The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

State of the Union speaks to students

Illustration by Carl Phillips

If you never used the emergency room for your primary care physician, you might not understand what being uninsured means.

If you never left home for class three hours early because you were between paychecks, could not afford gas and had to take the bus, you might not understand the significance of a minimum wage increase.

And if you never sat up late worrying about finding a decent job after graduation, you might not understand fearing the inevitable student loan bill that follows a diploma.

As Sacramento City College students, many of us face financial challenges. According to Los Rios Chancellor Brian King in a speech to administration, faculty and staff during the college’s spring semester convocation, 63 percent of the student population falls below the federal poverty line, and most students work at full or part time jobs to make ends meet.

So last week, when the Express tuned in to see where students fit in the state of the union, President Barack Obama seemed to speak to us, the working students of America. In his fifth State of the Union address, with no concern for reelection, the president touted his namesake Affordable Care Act victory and outlined an ambitious agenda that includes a proposed increase in the minimum wage and a cap on monthly student loan repayments.

When it comes to “Obamacare,” we agree with those who point out that it is flawed, and its rollout continues to be awkward. However, we feel that for many students before the new health care law, medical insurance was a not a fiscal reality. A case of bronchitis can end a semester, and, left untreated, it might turn into a case of pneumonia.

Under the new law many students are able to remain on parental insurance policies until age 26, and as of Jan. 1, more students qualify for individual coverage at little or no cost, depending on their income.
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As employees or the unemployed, as parents or retirees, the essays, homework and tests we should focus on as students often compete with making the rent and buying groceries. When there is mention of an increase in wages, we actively listen, but for now the minimum wage increase the president spoke of in his address is just symbolic.

The federal raise by executive order to $10.10 applies only to employees covered under future military contracts. This does little to help today’s City College student, who juggles his or her class schedule with a shift schedule at McDonald’s. But it is a start.

The president also offered a financial lifeline to future graduates by way of a new student loan program that caps monthly federal student loan repayment at 10 percent of the borrower’s income.

More often than not, State of the Union promises go unfulfilled, and the partisan divide now on stage in our current political theater fails to inspire optimism. But somewhere in the presidential rhetoric students can find a few kernels of hope.

We believe that the Affordable Health Care Act will evolve into a fair healthcare law. We hope that the discussion on raising the minimum wage spurs a national debate on America’s income inequality. And we want our elected officials not only to reform the student loan system, but also to address the high cost of textbooks and university tuition.

If, as many politicians say, we are America’s future, we want to see all college students get the support necessary to complete their educations and become active contributors to this nation.

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