WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden highlighted the progress his administration has made in education access and called for improved mental health access for the nation’s youth at the State of the Union Tuesday.  

Biden said a well-educated workforce helps the U.S. stay in competition with other nations. The world has “caught up” to the U.S. in the last century, and the president emphasized the need to expand access to children of all ages. 

Biden said that students with access to preschool are about 50% more likely to graduate high school and earn a college degree. He added that providing access to these programs for three  and four year olds  would help the nation create the “best-educated workforce” in the world.  

The president also discussed higher education initiatives his administration is working on, including student debt reduction and providing more Pell Grants. 

 “Let’s finish the job, connect students to career opportunities starting in high school and provide two years of community college, some of the best career training in America, in addition to being a pathway to a four-year degree,” he said. 

Biden also called for public school teachers to receive a raise. 

He then outlined efforts his administration was making to provide on-the-ground resources to communities. The administration is working to bring clean water into school and childcare centers, he said, and is improving internet accessibility. 

“We’re making sure that every community has access to affordable, high-speed internet,” Biden said. “No parent should have to drive to a McDonald’s parking lot so their kid can do their homework online.”

Biden also discussed the growing youth mental health crisis. Social media companies are running an experiment on American youth today to earn a profit, he said, and he pointed toward their ability to collect personal online data and engage in targeted advertising. 

Studies have shown that increased social media use could result in increased depression and anxiety. A 2019 study on 12- to 15- year-olds in the U.S. found that when they spent more than three hours each day on social media, they were at “heightened risk” for mental health problems. 

“Let’s do more on mental health, especially for our children,” Biden said. “When millions of young people are struggling with bullying, violence, trauma, we owe them greater access to mental health care at school.”