In a nationally televised address to Congress Tuesday night, President Barack Obama urged all Americans to pursue higher education to stimulate the economy and become more prominent competitors in the global market.

In an effort to reaffirm his economic stimulus package signed last week, Obama warned the nation that countries that “out-teach us today will-out compete us tomorrow.”

“It was really an impressive and even inspiring speech in terms of addressing the myriad of issues and challenges facing the country today,” said Chuck Pruitt, vice president of the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents.

In addition, Pruitt said he believes preparing for the 21st-century economy and competing with the rest of the world underscores the importance of higher education and of students staying in school.

Pruitt said it is especially prudent as people experience the struggling economic climate, particularly in the last six months.

Obama’s challenge to produce the highest percentage of college graduates by the year 2020 was in line with Wisconsin‘s growth agenda to expand the number and percentage of graduates within the state, according to Pruitt.

Aside from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan, Pruitt added he hopes to see additional educational items added to the growth agenda to promote higher education and create more opportunities for students.

The president also pledged to “end education programs that don’t work.”

Pruitt agreed the university should look carefully at its expenditures and confirm that its funds are allocated appropriately, though he added he did not think UW has any specific funding programs that need to be dropped.

Pruitt said he shares the president’s optimism for the future of our country.

“We have delayed and not addressed these problems for a very long time. For 20 years, we’ve been talking about a lot of these problems without doing the right thing or enough,” Pruitt said. “And now, in the midst of this crisis, there is an opportunity to really focus and address the most important and pressing challenges, and I think we’re going to get through it, and I think a big part of it, hopefully, will be the role played by higher education in getting us there.”

UW senior Casey Shorts said he is glad to see the president prioritize higher education as a means to stimulate the economy.

Although Shorts said he agrees higher education is an essential component to reviving our economy, he does not think Obama’s goal for all Americans to have a college degree by 2020 is feasible.

“It’s a good goal to set,” Shorts said, “Even though it’s unattainable, setting goals like that is a necessary motivator for Americans.”

Shorts encouraged all levels of government, including UW’s Associated Students of Madison to follow Obama’s example to go “line-by-line” in the federal budget to reevaluate the reallocation of resources.

“I think his encouragement to look at everything as closely as they can is a good recommendation,” Shorts said.