President Barack Obama will have a rather surprising visitor in the audience when he addresses Georgia Tech students about access to quality higher education in Atlanta on Tuesday.
Gov. Nathan Deal will attend the speech and plans to speak briefly with the president. Deal spokesman Brian Robinson would not say what will be discussed, but expect funding for the dredging of Savannah's port to be among the topics.
Deal steered well clear of Obama's policy speech on improving access to early childhood education in February 2013. And top politicians from both parties were very visible no-shows in September when Obama landed in Atlanta to talk about his administration's plans to halt the spread of Ebola.
With the election behind him, though, Deal likely feels he has little to lose by being seen with the Democrat.
Here's what Obama will discuss during his visit tomorrow, by way of our AJC colleague Katie Leslie:
Cecilia Muñoz, White House Director of the Domestic Policy Council, said Obama’s talk will focus on initiatives to make college more accessible. Earlier this year, Obama unveiled the America’s College Promise initiative that would make two years of community college free to qualifying students.
“What he’s really trying to do is establish a new norm so that at least a couple of years of higher education is as accessible as high school,” Muñoz said Monday. “That’s really what we’ll need to succeed economically.”
The U.S. no longer leads the world in college attainment rates, she said. The president has long aimed for the country to reclaim the No. 1 position by 2020.
Muñoz said Georgia Tech is ideal for the event because its students have high job placement rates, the school’s “promise program” offers debt-free educations to qualified instate students, and it’s among the first major universities to offer an online master’s degree program. Georgia Tech’s online offering could serve as a model to help reduce the cost of education, she said.