While many issues are facing America right now, education is not one that is discussed very often, even though our country's education system consistently ranks lower than most in the developed world.
Luckily, we have someone in the White House who understands the importance of building a stronger education system for this nation.
President Obama talked about education, with a focus on community colleges, in his first visit to the Great Lakes State as President today. He spoke at Macomb Community College, located in Warren. Due to the pain Metro Detroit has suffered with automotive layoffs, MCC was a prime place for him to discuss his American Graduation Initiative and the issue of education as a means of ensuring our long-term prosperity.
As the President said:
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.
Indeed, almost nobody who reads this blog will doubt that an educated workforce is necessary for our economy to prosper. Companies only create skilled jobs where talent resides, and education is supposed to foster that talent. Which is why a strong education system is a must - especially in today's economy.
So why the focus on community colleges? From CNN:
Obama called the investment in community colleges crucial because "jobs requiring at least an associate degree are projected to grow twice as fast as jobs requiring no college experience" in coming years.
"We will not fill those jobs, or keep those jobs on our shores, without the training offered by community colleges," he said.
To improve our community college system, the President discussed his American Graduation Initiative. According to CNN, the initiative includes such key areas as:
• Community college challenge grants, to help underfunded colleges that are dealing with limited capacity and to build partnerships with schools and businesses.
• The Access and Completion Fund, to provide performance-based scholarships and give colleges the tools to design more programs around work schedules.
• Modernization of community-college facilities, with $2.5 billion to help renovate facilities and keep up with maintenance costs. The renovations will create jobs, Obama said.
• Open online courses, to create options online as a tool that some think can be more effective than classroom instruction alone.
As Obama said, the American Graduation Initiative
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.
But at what cost? He says the plan will be paid for
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
Of course, as some have said, "If you think education is expensive, try ignorance."
When it comes to higher education, the Obama Administration has certainly gotten off to a good start. In addition to this initiative, the Administration has already eased rules on repaying student loans and is working to simplify the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
While Obama is right to note the important yet understated role community colleges play in this country, my hope is that he will also work to ensure that four-year colleges and other schools have the tools necessary to educate students who, like me, choose to earn an education at those institutions. While access to affordable, quality health care is critical for our short-term economic health, our long-term prosperity may very well hinge on access to affordable, quality education.