Obama talks economy in Warrensburg

The president lauded the Missouri Innovation Campus at the University of Central Missouri.
President Barack Obama delivers a speech Wednesday at the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg, Mo. Obama praised the Missouri Innovation Campus program, which offers high school students the opportunity to graduate with an associate degree.

President Barack Obama made his second stop in the campaign-style speech series at the University of Central Missouri Wednesday afternoon.

Additionally, Gov. Jay Nixon and Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., who was celebrating her 60th birthday, attended the event as well.

The president has hit the road to address the nation on social security, healthcare, unemployment, the housing market and education. His current emphasis will redirect America’s attention away from scandal and back on the economy.

“Instead of talking about the middle class, too many in Congress are trying to score political points, refight old battles, and trump up phony scandals,” presidential adviser Dan Pfeiffer said on the official White House blog.

While the president’s speech at UCM was similar to the one at Knox College, an outline to strengthen the middle class and discuss the economy, he had an additional agenda when he addressed the audience at UCM. His agenda was the recognition of a program called Missouri Innovation Campus, commonly called “MIC.”

The MIC is an accelerated program for high school students, said Mary Birkel, a public relations coordinator at Metropolitan Community College’s Administrative Center.

“The Missouri Innovation Campus is an accelerated college curriculum program for high school juniors and seniors to start working on a community college curriculum at the beginning of their junior year,” Birkel said. “And at the same time completing their junior and senior years in high school, they are also working towards an associates degree, which they will have earned then by the semester after their graduation from high school. Then they automatically will matriculate to the UCM, and they will work to complete a bachelor’s degree, which can be done in those two years.”

The MIC program is an example an educational plan that delivers the value of a four-year degree with no student debt through student employment and paid internships.

Obama spoke of future education proposals in America: developing pre-school programs to readily prepare young students for higher education, providing high-speed internet to 99 percent of students within the next five years, and lowering student loan rates.

However, before any of his plans can become a reality, college costs must be lowered, Obama said.

Obama recognizes the MIC program as one model that is “a laboratory for this kind of innovation.” He praises the prototype as an innovation “that’s a recipe for success over the long term.”

Dorothy Cosgrove's son was selected into the MIC program.

“I think these MIC kids have been under a microscope,” Cosgrove said. “People have been watching them very closely to see how they do and I think they’re doing well. We have schools, business partners and the government all working together to make this work.”

Dominic DeOliveira, a rising sophomore at UCM, and a Brooklyn, N.Y. native, came to the school to play football. He will not graduate with loans due to his involvement in the military.

“I really like the MIC program they are doing with these high school kids,” DeOliveira said. “Obama sounds passionate about lowering student costs.”

President Obama praised the progress the country made in the past five years in his speech.

“Thanks to the grit and resilience of the American people, we’ve cleared away the rubble from the financial crisis and begun to lay out a new foundation for stronger, more durable economic growth,” Obama said.

However, the president was quick to inform the crowd that there still is work to be done. He acknowledged the soaring college debts, the uncertainty of retirement promise and the high statistics of unemployment.

His highest priority through his presidency is to reverse the trends that haunt our nation, Obama said.

The president noted in his speech that through the unification of the middle class, the country can keep moving forward

“We’ll keep pressing on other key priorities, like reducing gun violence, rebalancing our fight against al-Qaeda, combating climate change, and standing up for civil rights and women’s rights,” Obama said.

“No matter who you are, what you look like, where you come from or who you love — you can make it if you try,” Obama said. “(I promise I won’t) allow gridlock or differences to get in this country’s way.”

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