Obama Pledges to Support Education, Urging All Americans to Get 'More Than a High-School Diploma
In a nationally televised address to Congress on Tuesday night, President Barack Obama promised to increase federal spending on education, while ending “education programs that don’t work.”
He urged all Americans to pursue “a year or more” of higher education, or career training, and set a goal for the nation to have the world’s highest proportion of college graduates by 2020.
“Every American will need to get more than a high-school diploma,” he said.
While warning that his budget, which he plans to unveil on Thursday, will contain some painful cuts, Mr. Obama identified education, energy, and health care as “three areas that are absolutely critical to our economic future.”
“In a global economy, where the most valuable skill you can sell is your knowledge, a good education is no longer just a pathway to opportunity, it is a prerequisite,” he said.
He called high high-school dropout rates and low college-completion rates a “prescription for economic decline.”
“We know that the countries that outteach us today will outcompete us tomorrow,” he said. “It will be the goal of this administration to ensure that every child has access to a complete and competitive education from the day they are born to the day they begin a career. That is a promise we have to make to the children of America.”
Mr. Obama made a down payment on that promise last week, signing an economic-stimulus bill containing millions of dollars for Pell Grants, the Federal-Work Study program, and tuition tax credits. In his remarks on Tuesday night, while discussing a community-service bill that Congress is expected to take up soon, he repeated a campaign promise to provide student aid in exchange for volunteer work or other national service.
But even as he vowed that the federal government will help students afford college, Mr. Obama put the responsibility on students to complete high school and enroll, saying “dropping out of high school is no longer an option.”
“It’s not just quitting on yourself, it's quitting on your country. And this country needs and values the talents of every American.”
At least one college student was present to hear his remarks. Victoria Kirby, a senior at Howard University, was among a handful of students invited to sit in Michelle Obama’s private viewing box for the address.