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.
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