"We … know that when students aren't allowed to walk away from their education, more of them walk the stage to get their diploma," Obama said during his State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress. "So tonight, I call on every state to require that all students stay in high school until they graduate or turn 18."
He urged Congress to extend the tuition tax credit "that saves middle-class families thousands of dollars" and double the number of work-study jobs in the next five years.
Student aid increases aren't enough, he said, and the federal government "can't just keep subsidizing skyrocketing tuition [because] we'll run out of money."
States need to make higher education a higher priority in their budgets, the president said. Colleges and universities must do their part by working to keep costs down.
"So let me put colleges and universities on notice: If you can't stop tuition from going up, the funding you get from taxpayers will go down," Obama said. "Higher education can't be a luxury -- it's an economic imperative that every family in America should be able to afford."
He said most teachers "work tirelessly, with modest pay, sometimes digging into their own pocket for school supplies -- just to make a difference."
"So instead of bashing them, or defending the status quo, let's offer schools a deal," Obama said. "Give them the resources to keep good teachers on the job, and reward the best ones. In return, grant schools flexibility to teach with creativity and passion; to stop teaching to the test; and to replace teachers who just aren't helping kids learn."