El presupuesto de educación para el año fiscal 2017 pide incrementar acceso, asequibilidad y graduación de la universidad

El presidente Obama ha dejado claro que en el último año de su mandato la educación seguirá siendo una prioridad, y saldrá adelante con iniciativas y fondos para que más personas obtengan un título universitario.

Como dijo en enero durante su discurso sobre el estado de la Unión, la nación ha hecho importante progreso en asegurar que más estudiantes se gradúen de secundaria con las habilidades que necesitan para tener éxito en la universidad, en sus carreras, y en sus comunidades. Pero persisten problemas, y tenemos que tomar soluciones audaces.

La universidad sigue siendo la mejor inversión que pueden hacer las personas para su futuro. Una buena educación es igual de importante para participar en la sociedad y salvaguardar nuestra democracia. Es por eso que todos, incluido las personas de bajos ingresos, poblaciones marginadas, estudiantes universitarios de primera generación, y adultos con empleos y familias, quieren una educación postsecundaria.

Esta Administración ha otorgado ayuda financiera como nunca antes a los estudiantes de educación superior. En 2014, el año más reciente del que se disponen datos, nuestro país vio la población más grande y diversa en nuestra historia de estudiantes matriculados en la educación superior. El número de estudiantes universitarios hispanos y negros en EE.UU. ha aumentado por más de un millón desde 2008.

Pero los obstáculos persisten para muchos estudiantes que dudan de asistir a la universidad debido al alto costo y un mercado universitario que puede ser confuso, especialmente para los estudiantes de primera generación. Además, solo alrededor del 60% de los que se matriculan en un programa de licenciatura obtienen su título dentro de seis años. Y al menos un tercio de los que se gradúan se toman más tiempo de lo debido, lo que significa mayores gastos para el estudiante y su familia.

Los prestatarios que no se gradúan tienen tres veces más riesgo de no pagar sus préstamos estudiantiles en comparación con los que sí se gradúan. Por esta razón, el presupuesto de 2017 propone reformas claves, proporciona ayuda institucional y estudiantil, y da incentivos para la obtención de un grado a tiempo o anticipado para que la universidad sea más económica, la ayuda estudiantil más accesible, y el pago de los préstamos sea más fácil. También se promueve la innovación y la protección financiera de los estudiantes y los contribuyentes. Las propuestas en el presupuesto incluyen:

Reducir drásticamente los costos educativos de los estudiantes y sus familias

  • El presupuesto pide fondos para la iniciativa America’s College Promise (ACP), una alianza con los estados para que los dos años de estudios en las universidades comunitarias sean gratis para los estudiantes responsables. Con financiación de $61 mil millones durante la próxima década, los estudiantes podrían terminar un grado de asociado o los dos primeros años de un título de cuatro años, que los prepare para el éxito laboral sin costo alguno al estudiante. ACP también proporcionaría subvenciones a las escuelas que dan apoyo a nuevos estudiantes de bajos ingresos, incluidos aquellos que se trasladan de otra universidad comunitaria. Los estudiantes podrían cursar los dos años de estudio en estas instituciones sin costo alguno o a costo muy reducido.
  • El presupuesto ofrece fondos para los estudiantes actuales y futuros del país con financiación máxima de las Becas Pell, que serán ajustadas a la inflación a partir del 2017 para asegurar que los fondos queden protegidos de la erosión de su valor en los próximos años.
  • Además de que la FAFSA estará disponible más temprano, como lo anunció el presidente Obama en septiembre de 2015, el presupuesto también simplificaría la FAFSA para eliminar preguntas onerosos e innecesariamente complejas para que sea más fácil para los estudiantes y sus familias acceder a la ayuda federal estudiantil y financiar su educación superior.
  • El presupuesto también crearía un fondo competitivo de $30 millones que sería otorgado a las universidades fundadas para los negros (HBCU) y las universidades que sirven a grupos minoritarios (MSI), para de tal manera alentar la graduación mediante estrategias que ayuden a estos grupos a graduarse y obtener un título.
  • El presupuesto propuesto por el presidente simplifica los planes de pago basados en los ingresos para limitar los pagos del préstamo a un precio razonable para los prestatarios, ayuda a los prestatarios a manejar su deuda con mayor eficiencia, y fortalece y simplifica los programas que perdonan los préstamos de los maestros.

Estimular y recompensar los buenos resultados de los estudiantes

  • Para apoyar y animar a los estudiantes a completar sus estudios en debido tiempo o antes de tiempo, el presupuesto incluye el programa Beca Pell para la graduación acelerada, que proporciona los fondos de la Beca Pell durante todo el año a los estudiantes que toman una carga completa de cursos, pero que ya han agotado su subvención existente.
  • El presupuesto proporcionaría $300 mediante un Bono Pell en Camino a los estudiantes que hacen progreso oportuno hacia su título universitario tomando por lo menos 15 horas crédito por semestre.
  • También proporcionará una tercera ronda de la Iniciativa Primeros en el Mundo con $100 millones para implementar y evaluar estrategias innovadoras y basadas en la evidencia que aumenten el éxito estudiantil, incluido $30 millones reservados para las instituciones HBCU y MSI. En 2014 y 2015, el Departamento vio notable interés en este programa, pero solo pudo financiar menos del 6 por ciento de todas las solicitudes recibidas.
  • El Bono de Oportunidad y Graduación Universitaria recompensaría a las instituciones que matriculan y gradúan a tiempo un número significativo de estudiantes de bajos recursos, y alentar a más universidades a mejorar sus resultados.
  • Y con planes para reformar la ayuda estudiantil ofrecida por las universidades, el presupuesto pide el financiamiento de las escuelas que proporcionan una educación de calidad a un precio razonable, especialmente para estudiantes de bajos recursos.

Ampliar las opciones de educación superior de los estudiantes

  • La Pell de Segunda Oportunidad que el presidente ha propuesto proporcionaría a los prisioneros que han cumplido su condena y están a punto reintegrarse a la sociedad con el apoyo necesario para enderezar sus vidas, ofreciéndoles acceso a los fondos Pell para que puedan estudiar y capacitarse en las habilidades que conducen a nuevas oportunidades y una vida estable.
  • Para complementar ACP, el presupuesto apoyará un Fondo de Formación Técnica de $75 millones que facilitará la creación y expansión de programas gratuitos de capacitación laboral rápida para ayudar a más trabajadores a obtener trabajos de alta demanda como la salud, fabricación e informática. Los departamentos de Educación y Trabajo colaborarán en el lanzamiento de este plan innovador.

En el siglo 21, las habilidades y la educación son indispensables para nuestro éxito como personas y como nación. El presupuesto del año fiscal 2017 aumenta la equidad y la excelencia en la educación superior, con propuestas ambiciosas para reducir los costos universitarios, promover nuevos enfoques y ampliar las prácticas probadas para servir mejor a los estudiantes y crear vías más amplias para todos, independiente de su origen o circunstancia, para que puedan alcanzar sus sueños y mejorar sus vidas.

Se puede obtener más información sobre el presupuesto de Educación aquí.

Melissa Apostolides forma parte del equipo para desarrollar conminaciones en la Oficina de Comunicaciones y Extensión del Departamento de Educación de EE.UU.

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The FY 2017 Budget Request for Education Aims to Increase College Access, Affordability, and Completion

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President Obama has made it clear that in the capstone year of his presidency, he’ll continue making education a top priority – including initiatives and investments that place a college degree within reach for millions more Americans.

As he noted in his final State of the Union address in January, as a nation, we’ve made important progress to ensure that more students graduate from high school with the skills they need to thrive in college, in their careers, and in their communities. But challenges remain, and we must be committed to bold solutions.

College still is the best investment that Americans can make in their future. And a great education is just as important for engaging in society and safeguarding our democracy. That’s why students from every background – including low-income, minority, and first-generation students, as well as adults with jobs and families – are seeking access to postsecondary education and training.

This Administration has made historic investments in financial aid for postsecondary students. And in 2014 – the most recent year for which we have data—our country saw the largest and most diverse class of students enrolling in higher education in our history. The numbers of African-American and Latino college students are up by more than a million since 2008.

But the odds are still too steep for too many. Many students hesitate to pursue higher education, concerned by rising costs and a college marketplace that can be confusing, especially for many first-generation students. Furthermore, only about 60 percent of those who do enroll in a bachelor’s degree program complete their education within six years. And at least a third of those who do graduate take longer than expected, potentially adding even greater costs for students and families.

Borrowers who drop out of college face a three times greater risk of defaulting on their student loans compared with those who graduate. As a result, the 2017 budget proposes key reforms and provides institutional and student supports and incentives for on-time and accelerated degree attainment, which are aimed at making college more affordable, student aid more accessible, and student loan repayment easier, as well as fostering innovation and protecting students and taxpayers. The proposals in the budget will:

Dramatically Reduce Costs for Students and Families

  • The budget renews the call for the America’s College Promise (ACP) initiative, a partnership with states designed to make two years of community college free for responsible students. Through an investment of $61 billion over the next decade, students would be able to earn the first half of a bachelor’s degree or an associate degree and earn the skills needed to succeed in the workforce – at no cost. ACP also would provide grants to schools that support new low-income students, including those transferring from a community college. Students would be able to receive up to two years of college at these institutions at zero or significantly reduced tuition.
  • The budget invests in current and future generations of U.S. students by providing maximum funding for Pell Grant awards, adjusted for inflation beyond 2017. This will ensure that the dollars are protected from eroding in value in the years ahead.
  • In addition to making the FAFSA available earlier, as announced by President Obama in September 2015, the budget also would simplify the FAFSA by eliminating burdensome and unnecessarily complex questions to make it easier for students and families to access federal student aid and afford a postsecondary education.
  • The budget also would create a competitive, $30 million Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) and Minority Serving Institutions (MSI) Innovation for Completion Fund to encourage innovative, evidence-based student success strategies to increase the number of low-income students and students of color completing their degrees.
  • And the President’s budget request focuses on streamlining income-driven repayment plans that cap loan payments at a reasonable price for borrowers, and helping borrowers to manage their debt more effectively, including strengthening and streamlining teacher loan forgiveness programs.

Encourage and Reward Better Student Outcomes

  • To support and incent students to complete their coursework on time or ahead of time, the budget includes a Pell for Accelerated Completion program, making year-round Pell Grant funds available to students who take a full course load and have used up their existing award.
  • The budget would provide an additional $300 On-Track Pell Bonus for students who stay on course to complete college on time by taking at least 15 credit hours per semester.
  • It also will meet the demand for a third round of the First in the World initiative, with $100 million to implement and evaluate innovative and evidence-based strategies that boost student success, including a $30 million set-aside for HBCUs and MSIs. In 2014 and 2015, the Department saw significant levels of interest in this program, and was able to fund less than 6 percent of all applications received.
  • The College Opportunity and Graduation Bonus program would reward colleges with strong records of enrolling and graduating significant numbers of low-income students on time, and encourage more colleges to improve their outcomes.
  • And, with plans to reform campus-based student aid programs, the budget focuses on funding schools that provide a quality education at a reasonable price, particularly for low-income students.

Expand Postsecondary Options for Students

  • The President’s Second Chance Pell proposal will provide prisoners who have served their time and are about to re-enter society with support that can help them turn their lives around, offering them access to Pell funds to help pay for the college and training opportunities that lead to new skills and new opportunities.
  • And, to complement ACP, the budget will support a $75 million American Technical Training Fund, supporting the creation and expansion of tuition-free, short-term or accelerated job training programs to help more workers compete for high-demand fields like healthcare, manufacturing, and information technology. The Departments of Education and Labor will partner in launching this innovative effort.

In the 21st century, skills and education go a long way toward determining our success as individuals and as a nation. The FY 2017 budget is designed to increase equity and excellence in higher education, with ambitious proposals to reduce college costs, spark new approaches and scale up proven practices to serve students better, and create wider avenues for Americans – regardless of background or circumstance – to change their life chances and achieve their dreams.

Learn more about the full budget request for education.

Melissa Apostolides is a member of the Communications Development Team in the Office of Communications and Outreach at the U.S. Department of Education.

Back-to-School Bus Tour Stops at Purdue

Arne Duncan and Mitch Daniels on stage during the event at Purdue

Following an inspiring visit to the University of Illinois Champaign, Duncan stopped stopped at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, for a conversation with students and University President (and former two-term Governor) Mitch Daniels.

At a time when college matters more than ever before to the success of individual Americans, and our nation as a whole, the nation’s attention is focused on ways to ensure that all students have the opportunity to access, pay for, and complete a quality degree that truly equips them for a great career with a strong salary, active engagement in their homes and communities, and everything else that life has to offer.  To achieve the goal of helping unprecedented numbers of students, from more diverse backgrounds, than ever, to gain knowledge, skills and a valuable degree, at a reasonable cost – we can’t rely on business as usual.  We need to innovate: at the federal, state, and local levels.  We need higher education institutions and leaders willing to do things differently.

Purdue is one of the schools showing the way.

At a time when rising tuition costs are grabbing headlines, the total cost of attending Purdue has actually fallen since President Daniels arrived on campus. Total loan debt among the student body has also fallen 18% or $40 million.  Purdue announced it would freeze tuition for two years, later extending the freeze for a third year.  Four-year graduates from the class of 2016 will be the first in at least 40 years to leave Purdue without ever having experienced a tuition hike.

The Secretary praised President Daniels and Purdue for this and other innovative efforts to help students access, afford and complete their degrees.  The two discussed the University’s focus on: building a stronger pipeline between secondary school and college with a new charter model – Purdue Polytechnic Indianapolis High School – scheduled to open in 2017 with university-aligned curriculum and standards; redesigning coursework to accelerate degree attainment; launching a new Gallup-Purdue Index to measure the value of a college degree; and implementing proven strategies to help an increasingly diverse student population –  including more low-income and first generation college students – succeed in higher education.

Purdue was also the recipient of a 2014 “First in the World” grant from the Department.  The school is using $2.3 million in federal funding for a new “Success through Transformative Education and Active Mentoring” project: an experimental study to determine why active learning models in schools succeed, and focused on overhauling 30 courses in the fields of science, technology, engineering, math and the arts. This effort builds on Purdue’s existing “IMPACT” model, which has already transformed 120 traditional lecture-style courses into active, student-centered learning environments, in past 4 years.

Watch Secretary Duncan wrap up day three of the Ready for Success bus tour:

In Illinois, a Powerful Showcase of Abilities: Academic, Athletic, and Civic

Students playing wheelchair basketball

Day three of the Ready for Success bus tour began on the leafy campus of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign: a school with a tremendous track record of doing creative things to help all students thrive in college, earn a degree, and find fulfilling careers. Illinois is the most diverse public university in the Big Ten, and that diversity embraces students with disabilities.

In fact, the University, through its Division of Disability Resources and Educational Services (DRES), is one of the nation’s best in serving the needs of college students with disabilities. So much so, that the graduation rate for students with disabilities, at 91 percent, is higher than the campus average!

And, within a year of getting their degree, 84 percent have launched their careers or started graduate or professional school.

Since the 1940s, this pioneering campus has seen many disability firsts in U.S. collegiate history – in academics, sports, and every phase of campus life, including being the first postsecondary institution to form a disability service fraternity, first to install curb cuts to accommodate students with disabilities, first to offer a study-abroad program for university students with disabilities, and first to offer varsity letter awards to student athletes with disabilities.

The Secretary started the morning out right with the game that’s closest to his heart, joining coaches and players of the Illini men’s and women’s wheelchair basketball teams – holders of 15 and 14 national championship titles, respectively – to observe a fast-paced, action-packed morning workout.

The coach of the women’s team, Stephanie Wheeler, is also Head Coach of the Women’s U.S Para-Olympic Basketball team. And, the United States Olympic Committee has designated the university a US Paralympic Training Site, offering an elite training environment for Paralympic track and field hopefuls. At the 2012 London Games, athletes from the university’s wheelchair track and field training program took home 10 of the nation’s 28 medals.

Asked to comment on what he’d seen, Secretary Duncan said, “The opportunities this school is creating, and all the potential the students represent – it’s just extraordinary.”

Duncan talking with students in the gym

After that rousing warmup, we sat down with students, alumni, educators and community partners to hear more about their experiences.  Participants pointed out that because DRES is part of the University’s College of Applied Health Sciences, there’s a unique opportunity for researchers and developers, professors, students, and even outside funders to partner in pilot-testing state-of-the art solutions to serve people with disabilities – from accessible elevators and transportation systems to learning technologies.

The message was clear: the school community has worked hard to build a culture of success that includes proactive support and constant innovation.

For instance, the Beckwith Residential Support Services program pairs students with disabilities and trainee personal care assistants, so both members of the team can work together gain skills and meet their academic and professional goals.  And, the school is building on a strong record of serving a thriving student veteran community with veteran-focused academic and transition support system, and a menu of educational opportunities at the undergraduate, professional, and graduate levels, by launching, just this fall, a groundbreaking new Chez Family Foundation Center for Wounded Veterans in Higher Education.

As one school representative put it, “we’re always looking for the next big thing, the next invention, the next creative solution to make things better for students.”  “That’s the right mentality,” the Secretary agreed. “You’re making good investments in the kinds of things our young people need – and our country needs their talent.”

Students in the roundtable – enrolled in bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral programs – described the personalized support they were receiving. Retired Illinois Army National Guard Sgt. Garrett Anderson talked about his education journey since returning from a 2005 deployment in Iraq with severe injuries, after an IED exploded beneath his Humvee. With help from his family and the school community’s special focus on supporting veterans with disabilities, he is now pursuing a graduate degree at the University of Illinois in Rehabilitation Counseling.

Kushal Parikh – a student in the Masters of Social Work program – has also taken advantage of the school’s support for entrepreneurship through the I-Venture Accelerator, a program that allows top student to establish startups at the University. As Vice President of ChairDrop, he’s working to helping travelers with physical disabilities have access to wheelchairs and other medical devices at their destination, like rental car companies at airports.

Secretary Duncan talks with a student in a the gymIn addition to pursuing degrees in social work and engineering, respectively, undergrads Brianna Malin and Brian Strole have brought Eye-to-Eye to the University: an afterschool mentoring program for middle school students who, like the program’s co-founders, have ADHD or other learning disabilities. The program pairs middle schoolers with college mentors with similar experiences, in order to demonstrate the power of goal setting, ensure the students receive individualized support, and teach them to advocate for themselves.

Alexis Wernsing, an Art History major, is already planning to earn a Master’s degree in Art Education and teaching at a community college.  Alexis is part of an interdisciplinary team with Illinois’ School of Art and Design, along with the Electrical and Computer Engineering faculty, that developed and piloted an award-winning wheelchair voice amplifier. She described how open and inclusive the school community was from her very first semester, adding: “that’s great, because I remember what it was like to be afraid.”

Meridith Bradford, a senior with cerebral palsy who is majoring in Recreation, Sport and Tourism, with a concentration in Sport Management, explained that she specifically selected the University because of its top-notch wheelchair basketball teams, which she now helps to manage.

Bradford said she has made it her mission to help break through stereotypes about who can pursue higher education, so that “younger generations can have an easier transition than we did.”  Another explained: “Being able to speak up for yourself is the best skill this university has given us.”

As the bus pulled away, one thing was certain: the University of Illinois is providing national leadership in serving all students and proving that, with appropriate and meaningful supports, many more students with disabilities can complete college and be workforce ready.

“This school has made a decades-long commitment to serving students with disabilities,” Secretary Duncan noted, “because they understand that all students are assets.  What they are doing here is changing students’ lives.  Every student has a tremendous amount to contribute; they just need a chance.”

Watch Secretary Duncan wrap up day three of the Ready for Success bus tour:

Proving the Possible

Hundreds of Memphis students with red pom-poms welcomed Secretary Duncan to town on Wednesday, the final day of this year’s “Partners in Progress” back-to-school bus tour. Tennessee — in its fourth year of a federally funded Race to the Top grant — was one of the first grantees tapped to implement a comprehensive statewide plan for improving education, with broad community support.

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Students from Cornerstone Preparatory School in Memphis, Tenn., cheered when the bus tour arrived. (Photo credit: U.S. Department of Education)

Race to the Top — an investment that represents less than one percent of total education spending in America — has combined with other federally supported reform programs to fuel significant education improvements in states across the country. But, as Arne pointed out, the credit for encouraging early results goes to state and local partners—educators, families, faith-based, business and civic leaders — who’ve been determined to make things better for children, even though change can be hard.

“What’s going to sustain this is the hard work, the heart, the commitment of folks doing this,” Arne told more than 100 supporters of district and charter schools in Memphis. “The cumulative impact of all that hard work has been extraordinary.”

That impact is evident at Cornerstone Prep, which serves children in one of Memphis’s poorest neighborhoods. Once a school where only 2 percent of students were proficient in math, scores in that subject have increased by 23.1 points over the past three years and scores in reading and language arts have increased by 13.2 percentage points. T-shirts worn by the faculty and staff at Wednesday’s rally also attest that Cornerstone is “Proving the Possible.”

College banners are everywhere on campus, to keep everyone focused on the end goal. To the students cheering in the hot schoolyard out front, Arne delivered a back-to-school pep talk.

“A lot of people will tell you what you can’t do,” Arne said. “Don’t listen to them. Use that as fuel to keep you going.”

Changes, Challenges and Champions in Nashville

Earlier in the day, Arne joined National PTA President Otha Thornton and parents and teachers from Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools to discuss the impact in classrooms of some of the largest changes America’s schools have seen in decades.

Tennessee, like nearly every other state in the country, is in the early stages of implementing new and higher standards, better assessments and ways to use data and technology to boost student learning, as well as new efforts to support teachers and principals — all aimed at ensuring that all students are truly ready for college and careers. These changes are starting to show results, but challenges remain.

America’s high school graduation rate is at an all-time high and dropout rates are down, but one-third of high school graduates report having to take remedial classes in college. “What that tells you is they weren’t ready,” Arne said, citing the statistic. “They weren’t prepared…And that simply isn’t good enough.”

In a town hall at Nashville’s William Henry Oliver Middle School, Arne applauded PTA members for their strong stand for student and teacher success during this transition.

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Secretary Duncan at a town hall at Nashville’s William Henry Oliver Middle School. (Photo credit: U.S. Department of Education)

“This is new for everyone,” said panelist Kayleigh Wettstein, who teaches third grade in Nashville. “As teachers, we have to get on board and be really great role models for our students.”

Parents need support to understand these changes, too. Many nodded knowingly when ED Principal Ambassador Fellow Jill Levine, who leads a magnet school in Chattanooga, Tennessee, talked about the new ways that educators are teaching math and how those methods can be unfamiliar to parents who learned a different way to work with numbers.

For Wettstein, whose students tend to come from homes where English isn’t the first language, “not all parents are the same. We have to differentiate for our kids and we have to differentiate for our families as well.”

Parent Anita Ryan marveled at a recent project at her daughter’s school, involving All of the Above, a novel about four students and their quest to build the world’s largest tetrahedron and prove their urban school isn’t a “dead end.” Ryan’s daughter and her class read the book. They studied the math behind pyramidal shapes and the engineering involved in building giant ones. They wrote persuasive essays about winning approaches to break the record. And they worked in teams to test their theories.

The Common Core State Standards that Tennessee developed with more than 40 states encourage that kind of multi-faceted, project-based learning, Ryan said. As a result, students like her daughter “get it.” “They know it. They retain it,” she said.

One risk of this big transition in education is the potential for over-testing of students, Nashville Superintendent Jesse Register said. In his district, they have identified redundancies — “we were doing too much,” Register said — and are looking for ways to scale back testing without sacrificing important data and accountability.

“Where there’s too much testing, let’s have an honest conversation about that.” Arne said, reflecting on how he views testing in his own children’s public schools. Measuring what students know and where they need more help is a way to “make sure great teaching is leading to good results, not just teaching to the test.”

Talking about another form of accountability, Arne encouraged parents and educators to look behind politicians’ rhetoric and press them to genuinely value education and invest in public schools. For too long, politicians let standards slip to make themselves look good while students were being handed worthless diplomas. Elections, he said, are the ultimate form of accountability for officials who control education budgets and policy, but campaigns rarely focus on education, especially at the national level.

Arne threw out an idea for the next race for the White House. “In 2016, could we have a presidential debate about education, where the entire nation focuses on it? Could PTA host that debate?”

Reflecting on the tour, the Secretary noted the extraordinary ways that communities in all three states we visited—Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia—have seized the opportunity to bring about bold change in education.

“I don’t learn much sitting behind my desk in Washington. I need to get out.” (Arne has visited all 50 states and more than 350 schools in his five-and-a-half years as Secretary.) “This is a time to get better … and to do it together,” he said.

From the tour’s kickoff with First Lady Michelle Obama in Atlanta, where counselors, mentors and other role models are inspiring students to set their sights on higher education, to Space Camp at NASA’s Rocket Center in Huntsville, where kids explore the wonders of STEM, to an early learning center in Chattanooga, where parents are determined to give their babies a great start in life — partners across America are coming together to build a better future for all students.

And that’s real progress.

Melissa Apostolides is a member of the Communications Development team in the Office of Communications and Outreach.