Duncan Talks College Affordability in South Carolina

Secretary Duncan and Congressman Clyburn

Secretary Duncan and Congressman Clyburn are greeted by a student at James Simons Elementary School in North Charleston

“If college is unaffordable, then it will become unattainable,” Secretary Arne Duncan tweeted while in South Carolina last Friday during a one-day, three-city visit that focused on innovative education reform and keeping college affordable for America’s families.

Duncan began the day in North Charleston, and joined Congressman James Clyburn (D-S.C.), students, teachers, business leaders and policymakers for a roundtable discussion on school reform, bullying and community engagement. “Education is an investment, not an expense,” Arne said at James Simon Elementary. “We have to education our way to a better economy.”

The Secretary and the Congressman also stopped at Scott’s Branch High School in Summerton where they joined former U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley to speak with students and teachers about the school’s “Creating a Corridor of Innovation” program.

With the help of an Investing in Innovation (i3) grant from ED, Scott’s Branch is implementing a New Tech High School model that is infused with the latest technology for education, and implements a project-based learning approach that can help increase college and career readiness in high-poverty rural areas.

Duncan and Clyburn ended the day by hosting a college affordability town hall with students at Allen University in Columbia, a Historically Black College and University (HBCU).

Click here for more information on the Obama Administration’s plan to keep college affordable.

Duncan Heads to Capitol Hill for Budget Hearings

“We must come together as a country to make sound, bipartisan investments in education,” Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said earlier today at a budget hearing on Capitol Hill. “It is unconscionable for us to ask a generation of students to pay the price for adult political dysfunction.”

Secretary Duncan Testifies on Capitol Hill

Archive photo of Secretary Duncan testifying on Capitol Hill. Official Department of Education Photo by Paul Wood

Duncan testified before the House Committee on Appropriations as part of the annual federal budget process. In the early months of each year, the President submits his budget request to Congress. Congress can then choose to accept the President’s request or develop its own budget, deciding which programs to authorize and fund before the new fiscal year starts on October 1.

Secretary Duncan testified that the Obama Administration’s fiscal year 2013 education budget reflects the Obama Administrations commitment to reduce spending, make government more efficient and invest to secure our future. “We must educate our way to a better economy,” Duncan said.

Key areas of the budget that the Secretary highlighted include:

  • Making college affordable and the middle-class dream alive for Americans by providing new incentives for states and institutions to keep college costs from escalating;
  • Providing billions of dollars a year in aid to college students through Pell grants;
  • Prevent student loan interest rates from doubling this summer;
  • Double the number of work-study jobs within five years;
  • Make the American Opportunity Tax Credit permanent;
  • And dedicating significant resources to transforming the teaching profession through a new program called RESPECT.

Read more about 2013 budget and what it means for you.

Sharing Responsibility for College Affordability, Quality and Completion

One of the best parts of my job is the chance I get to meet outstanding academic and student leaders as I travel around the country.  For me, the best moments often come right before or after I deliver my formal remarks, when I get to visit with faculty, administrators and students at my speaking location one-on-one, find out who they are and learn about their challenges, hopes and dreams. These individual informal chats never last long enough for me, and they are the moments I remember most from each visit.

During my recent visit to Palm Beach State College, I had the opportunity to discuss the higher education proposals President Obama announced in his State of the Union address, with students, professors, policy makers, state and local officials, business and community leaders. I felt a great source of pride in describing what we’ve been able to accomplish in higher education over the past few years:

    • Reforming the student loan program,
    • Boosting the maximum Pell grant by more than $800 and dramatically expanding the number of Pell grant recipients from 6 million to more than 9 million students from our nation’s lowest income families,
    • Enabling Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs) to build capacity with the $2.55 billion 10-year fund for MSIs, and
    • Providing $2 billion dollars for next generation job-training at community colleges over the next few years, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Labor.

As you can see, the President’s education vision for 2020 and beyond inspires me every day to build on this substantial progress and to breakthrough the obstacles ahead to keep college affordable for the middle class, to provide students more opportunities through campus based aid and work study reforms, to enable postsecondary institutions to innovate and implement those high impact strategies that will help more students succeed, and to support states to increase their support for higher education – all for the purpose of increasing our nation’s college attainment goal.

The President has proposed a $1 billion Race to the Top for College Affordability and Completion to help states and a $55 million First in the World fund for institutions. Why? We need states and institutions as well as the federal government and students themselves to share responsibility to meet our vision to produce a far better educated citizenry than we’ve had in decades past. We need a more highly educated workforce, and we need leaders at all levels of government, business, labor and the non-profit sector to bring our nation to a level of excellence in our global society that sadly we do not enjoy today.

In all of this work, please know it’s the series of tiny “aha” moments that, when taken together, create the momentum that move us forward. After I left Palm Beach State, I received an email from Carlos Ramos, the university’s Associate Dean of Math, Engineering, and Science who wanted to learn about a new resource I mentioned, a set of free high quality STEM-related college level textbooks that Rice University’s Connexions project is rolling out in the next few months in association with a new organization called OpenStax College.

For me, Dean Ramos’s communication was more than a simple email.  It was a statement that my visit mattered — and that because of my visit, Dean Ramos will now be able to help more students in more ways.  And that is the way real change happens, one by one, on the ground, by meeting individual student needs, one student at a time. Whether we call it “shared responsibility” as we heard in the State of the Union, or working together from the one to the many as Dean Ramos is doing, we will become a better nation if we all do our part to keep college affordable, increase educational quality at all levels, and help more students graduate from our colleges and universities with a world-class education, prepared for success in the 21st century!

Martha Kanter is the Under Secretary of Education

2013 Education Budget: What it Means For You

Continuing its commitment to education and an America built to last, the Obama Administration released its 2013 budget proposal to Congress today. It includes new education investments that will give U.S. students and workers the education and training they need for the jobs of today and tomorrow.

Budget ImageThe Department of Education is requesting $69.8 billion in discretionary funding for Fiscal Year 2013, an increase of $1.7 billion, or 2.5 percent, from 2012. The critical investments in education are part of an overall federal budget that abides by very tight spending caps that reduce discretionary spending by $1 trillion over 10 years and, including that amount, has more than $4 trillion of balanced deficit reduction.

But what, exactly, does this mean for you?

Job Training to Meet the Demands of the Workforce
Helping students, employers and communities.

Two million jobs are waiting to be filled in the United States, yet many Americans seeking work don’t have the necessary skills to fill those jobs. To close that skills gap and deliver employers the kinds of workers they want to hire, the Administration is proposing $8 billion for a new Community College to Career Fund.

These funds would help community colleges become community career centers where individuals can learn the skills that local businesses need. Additionally, employers would offer paid internships for low-income students to help them learn skills on the job and gain experience.

ED is also proposing to invest $1.1 billion to support the reauthorization and reform of the Career and Technical Education program to ensure that the training and education our students receive are in line with the demands of the workforce.

Boosting the Teaching Profession
Giving teachers the respect and support they deserve.

ED is proposing $5 billion in competitive funding to support states and districts as they pursue bold reforms that can help better prepare, support and compensate America’s teachers.

The Department would also invest $190 million for a new Presidential Teaching Fellows program that would provide scholarships to talented students who attend top-tier teacher prep programs and commit to working in high-need schools.

The budget also creates $620 million in new grants for states that would reward and support highly effective teacher preparation programs, help decrease STEM teacher shortages, and invest in efforts to enhance the teaching profession.

Making College Affordable
Ensuring that everyone gets a shot at higher education.

The 2013 budget seeks to make college more affordable and to help achieve President Obama’s goal of the U.S. leading the world in college graduates by 2020.  The budget proposes to sustain the maximum Pell Grant and increase the maximum award amount to $5,635, supporting nearly 10 million students across the country.

The Department is proposing to freeze the interest rate on subsidized student loans at 3.4 percent. Currently the rate is scheduled to double to 6.8 percent this summer if Congress doesn’t act.

The budget seeks to tackle college costs and quality by encouraging shared responsibility among states, colleges, families and the federal government. ED would invest $1 billion for a new Race to the Top focusing on college affordability and completion to drive reform at the state level and help students finish faster. This new Race to the Top would provide incentives for colleges to keep costs under control, it would double the number of work-study jobs, and it would increase by nearly $7.5 billion the amount available for Perkins loans.

Additional Budget Information:

“School Days” Video Features Plans for Making College More Affordable

The January 2012 edition of “School Days,” the monthly video journal of the U.S. Department of Education, features President Obama’s State of the Union message and his plans for making college more affordable, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s challenge for college sports programs to strike a better balance between athletics and academics, a convening of State education leaders to talk about their Race to the Top plans, and a new performance piece called “Teachers’ Lounge” – and much more.  Watch “School Days”:


Click here for an alternate version of the video with an accessible player.

In Boston: Arne Says We Must Invest in Education

Duncan with Parents

Secretary Duncan stopped by Boston Public Schools’ Parent University during his trip to Boston. Official Department of Education photo by Joshua Hoover.

“Education is an investment,” Secretary Duncan told a town hall audience earlier this week at Emerson College in Boston. Duncan explained that other countries aren’t cutting their investment in education, and for America to compete in the global economy, investing in education is vital.

Duncan started a busy day at Boston University where he discussed Race to the Top with Mass., Commissioner of Education Mitchell Chester, superintendents, union presidents, and others. The Secretary then stopeed by J.F. Kennedy Elementary to visit Boston Public Schools’ Parent University. Following the visit, Duncan updated his Twitter account saying:

Later, Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) joined Arne for the Emerson town hall and a meeting with college presidents on keeping college affordable for America’s middle class. The meeting on college affordability follows on the heels of President Obama’s recently introduced Blueprint for College Affordability. “[W]e’ve got to have an economy in which every American has access to a world-class higher education,” President Obama explained when he unveiled the blueprint. “This country has always made a commitment to put a good education within the reach of all who are willing to work for it, and that’s part of what helped to create this economic miracle and build the largest middle class in history,” he said.

Following his visit to Emerson, Duncan gave a speech at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education’s Askwith Forum, entitled “Fighting the Wrong Education Battles.”  Duncan encouraged education advocates to “seek common ground—knowing that it will both take you outside of your comfort zone and require tough-minded collaboration.” He said that we need to “stop defending the status quo when it hurts children. Let’s wage the right education battles. Together, let’s work collectively to advance achievement and a love of learning in America.”

Read the entire speech here.

Obama in Michigan: Views from a Teacher and Parent

… The degree you earn from Michigan will be the best tool you have to achieve that basic American promise … be part of something that is adding value to this country and maybe changing the world.  …That’s what the American Dream is all about.  

My grandfather got the chance to go to college because this country decided that every returning veteran of World War II should be able to afford it.  My mother was able to raise two kids by herself because she was able to get grants and work her way through school.  I am only standing here today because scholarships and student loans gave me a shot at a decent education.”

When President Obama spoke these words to the crowd at the University of Michigan on Friday, he described the situation of many students in the audience who struggle to pay for the education they’ll need to participate in the American Dream. Like the President, I have two daughters of whom I am very proud, and both are fortunate to attend the University of Michigan.

Tracey with Secretary Duncan in Michigan

Tracey with Secretary Duncan at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor before President Obama's speech.

As a high school teacher in Ann Arbor and a single parent who is solely responsible for my daughters’ tuition bills, I welcome the President’s plans in the “Blueprint for an America Built to Last” to make college more affordable for families like ours. Everyday I worry about the debt my girls will have when they graduate. Expanding work study opportunities and keeping interest rates low on federal loans will be crucial to my daughters’ and other students’ ability to finish college. As the President said, “… In this economy, there is no greater predictor of individual success than a good education.”

Fortunately, thanks to the President’s support for manufacturing and the auto industry, the Michigan economy is starting to recover, and I agree with the President that the United States has to continue to be a country where everybody has a chance to succeed, and affordable education is the key to that goal.

As a 2010 Classroom Teaching Ambassador Fellow with the Department of Education, I have experienced Secretary Duncan and President Obama’s commitment to having teachers at the table in policy discussions.  Through the fellowship, I have had unique opportunities to engage in meaningful conversations with diverse groups of educators and policy makers. These were all great experiences.  When I met President Obama after the speech, and he thanked me for my work, I was immensely grateful both for the chance of a lifetime and for an administration that clearly values teachers and education.

Tracey Van Dusen

Tracey Van Dusen is a 2010 Classroom Teaching Ambassador Fellow who teaches AP Government and American Studies at Pioneer High School in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Duncan Discusses College Affordability During Florida Town Halls

Secretary Duncan at Florida Town Hall

Secretary Duncan holds a town hall in Pembroke Pines, Fla. Official Department of Education photo by Joshua Hoover.

“The way we’re going to bring in and keep the great jobs in this country is by having the most educated workforce,” Secretary Duncan said last week at a town hall in Pembroke Pines, Fla. Speaking with a large group of students, teachers and parents, Duncan explained that the U.S. used to be 1st in college completion and is now ranked 16th. Arne also echoed the President’s State of the Union message that we are facing a “make or break moment” for America’s middle class.

Over the past week, President Obama and Secretary Duncan both described that more than ever, education is essential to helping Americans become full contributors to the American economy. The unemployment rate for Americans with a college degree is about half the national average, and in our knowledge-based economy, our nation’s economic prosperity will be determined by the education of our people.

Before arriving in Pembroke Pines, Duncan stopped in Tallahassee to hold a community town hall around the same theme of keeping college affordable and within reach for all Americans. And while Duncan reminded the audience that college has never been more important, he also noted that it is also more expensive than ever. The Obama Administration has taken significant action in helping students and their families afford college, and on Friday, Secretary Duncan joined President Obama at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor to outline a Blueprint to making college more affordable.

Click here to read more about the President’s Blueprint, and click here to watch a video of Vice President Biden and Secretary Duncan traveling the country addressing the cost of college.

Everything You Need to Know About President Obama’s Blueprint for College Affordability

President Obama at Ann Arbor

President Barack Obama delivers remarks on college affordability while speaking at the football practice field at the University of Michigan's Al Glick Field House in Ann Arbor, Mich., Jan. 27, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Cross-posted from the White House Blog.

In the State of the Union, President Obama made a point to talk about two critically important trends when it comes to education.

First, if you look at unemployment rates broken down by education level, you’ll notice something stark: Those without a college diploma are twice as likely to be without a job as those who earned a bachelor’s degree. For those who finished college or received more education still, the unemployment rate is just 4.1 percent—less than half the national average. And even among the employed, those who finished college make twice as much as those who failed to finish high school.

But even as a college degree has become more important than ever, the cost of that diploma has [begun to] skyrocketed. For the first time, Americans owe more on their student loans than they do on their credit cards. A senior in high school today has seen the cost of full-time attendance at a public university nearly double in her lifetime.

This morning at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, the President outlined a Blueprint for making college more affordable.

Read More

Affording College? Maybe it IS a reality!

Ed. Note: Chanda Kropp is a high school Spanish teacher in Hutchinson, Minn., and a 2010 Mom Congress Delegate. Here she shares her impressions from a recent town hall in Minneapolis.

I must admit, the thought has crossed my mind many times of how my children will ever afford college with the current tuition rates. My dream is that my two wonderful children will attend the college of their choice, whether it is a public school, a private school or a school with out-of-state tuition. As a teacher, I value education and believe it opens so many doors. However, if reality means that a college student’s loan repayment is as much as her mortgage, I worry!

Piggy BankMy concern changed to optimism last week as I sat with many South Minneapolis high school students, the Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Minnesota Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and many other distinguished local dignitaries for a town hall on college affordability. Hearing Secretary Duncan say that $40 billion dollars is currently being invested in Pell Grants and that the administration wants to expand its income based student loan repayment program, makes me incredibly happy!

A recent law signed by President Obama allows new borrowers who receive student loans after July 1, 2014, to cap their student loan repayments at 10 percent of their discretionary income. If the borrower keeps up with his or her payments over time, the balance will be forgiven after 20 years. Public service workers – such as teachers, nurses, and those in military service – will see any remaining debt forgiven after 10 years. Additionally, the administration is proposing to move up the 2014 start date to 2012 for some borrowers.

I’m hopeful that the combination of Pell Grants and reasonable loan repayment schedules will be a winning formula for all students in America. The United States once led the world with the percentage of students attending college; we have now slipped to 16th place. That simply will not be acceptable if we want to compete in a global market. America’s children should be concentrating on their academic degrees, not their degree of debt!

Chanda Kropp