever you choose to call it), I’m beginning to realize that the concept of full-time employment is a terrifying land of political mumbo jumbo and sticky financial stakes.

This fear became even more real when I watched (via live stream on YouTube) President Obama speak to 100 or so women bloggers and Charlotte natives at ImaginOn library yesterday about issues facing America’s families. The POTUS and his posse partnered with SheKnows, an influential online media organization dedicated to publishing the voices of women all over the country, including many from the Charlotte area.

Oh hai, Obama!

Fear, you ask? Well, for starters, Obama has tried to pass his Paycheck Fairness Act guaranteeing women equal pay for equal work four times, but it has yet to pass. “This should be a no brainer,” Obama said. At this rate, I may be entering into a job that could rob me of my rightful earnings. On average, women earn 84 percent of what men earn. I sure as heck paid the same tuition as Mr. Graduate, but I might not make as much to show for it.

Obama has acknowledged a need for a change for the sake of both his daughters and women in all 50 states, saying, “When women succeed here in America, the whole country succeeds.” Thanks for believing in me, even when Congress doesn’t, Mr. President — although this still doesn’t mean I’m ready to be a Democrat.

Amidst chatting about equal pay, Obama also addressed childcare and tuition, two big-ticket expenses that many Americans, and North Carolinians in particular, are concerned about. “Your kid is important to me too,” he said.

According to POTUS, high quality childcare costs in N.C. are higher than the average cost of a year at college. Better hope you’re not a mom trying to go to school — silly idea, right? However, in Obama’s budget proposal, child tax credit is tripled, translating to an extra $900 a year for childcare. Can we triple my federal grants for college, too?

Alas, I’m a bit more concerned about those college loans looming over my head than childcare. It’s all fine and dandy that Obama wants to make the first two years of community college free, but I do believe I’m past that point, so now what? Obama shared that he was in the same predicament at one point. He and FLOTUS had so many student loans that their combined payment was more than their mortgage.

With that personal experience as inspiration, Obama is trying to reduce the cost of higher education all together. He started with raising the federal Pell Grant, capped interest rates on student loans, and expanded an income-based repayment system where an individual will never pay more than a certain percentage of their current income.

Obama, of course, had high hopes for other ways college and universities could reduce tuition — more online learning, counseling to ensure students graduate on time, educating students about how loans work (“know before you owe,” he said) and providing cheaper textbooks.

That’s all great in theory. Heck, it’s the cry of almost every college student in the nation. But I’ll wait to see it in action. Because in reality, if the need for a college degree keeps increasing as it has been in the last few decades, colleges and universities will continue to nickel and dime students until the feds tell them they can’t.

When the floor opened up for questions, one audience member and blogger spoke out about the education system and teacher pay, two hot button issues I hear a lot about at Winthrop University, a former “teacher’s school” and where I'm about to graduate from. Her question: How is it that her husband, a public school teacher, makes less than she does as a self-employed blogger? Teachers are leaving the profession simply because they can’t provide for their families. Can the federal government do anything?

Obama's response? The federal government must put more pressure on the states. Education “shouldn’t be a partisan issue,” he said. It’s a fact that for every dollar put in to a student’s education, America gets $7 back.

But for now, it looks like Americans’ battles with education will continue from their first days in pre-K to their commencement ceremonies upon receiving their advanced degrees. Mr. President’s pep talk was a nice hour of lofty thinking, though.

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