President Barack Obama covered several topics during the latest State of the Union address on Jan. 20, ranging from the free community college program, immigration and notably the economy. Latin Post spoke with Latino millennials about the State of the Union on the aforementioned topics.

On the economy, the president emphasized the country's economy is growing, creating jobs at the fastest pace since 1999 and the unemployment rate lower than before the 2008 financial crisis.

"At this moment -- with a growing economy, shrinking deficits, bustling industry, booming energy production -- we have risen from recession freer to write our own future than any other nation on Earth," Obama said, noting U.S. businesses have created more than 11 million new jobs. "It's now up to us to choose who we want to be over the next 15 years and for decades to come."

Chelsea Cristian, a college student in New York City, said she believes the U.S. economy has improved but there are aspects still in need of improvement.

"Personally, I feel it has improved, but it has its things to tweak at. Things are getting a little more expensive, things are getting a little bit more difficult considering that I live with my parents and just seeing I'll be becoming more independent in a few years, it's hard to bare and it's difficult and scary," Cristian said.

Fellow New York college student Jose Gonzalez echoed Cristian's sentiments.

"It has improved. The markets went up more than usual, I remember reading it said most of the shares were going up, they were breaking records from before," Gonzalez said. "Also, unemployment is lower than before, it's either 5.6 or six-point something [percent], it's pretty low. It's doing well."

As Latin Post reported, the overall U.S. economy has declined based on December statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS announced the unemployment rate is 5.6 percent, which is down from November's 5.8 percent and a decline from December 2013's 6.7 percent.

"The U.S. economy closed out the year on a continued hot streak -- 252,000 new jobs, with the unemployment rate falling to 5.6 percent. December was the 58th consecutive month of private sector job growth, to the tune of 11.2 million jobs. Average unemployment for 2014 was down 1.2 percentage points from 2013, the largest decrease since 1984," U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Thomas Perez said earlier this month.

In late December, the Dow Jones Industrial reached a new peak of 18,000 points for the first time ever.

Polling data by Latino Decisions found many Latino voters are cautious about their economic security. More than 53 percent of Latino respondents said they were worried for someone within their household of losing the home or job, while 50 percent said they are not earning enough to cover basic expenses. 

On education, Obama spoke about America's College Promise, which would provide two years of free community college for students.

During the State of the Union address, Obama said, "Keep in mind 40 percent of our college students choose community college. Some are young and starting out. Some are older and looking for a better job. Some are veterans and single parents trying to transition back into the job market. Whoever you are, this plan is your chance to graduate ready for the new economy without a load of debt. Understand, you've got to earn it. You've got to keep your grades up and graduate on time."

Cristian and Gonzalez both said the free community college plan is a positive proposal.

"I personally feel that's great considering the fact that I'm paying out of pocket for college and of course my parents are helping me out but it's a huge struggle," Cristian said. "Honestly, I think it's great and very beneficial."

"I think it's a great plan, a great idea," Gonzalez said. "Many might not like it, but something people would. It's a very opportunistic idea, maybe some will accept it, and I think it's a great idea and we all should accept it."

As Latin Post reported, America's College Promise could affect approximately 9 million students and ensure students save an average $3,800 in tuition, per year. According to the White House, the federal government will fund three-quarters of the average cost of community college, while the remaining of the funds will come from the states that choose to participate in the program. The free community college plan will be eligible for students who attend at least part-time and maintain a 2.5 GPA. The eligible students must have shown "steady progress" toward completing their community college program in order for their tuition to be eliminated.

Previous Latino Decisions polling data revealed Latino families have "very high hopes" for their children to become college graduates but expressed fear they cannot afford it.  

"Only 18 [percent] of Latino parents were very confident they could pay for their child's college education. A significant share, 40 [percent] were not confident (with 20 percent not at all confident) they could afford these costs. Thus, it is likely that the President's proposal to make community college as widely accessible as possible will be met with substantial support from this constituency," Latino Decisions wrote following the State of the Union address.  

Obama's comments on immigration were brief, primarily stating he understands the "passion" of the debate and will veto legislation that would rollback his executive actions.

"I feel like it's great: opportunity for others," Cristian said. "But if you look at it from another point of view, things can get a little more competitive and a little more difficult for us who have been here."

On how Obama can improve, Cristian said, "He's definitely doing a great job in trying to help us, of those, who are going to college and who are trying. He should keep going cause in the end we are the future and we're the ones that are trying to build up the economy."

(Patty Shaw-Ramirez contributed to this story)


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