A Better Bargain: Education

President Obama named education as one of the cornerstones of middle-class security in a speech today at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois.

The President laid out a vision for what our country needs to do to rebuild that foundation – including in education. “The days when the wages for a worker with a high-school degree could keep pace with the earnings of someone who got some higher education are over,” he said.

President Obama said that our country needs to provide an education “that prepares our children and our workers for the global competition that they’re going to face.”

And if you think education is expensive, wait until you see how much ignorance costs in the 21st century.  If we don’t make this investment, we’re going to put our kids, our workers, and our country at a competitive disadvantage for decades. So we have to begin in the earliest years. 

Preschool For All

I’m going to keep pushing to make high-quality preschool available for every 4-year-old in America.  Not just because we know it works for our kids, but because it provides a vital support system for working parents.


I’m going to take action in the education area to spur innovation that doesn’t require Congress.  Today, for example, as we speak, federal agencies are moving on my plan to connect 99 percent of America’s students to high-speed Internet over the next five years.  We’re making that happen right now. We’ve already begun meeting with business leaders and tech entrepreneurs and innovative educators to identify the best ideas for redesigning our high schools so that they teach the skills required for a high-tech economy.   

Community College to Career

We’ll also keep pushing new efforts to train workers for changing jobs. Here in Galesburg,for example, a lot of the workers that were laid off at Maytag chose to enroll in retraining programs like the one at Carl Sandburg College. And while it didn’t pay off for everyone, a lot of the folks who were retrained found jobs that suited them even better and paid even more than the ones they had lost. 

And that’s why I’ve asked Congress to start a Community College to Career initiative, so that workers can earn the skills that high-tech jobs demand without leaving their hometown.  And I’m going to challenge CEOs from some of America’s best companies to hire more Americans who’ve got what it takes to fill that job opening, but have been laid off so long that nobody is giving their resume an honest look. 

College Affordability

I’m going to use the power of my office over the next few months to highlight a topic that’s straining the budgets of just about every American family – and that’s the soaring cost of higher education. Everybody is touched by this, including your President, who had a whole bunch of loans he had to pay off. 

Three years ago, I worked with Democrats to reform the student loan system so that taxpayer dollars stopped padding the pockets of big banks, and instead helped more kids afford college. I capped loan repayments at 10 percent of monthly income for responsible borrowers, so that if somebody graduated and they decided to take a teaching job, for example, that didn’t pay a lot of money, they knew that they were never going to have to pay more than 10 percent of their income and they could afford to go into the profession that they loved. That’s in place right now.

 And this week, we’re working with both parties to reverse the doubling of student loan rates that occurred a few weeks ago because of Congressional inaction.

So this is all a good start – but it isn’t enough.  Families and taxpayers can’t just keep paying more and more into an undisciplined system where costs just keep on going up and up and up. We’ll never have enough loan money, we’ll never have enough grant money, to keep up with costs that are going up five, six, seven percent a year. We’ve got to get more out of what we pay for.

Some colleges are testing new approaches to shorten the path to a degree, or blending teaching with online learning to help students master material and earn credits in less time.  Some states are testing new ways to fund college based not just on how many students enroll, but how well they do.

Read more about this speech and the President’s plan by visiting whitehouse.gov/a-better-bargain.

Cameron Brenchley is director of digital strategy at the U.S. Department of Education


  1. Want to make college affordable? Community college to career? How about Community college to university? The 4 year universities need to lose the egos and accept units/courses that can be easily transferred from community colleges. Things have not changed in over 30 years. My parents could not afford to send me to a four year university so I enrolled in a community college. I had to take a full year of humanities courses after transferring to the university that I had already taken. I passed them easily of course. My son is experiencing the same thing this very day. He is taking classes at the university that he has already taken at the community college. I thought there would have been more efficiency in the system after so many years, but egos are hard to change. In some cases, they can’t be so maybe it is time to regulate. Do it right, or have it done to you.

  2. I have an issue i went to college for 1 year at remington and i got my Electronic Technology Diploma with Honor Roll and Perfect Attendance. now 3 years later after ive graduated I still cant fine a solid corporational job with sony microsoft ect. to pay off the now 18,000 dollars i owe. I am highly upset with the structure of todays education, bank, and corporation systems I have managed to get all my loans consolidated into one singleized loan through a program away from depmartment of education that is riping me off in interest and penalty charges . id have to pay atleast 500 a month to even touch my outstanding balance and i just cant do it please help this is very troubleing and needs to stop thier has to be a better way forward. 🙂

  3. Eddie spelled development and achievement wrong in the above paragraph when he
    is speaking about English and common core standards.

  4. In light of the rigor in the new Common Core State Standards, we must look at a way to assess students needs regarding their developoment of Academic English. We should respect their neighborhood and linquistically derived language but at the same time we need to assist them in developing the language of school or the language of the Common Core. Test items are written in academic language. We need to insure that our students also understand and are fluent with the language of schooling. If a students’ language demand interfers with their acheivement level, we must be able to assist them.

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