A Call to Action on College Completion

Vice President Biden

Vice President Joe Biden speaks at the Grad Nation Conference at the Marriott Wardman Park, in Washington, DC, March 22, 2011. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann).

Cross-posted from the White House Blog

College access and affordability has been a key area of focus for the Middle Class Task Force over the last two years.  On this blog, we have frequently updated you on our Administration’s commitment to expanding student aid through Pell Grants and the American Opportunity Tax Credit.

Providing every American child with the opportunity to go to college is critically important, but we can’t stop there.  We need more American students to graduate from college. The President has set a clear goal: By 2020, America will have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.  Right now we are ninth.

70 percent of students go on to pursue some kind of postsecondary education after high school, but less than half actually get a degree or certificate within 6 years.  Why is this so important? Because more than half of all new jobs created in the next decade will require a postsecondary degree.  And college graduates make more money and are less likely to be unemployed than individuals with only a high school diploma.  Ensuring that more students graduate from college is essential to maintaining a strong middle class.

Today the Vice President challenged every Governor to host a state college completion summit, and promised that the Department of Education would help any state develop a plan to boost completion.

The Vice President also announced the release of a new “College Completion Tool Kit,” produced by the Department of Education.  The tool kit includes information on seven low-cost or no-cost strategies that states can use to boost completion.  For example:

  • Aligning high school exit standards with college expectations.  Forty percent of college students have to take remedial classes in college.  It makes college more expensive, because it takes more time to finish.  And it increases the likelihood students will dropout in college.
  • Making it easier for students to transfer.  Two out of three students transfer at least once.  Arizona, for example, helps ensure transfer students don’t fall through the cracks by making sure introductory course credits transfer fully among all public colleges in the state.
  • Linking state higher education funding to levels of or improvement in college completion.  Right now, the vast majority of colleges get funded based on enrollment numbers, not success.

Finally, the Vice President announced that the Department of Education is launching a new grant competition to reward colleges that come up with innovative plans for boosting completion, like summer academic boot camps for students between high school and their freshman year; redesigned courses that make learning more interactive; and emergency financial aid for unexpected crises. We are looking for plans with the potential to become national models.

As the Vice President said today, “right now we’ve got an education system that works like a funnel when we need it to work like a pipeline. We have to make the same commitment to getting folks across the graduation stage that we did to getting them into the registrar’s office.”

Brian Levine is Deputy Domestic Policy Advisor to the Vice President

What’s Missing from March Madness? Better Academics

Cross-posted from The Washington Post.

As March Madness gets underway this week, 10 of the 68 men’s teams in the NCAA tournament are not on track to graduate half of their players. Colleges and universities need to stop trotting out tired excuses for basketball teams with poor academic records and indefensible disparities in the graduation rates of white and black players. And it is time that the NCAA revenue distribution plan stopped handsomely rewarding success on the court with multimillion-dollar payouts to schools that fail to meet minimum academic standards.

Like millions of fans, I’ll be watching the tournament, rooting for my favorites. As a kid on the South Side of Chicago who loved basketball, I got to see the best and the worst of college sports. I spent time on the court with inner-city players who had been used and dumped by their universities. When the ball stopped bouncing, they struggled to find work and had difficult lives. Some died early. The dividing line for success was between those who went to college and got their degrees, and those who did not. If a team fails to graduate even half of its players, how serious are the institution and coach about preparing their student-athletes for life?

The NCAA developed a measure known as the Academic Progress Rate index (APR) to track progress toward graduation with real-time data. According to the NCAA, an APR score of 925 (on a scale of 1,000) is equivalent to having 50 percent of a squad’s members on track to graduate. This year, the 10 men’s basketball teams with APRs below 925 include basketball powerhouses Syracuse and Kansas State. At Kansas State in recent years, 100 percent of white players graduated, but just 14 percent of black players did.

A new analysis, released today by the Knight Commission, shows the current tournament revenue formula is badly skewed to reward success on the court, with little expectation of success off the court. Each game a team plays in the tournament this year earns more than $1.4 million for the team’s conference.

Over the past five tournaments, the NCAA has awarded more than $400 million to conferences and their teams for tournament appearances. Nearly $179 million of that payout—44 percent of the total—went to teams that were not on track to graduate at least half of their players. By contrast, tournament revenue provides comparatively little funding for educational uses or academic improvement.

When I raised the issue of low graduation rates among men’s teams last year, skeptical sportswriters said I didn’t understand the realities of big-time college basketball. But every year, the litany of excuses for why basketball teams cannot graduate most players and still have a championship team is less convincing.

In last year’s tournament, the two finalists, Duke and Butler, both had outstanding academic records. This year, eight teams in the tournament graduate 100 percent of both their black and white players: Belmont, Brigham Young, Illinois, Notre Dame, Utah State, Vanderbilt, Villanova and Wofford.

The top-ranked women’s basketball teams have even better records. Twenty-two women’s teams in this year’s NCAA tournament—one in three—graduate 100 percent of their black and white players. The University of Connecticut women’s basketball team, which set the NCAA record for consecutive wins this season, graduates more than 90 percent of its players. Meanwhile, the University of Connecticut men’s basketball team has an APR of 930, a hair above a projected 50 percent graduation rate. Only 25 percent of its black players earn degrees.

The dramatic improvement in graduation rates among big-time football programs shows that a 50 percent graduation standard is not that difficult to meet and that teams will improve their academic performance to meet higher standards. Five years ago, 23 bowl teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision had APRs below 925. This year, one FBS bowl team had an APR below 925.

The NCAA has made considerable progress in recent years boosting the academic performance of Division I teams. But the bar for postseason play is still too low: In effect, teams must now be on track to graduate fewer than 40 percent of their players for six years running to potentially be ineligible for postseason play. Last year, out of more than 6,000 NCAA intercollegiate sports teams, one squad in men’s basketball was banned from postseason play because of a poor academic record.

A decade after the Knight Commission recommendation, coaches of teams with weak academic records should worry not just about getting athletes in a uniform—but also about getting them in a cap and gown.

The writer is secretary of education.

Community College Regional Summit in Houston

ED will host the second in a series of four Community College Regional Summits on March 9, 2011, at Lone Star College-University Park in Houston, Texas.

The Regional Community College Summit will:

  • Bring federal, labor and industry, and philanthropic partners to your region to discuss how each entity can support local community college efforts to meet the  President’s 2020  goal for the U.S. to once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world;
  • Provide a forum to share institution-level barriers, solutions and promising practices in college completion; developmental education; industry-education partnerships; services to military service-members and veterans; transitioning adults to community colleges; and successful transfer programs to four year colleges and universities; and
  • Provide a forum to identify local, state and national recommendations for increasing community college completion to meet the 2020 goal.

The morning plenary session begins at 10:00 a.m. EST.  The afternoon closing session will begin at 4:15 p.m. EST.  Both sessions will be broadcast live at:  http://hosted.mediasite.com/mediasite/Catalog/catalogs/Lonestar.aspx

Community College Summit in Philadelphia

ED is holding a regional community college summit in Philadelphia on February 28.

Secretary Duncan and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis will participate in the summit, which is the first of four regional meetings being held as follow-up events to the White House Summit on Community Colleges in October 2010.

The Philadelphia summit — “Challenges, Solutions, and Commitments” — will bring together 150 participants from 15 surrounding states, representing community colleges, business, industry, philanthropy, labor, state and local governments, as well as students. The summit focus is “Transitioning Adult Learners to Community Colleges and the Workforce.”

The morning session will be streamed live (from 9:00 am – 12:15 pm ET).

The remaining three regional meetings will be held around the country during the spring. The purpose of the meetings is to identify promising practices for increasing completion at community colleges.

Duncan has described community colleges as the linchpin for meeting the President’s national goal of once again leading the world in college completion by 2020.

While they’re in Philadelphia, Duncan and Solis will tour the 1199C Training and Upgrading Fund’s Learning Center, a joint labor-management partnership that provides job skills training in the health fields to over 2,000 adult students every year.

ED Staff

Deadline for the Race to the Top Commencement Challenge is March 11

Cross-posted from the White House blog.

The Race to the Top Commencement Challenge is back and we’re asking public high school students from across the country to tell us about ways their school is preparing them for college and a career. In return, we’ll make sure one high school has a graduation they’ll never forget – including a commencement address by President Obama himself.

President Obama and our Administration believe education is key to winning the future. In order to ensure our long-term economic success, we need to focus on out-educating and out-competing the world. That means helping to prepare students today for the jobs of tomorrow. It means equipping students with the skills they’ll need to succeed in the 21st Century economy – encouraging them to be creative, to solve problems, to work together to design solutions to important problems.

The Race to the Top Commencement Challenge is just one of the many ways we’re encouraging young people to actively engage in their educational success. Last year, over 1000 schools applied. This year, we hope to continue encouraging applications from students from across the country. The deadline has been extended to Friday, March 11 to ensure that all interested schools have the chance to apply. Applications are available at WhiteHouse.gov/Commencement.

Apply today and don’t miss this opportunity to have an unforgettable high school commencement.

Melody Barnes
Assistant to the President and Director of the Domestic Policy Council

Secretary Duncan Promotes FAFSA Completion Pilot in Denver

This pilot program, along with the amazing support of the Denver Scholarship Foundation’s Future Centers, will give our students the tools and help necessary to complete the FAFSA. It will give more and more of our students the edge they need to secure financial aid to support their college goals.

— Denver Public Schools Superintendent Tom Boasberg.

Duncan Promotes FAFSA Completion PilotInitiatives to simplify the free application for federal student aid (FAFSA) and the Department’s new pilot program to ensure more students and families successfully complete it were on the agenda as Secretary of Education Arne Duncan joined Colorado Lieutenant Governor Joe Garcia, Denver Public Schools Superintendent Tom Boasberg, students, parents, teachers and business and community leaders at Denver’s Manual High School for a town-hall style forum.  The community forum focused on federal, state and local efforts to help Denver public school students access and receive the financial aid necessary to reach and complete their college and career goals.

Following a tour of Manual’s renowned Future Center college counseling suite and a dialogue with students completing the online FAFSA, forum participants launched into a discussion on strategies to increase college enrollment rates and ways to maximize the number of students who apply for and subsequently obtain federal financial aid.

Research indicates that 90% of students who complete the FAFSA will enroll in postsecondary education.  Yet many students who would qualify for aid fail to successfully complete the FAFSA.  Armed with this data, last year ED launched a pilot program to provide Denver and 19 other districts across the country with information on which of their students have successfully completed the FAFSA and those that have not.  When fully implemented, the program will provide real-time updates of FAFSA completion data and enable high school counselors to follow-up with students–repeatedly, if necessary–to ensure they receive the support they need to complete the FAFSA.  In Denver, this could pay huge dividends and move the needle dramatically on the 41% of the class of 2010 that successfully completed the FAFSA, and more significantly, the 53% of graduates that enrolled in college this past fall.

The student-centric dialogue featured questions regarding the array of federal student aid programs, initiatives to improve low-performing schools and institute a college-going culture in our nation’s high schools, and the future of college access legislation for immigrant families like the DREAM Act.  Sir Martin, a first generation college-going senior, asked Secretary Duncan about the best ways to motivate students and convince them of the importance of education.  The Secretary turned the question back on Sir and asked, “What motivates you?”  In an eloquent and emotional response, Sir described a past filled with challenges, and a choice during his high school years to follow a path of uncertainty, or one of promise.  Sir chose to pursue an education and devoted himself to reaching his college and life dreams.

The opportunity to pursue a world-class education and succeed should be based on merit, not money.  To help young deserving scholars like Sir earn their college degree, the President’s 2012 budget proposal builds on what has been the largest expansion in college student aid since the GI bill and commits over $181 billion in direct student aid and tax relief.  These investments are vital to achieving the President’s goal that, by 2020, the United States will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.

Todd May
Office of Communications and Outreach

Secretaries Duncan and Geithner Host Student and Parent Town Hall on Paying for College

Secretary Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner, and D.C.'s Wilson High School Assistant Principal Charlette Butler

Secretary Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner, and D.C.'s Wilson High School Assistant Principal Charlette Butler

We cannot underestimate the impact of the American Opportunity Tax Credit on 9.4 million students nationwide. This tax credit will make college more affordable for our future business leaders, scientists and teachers and help families struggling with rising tuition bills and growing student loans.

—Secretary of Education Arne Duncan

Expanded tuition tax credits for working class families, larger Pell Grants for low-income students, and making student loans more affordable for all college graduates were on the docket today as U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan joined U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner, D.C.’s Wilson High School Assistant Principal Charlette Butler, nearly 50 Wilson seniors, their teachers, parents and community leaders at the University of the District of Columbia for a town-hall style forum on the Administration’s efforts to ensure all Americans reach their college dreams. (See photos.) Wilson High School, the District’s largest comprehensive high school and boasting an impressive 90% college-going rate among graduates, is currently housed on the UDC campus while a $100 million renovation is being completed at the high school campus.

The town hall forum commenced with Secretaries Duncan and Geithner extolling the benefits of the recently extended and enhanced American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC). The credit, initially created under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and extended through 2012 as part of the Tax Relief, Unemployment Reauthorization and Job Creation Act of 2010, provides families with college tuition expenses the opportunity to claim a tax credit of up to $2,500 each year for up to four years per student. For students claiming the maximum credit for these four years, the AOTC will provide up to $10,000 to help pay for the cost of college.

The credit equals 100 percent of the first $2,000 of expenses, and 25 percent of remaining expenses, up to a total credit of $2,500. The maximum available credit for 2011 would cover about 80 percent of tuition and fees at the average two-year public institution, or about a third of tuition and fees at the average four-year public institution. In addition, the AOTC is partially refundable, meaning that low-income families with no federal income tax liability can receive up to a $1,000 tax refund to help defray college expenses.

Secretary Geithner unveiled a new Treasury Department analysis showing that 9.4 million families with college students across the nation will benefit from over $18.2 billion in tax relief to help make college more affordable and accessible in 2011. He further noted that in the District of Columbia, the Wilson Class of 2011 and nearly 16,000 families of enrolled college students across the city will be eligible to file for the tax credit this year. For parents and students struggling to pay college tuition and fees or budgeting for future student loan debt, this partially-refundable tax credit will make a positive difference in their lives.

Wilson students and parents inquired about the range of federal initiatives to assist low-income families with the rising costs of college and engaged the Secretaries on the Administration’s historic increases in the Pell Grants program as well as access to Federally subsidized student loans and college work-study programs; discussed actions taken to simplify and streamline the FAFSA form and federal financial aid process and pressed the Secretaries for opinions on the future passage of college access legislation for immigrant families like the DREAM Act. Angela Benjamin, a physics teacher at Wilson, and feted at the forum by Secretary Duncan for her recent designation as one of the seven most effective teachers in DC Public Schools, asked about the benefits of the recently expanded income-based repayment program (IBR) and whether its existing loan forgiveness provisions for teachers would be “grandfathered in” for experienced educators like herself. To the delight of the crowd, Duncan replied, “Angela, me and you lose on this one”.

However, for millions of America’s future college graduates and our nation’s future public servants, IBR will make a huge difference in their personal finances and ability to afford their student loan payments. Under IBR, borrowers who assume loans after July 1, 2014 will be able to cap their student loan repayments at 10 percent of their discretionary income. If they make their payments, all borrowers will have loan balances forgiven after 20 years. Teachers, nurses and other public servants will have any remaining student loan debt forgiven after 10 years.

To read more about what Secretary Duncan and Geithner wrote about today’s visit and the benefits of AOTC, see their blog post.

Click here for an accessible version of the video.

Todd May
Office of Communications and Outreach

Educating Our Way to a Better Economy

Secretary Arne Duncan joined Labor Secretary Hilda Solis today to announce a historic $2 billion investment in helping meet the President’s goal of having the “most-educated, most-competitive workforce in the world by 2020”: the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grant Program.

In our globally competitive, knowledge-based economy, employers need workers with postsecondary skills, credentials, and degrees. Our postsecondary institutions must dramatically increase their completion rates and build partnerships with industry to ensure that the skills that are being taught are the skills employers need.

These grants also represent one of the largest expansions of access to high-quality job training and educational resources in history. They are designed to use evidence to replicate success, build institutional capacity to use evidence to increase outcomes, and build a body of evidence to inform investment decisions. All learning materials created in this process—from full courses to textbooks—will be made freely available online. Additionally, institutions can apply to develop a new generation of high-quality, cutting-edge shared courses and resources to help students learn more quickly at lower costs.

This program is being run by the Department of Labor, in close collaboration with the Department of Education.

You can find the Department of Labor’s press release at http://www.dol.gov/opa/media/press/eta/eta20101436.htm.

You can find the solicitation for grant applications at http://www.doleta.gov/grants/find_grants.cfm.

Amy Laitinen
Office of Vocational and Adult Education

Aligning the GED to College and Career Readiness

The New York Department of Education and the sponsors of the General Educational Development program yesterday took an important step in the effort to raise expectations for all students.

At an alternative education center for youth and adults in Manhattan, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, and Molly Broad, the president of the American Council on Education, which sponsors the GED, announced the start of a pilot program to align expectations for GED program to standards that prepare participants for success in college and careers.

“The GED needs to be more than a substitute for a high school diploma. It needs to be a passport to college and careers,” Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said at the event. “This pilot project will demonstrate ways to ensure that all individuals who pass the GED are prepared to succeed in college and careers.”

The pilot project is building on the state-led effort that has created a common core of standards in math and English. So far, 40 states and the District of Columbia this year have adopted the Common Core standards in math and English.

Now, New York City is leading the way to make these standards a game-changer for adults in the GED program. The 500,000 adult learners who pass the GED exam every year deserve to know whether they truly are ready to succeed in college and careers.

The success of our adult learners is essential for the economic future of our country. President Obama has set a goal that the United States once again be first in the world in college completion by the end of the decade. To reach that goal, we will need to add 8 million new graduates over the next decade. We will succeed only if adult learners enter postsecondary schools at record rates and complete their degrees.

Just as our high schools award diplomas that guarantee students are ready for college and careers, the GED has to raise its standards so that adult learners are prepared for the challenges of postsecondary education and to work in the 21st Century economy.

Economic Prosperity and National Security Through the DREAM Act

Cross-posted from The Hill

Even in tough times, Americans have used their freedom, common sense and respect for one another to do the right thing for the nation. Today, we face one of those times. There are thousands of hard-working, patriotic, young people who are leaders in their communities and who are looking for an opportunity to attend college or serve our country in the military, but they cannot, through no fault of their own. Congress has the opportunity to offer them and our country a brighter future by coming together in a bipartisan way to pass the DREAM Act.

The DREAM Act will open the doors of higher education and military service to young people who were brought to America without documentation by their parents when they were children. If they are able to meet several requirements, they will have the chance to earn a legal status. Specifically, they will have to prove that they came to the United States before the age of 16, have lived here for at least five years, don’t have a criminal record, are not removable or inadmissible from the country, are of good moral character and graduated from a U.S. high school, obtained a GED, or have been admitted to an institution of higher education. Today, these students are living in fear of the next step of their lives, and attending college or other postsecondary education is difficult, while serving our country in the military is near impossible.

Passing the DREAM Act will unleash the full potential of young people who live out values that all Americans cherish — a strong work ethic; service to others; and a deep loyalty to our country. It will also strengthen our military, bolster our global economic competitiveness and increase our educational standing in the world.

By opening the American Dream of college for these bright, talented youth, we will unleash an academic force into the U.S. higher-education system. The result will be a new generation of college graduates who will help strengthen our economic security. This new generation will be a new set of future taxpayers who will contribute much more as college graduates than they ever would as struggling workers moving from one under-the-table job to another. They will help build the economy of the 21st century.

From a national security perspective, the DREAM Act will give the military the opportunity to recruit students who are eager to serve at a time when there’s a growing shortage of potential soldiers. The Defense Department’s strategic plan names the passage of the DREAM Act as one of its goals to help maintain a mission-ready all-volunteer force. Military leaders understand that at this critical time in our history, when we face countless threats to our way of life and the supply of soldiers does not match the demands being placed on our armed forces, a new pool of highly qualified candidates willing to put their lives on the line for America is a major plus for the country.

The students who will benefit from the DREAM Act are some of our country’s best and brightest. They were raised and educated in America. They include community leaders and volunteers who are committed to service in their neighborhoods. They are valedictorians and star athletes. They text and go to the mall. They are Americans in every sense of the word. They have deep roots here and are loyal to the country that has been the only home they’ve ever known. They want to serve our country and hope to become pediatricians, teachers and engineers. They are exactly the type of young people America should be embracing.

But, unlike their classmates, DREAM Act students are in a bind. It goes against the basic American sense of fairness to punish children for the choices of their parents. But thousands of young people find themselves in that position. We can’t let them continue to live unfulfilled lives of fear and squandered hopes. We must rise above the heated political rhetoric and embrace this common-sense approach. And we need to do it now before we lose this generation. It’s who we are as Americans, at our best.

Secretary Arne Duncan

Improving Career and Technical Education

CTE Community Conversations

Career and technical education has the potential to engage students through relevant learning experiences and, when infused with rigorous academic standards, to thoroughly prepare students for college and career success. Yet, in many areas of the nation and for a variety of reasons, career and technical education yet to achieve its full potential for students. Whether the right partnerships have yet to be formed, updated instructional approaches have yet to be implemented, or data systems have yet to be aligned, many students do not have access to the most effective career and technical education programs. Read Secretary Arne Duncan’s recent remarks on the need to revitalize and bring to scale effective career and technical education programs.

For this reason, the Department has established a career and technical education strategy group that is seeking solutions to ensure that all students are ready for, have access to, and complete college-career pathways leading to 21st Century jobs. The Department also is gearing up for the reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education (Perkins) Act, which is the primary source of federal funding for career and technical education. Although the legislation does not expire until 2013, a set of guiding principles will be formulated to ensure that this legislation most effectively supports strong college-career pathways in the future.

To develop its reform strategies and reauthorization principles, the Office of Vocational and Adult Education is holding a series of Career and Technical Education (CTE) Community Conversations across the country. These sessions are designed to gather feedback on four broad questions:

  • How can states and local programs better prepare students for college (without the need for remediation) and careers?
  • What has been your experience in implementing programs of study [career pathways] and what actions need to be taken to further support their availability and effectiveness for students?
  • What partnerships have you formed to implement your programs of study and what supports should be provided to continue and expand those relationships?
  • How do you measure your student’s success, particularly as it relates to college and career readiness, and what information (data) do you need to better track and improve program outcomes?

Comments are now available from the CTE Community Conversation kick-off session at the National Association for State Directors for Career and Technical Education Consortium (NASDCTEc) Fall 2010 Meeting in Baltimore, MD.

Comments are also available from the following sessions:

Please share your comments about career and technical education on this blog (below) or via e-mail to CTEconversations@ed.gov.

A New Partnership to Promote Financial Education and Savings Programs

Secretary Duncan visited T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, VA, to announce a new partnership to promote financial education and savings.  Participants in the partnership include the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the National Credit Union Administration.

Secretary Duncan visited T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, VA, to announce a new partnership to promote financial education and savings.

Yesterday Secretary Duncan visited historic T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, VA, to announce a major new partnership with two other federal agencies: the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), which regulates banks and protects deposits in bank accounts, and the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), which regulates credit unions and protects deposits in share accounts. The three agencies will work together—and with schools, financial institutions, federal grantees, and other stakeholders—to increase access to safe, affordable, and appropriate deposit accounts at federally-insured banks and credit unions; increase savings; and provide effective financial education.

The day started when Secretary Duncan met with José Cisneros, San Francisco’s Treasurer, who recently launched the “Kindergarten to College” savings program that will provide a college savings account to all students in the public school system. Some years back, Cisneros developed “Bank on San Francisco.” The model has spread to cities across the country and was picked up with the Obama Administration, which recently proposed to create “Bank On USA” with the same goal of providing low-cost deposit accounts and basic financial services to the 25% of American families who don’t currently have regular access to banks or credit unions.

Secretary Duncan then joined FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair and NCUA Chairman Debbie Matz to sign the official interagency agreement that outlines how the agencies will work together before visiting the student-run credit union branch just off the cafeteria. Students from the Academy of Finance who manage the credit union were proud to talk about the work they do and the value of the program in their school. They even gave Secretary Duncan their business cards and encouraged him to open an account!

Upstairs, the press event started with remarks by Alexandria mayor Bill Euille and Jennifer Murphy, a parent participating in the Parent Leadership Training Institute who partners with a local credit union and uses an FDIC financial education program to help the school teach students about managing their money. Later, Euille, Murphy, and the school principal signed a commitment to continue working together on this issue.

Bair, Matz, and Duncan all addressed the audience, which included students from T.C. Williams High School; leaders of banks and credit unions and associations that represent them; education leaders from DC, Maryland, and VA; foundations; and experts in asset development.

Duncan emphasized that this partnership, with its focus on financial literacy and savings for low and moderate income students and families, will help us reach President Obama’s 2020 college completion goal to once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.

Secretary Duncan talked about the lack of financial literacy in this country as a barrier to college access and success, told the audience about research that shows that even low- and moderate-income families can and do save if given access to appropriate accounts and the right incentives, and highlighted work done by Washington University in St. Louis that demonstrates students with a savings account are up to seven times more likely to enter college.

The three agencies have already gotten a jumpstart on implementing the agreement. NCUA has committed funding over the next five years to support partnerships between credit unions and schools; FDIC will soon send a letter to all the banks they regulate encouraging them to develop partnerships; and at the Department of Education, we’ll include a new priority in the 2011 GEAR UP competition to encourage school savings programs in connection with financial education activities. There will be more to come from us, but we’re really hoping that banks, credit unions, schools, federal grantees, local governments, foundations, parent organizations, and others will take the initiative to come together in their states, cities, and towns to develop partnerships that increase access to deposit accounts, savings, and financial literacy, especially among low- and moderate-income students and families.

In the coming weeks, look for more detail on what the agencies will be doing to implement this agreement, including a toolkit for stakeholders who are interested in working together on this important topic. If you have suggestions for youth financial education and savings programs as we’re developing guidance—promising program models, strategies for getting the right people around the table, etc.—feel free to contact me at phil.martin@ed.gov.

Phil Martin
Office of the Secretary