Norwalk CT—Congressman Jim Himes (CT-4) today announced that Dr. David L. Levinson, the President of Norwalk Community College (NCC), will be his guest at President Obama’s State of the Union address on Tuesday, January 20, 2015. During an event this afternoon at NCC, Himes and Levinson voiced their support for President Obama's new proposal to make the first two years of community college free for qualifying students.

“Dr. Levinson is one of Connecticut’s leading advocates for making college more affordable and accessible for all Americans, and I’m honored to have him join me at this year’s State of the Union address,” Himes said. “America’s economic success and the strength of our middle class depend on a well-educated and well-trained workforce. If we want our nation to remain competitive, we must make college - including community colleges and vocational schools - more affordable. With Connecticut residents facing some of the highest student debt loads in America, Norwalk Community College is taking innovative steps to maintain and improve quality, while slowing cost hikes. President Obama’s plan represents the kind of broad-based federal investment our nation needs to help prepare American students for the 21st century workforce and compete in the global economy.”

“President Obama’s visionary proposal could be a game-changer. Free tuition for community college grads will yield a bountiful return on the investment and be good for the economy the workforce and the nation.  Community college graduates are poised to fill immediate workforce needs and they become taxpayers,” said Levinson, who is also Vice President for the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities at the Board of Regents for Higher Education. “Moreover, producing more college graduates is critical to the nation’s ability to compete globally. A college education is as important economically today as a high school education was a century ago when it became ‘universal.’”

Himes introduced the College Affordability and Innovation Act of 2014 in September as the companion to the Senate bill championed by Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT). The legislation, which Himes plans to reintroduce this year in the new Congress, is designed to both encourage innovation and promote accountability at our nation’s institutes of higher learning.

The bill would create a new evidence-based grant program to promote greater experimentation in delivering higher education to middle and low-income students. The grants will go to innovative programs designed to reduce the amount of classroom time and decrease the costs of completing higher education degrees, such as competency-based courses, online education, and dual enrollment or fast-track programs.