the WHITE HOUSEPresident Barack Obama

Search form

Investing in Education: The American Graduation Initiative

As part of his effort to build a stronger foundation that will allow us to lead in the global economy, the President announced today a historic initiative to strengthen o
download .mp4 (159.8 MB) | read the transcript
As part of his effort to build a stronger foundation that will allow us to lead in the global economy, the President announced today a historic initiative to strengthen our nation’s community colleges, and called for five million additional graduates by 2020.
Speaking at Macomb Community College in Michigan, the President stressed the importance of education to America’s prosperity:
But we also have to ensure that we're educating and preparing our people for the new jobs of the 21st century.  We've got to prepare our people with the skills they need to compete in this global economy.  (Applause.)  Time and again, when we placed our bet for the future on education, we have prospered as a result -- by tapping the incredible innovative and generative potential of a skilled American workforce.  That's what happened when President Lincoln signed into law legislation creating the land grant colleges, which not only transformed higher education, but also our entire economy.  That's what took place when President Roosevelt signed the GI Bill which helped educate a generation, and ushered in an era of unprecedented prosperity.  That was the foundation for the American middle class.
President Obama speaks on community colleges
(President Barack Obama greets the crowd at Macomb Community College in Warren, Mich., Tuesday, July 14, 2009. Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson) 
Yesterday, we told you about the Council of Economic Advisers’ report about the future of the U.S. labor market. The report described a shift towards jobs that require greater analytical and interactive skills, and the benefits of higher education. It is expected that jobs requiring at least an associate degree will grow twice as fast as jobs requiring only a high school education. The President understands that education is fundamental to reviving our economy and strengthening our workforce, which is why he is committed to increasing graduation rates, and has asked every American to commit to at least one year of higher education:
But today I'm announcing the most significant down payment yet on reaching the goal of having the highest college graduation rate of any nation in the world.  We're going to achieve this in the next 10 years.  (Applause.)  And it's called the American Graduation Initiative.  It will reform and strengthen community colleges like this one from coast to coast so they get the resources that students and schools need -- and the results workers and businesses demand.  Through this plan, we seek to help an additional 5 million Americans earn degrees and certificates in the next decade -- 5 million.  (Applause.) 
You may remember Dr. Biden recently spoke about the critical role of community colleges in our higher education system. Community colleges are rapidly growing, and are needed now more than ever to keep America competitive. The American Graduation Initiative will build on the strengths of community colleges and launch new initiatives and reforms that will increase their effectiveness and impact by figuring out what works and what doesn't, modernize facilities, increase graduation rates, and expand and create new online learning opportunities.
The Initiative is estimated to cost $12 billion over the next decade, but the President has outlined a plan to pay for it by cutting waste, while increasing Pell Grant scholarships and reducing the deficit:
Not since the passage of the original GI Bill and the work of President Truman's Commission on Higher Education -- which helped to double the number of community colleges and increase by seven-fold enrollment in those colleges -- have we taken such a historic step on behalf of community colleges in America.  And let me be clear:  We pay for this plan -- this isn't adding to the deficit; we're paying for this plan -- by ending the wasteful subsidies we currently provide to banks and private lenders for student loans.  (Applause.)  That will save tens of billions of dollars over the next 10 years.  Instead of lining the pockets of special interests, it's time this money went towards the interests of higher education in America.  (Applause.)  That's what my administration is committed to doing.