“School Days” Video Features Plans for Making College More Affordable

The January 2012 edition of “School Days,” the monthly video journal of the U.S. Department of Education, features President Obama’s State of the Union message and his plans for making college more affordable, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s challenge for college sports programs to strike a better balance between athletics and academics, a convening of State education leaders to talk about their Race to the Top plans, and a new performance piece called “Teachers’ Lounge” – and much more.  Watch “School Days”:


Click here for an alternate version of the video with an accessible player.

In Boston: Arne Says We Must Invest in Education

Duncan with Parents

Secretary Duncan stopped by Boston Public Schools’ Parent University during his trip to Boston. Official Department of Education photo by Joshua Hoover.

“Education is an investment,” Secretary Duncan told a town hall audience earlier this week at Emerson College in Boston. Duncan explained that other countries aren’t cutting their investment in education, and for America to compete in the global economy, investing in education is vital.

Duncan started a busy day at Boston University where he discussed Race to the Top with Mass., Commissioner of Education Mitchell Chester, superintendents, union presidents, and others. The Secretary then stopeed by J.F. Kennedy Elementary to visit Boston Public Schools’ Parent University. Following the visit, Duncan updated his Twitter account saying:

Later, Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) joined Arne for the Emerson town hall and a meeting with college presidents on keeping college affordable for America’s middle class. The meeting on college affordability follows on the heels of President Obama’s recently introduced Blueprint for College Affordability. “[W]e’ve got to have an economy in which every American has access to a world-class higher education,” President Obama explained when he unveiled the blueprint. “This country has always made a commitment to put a good education within the reach of all who are willing to work for it, and that’s part of what helped to create this economic miracle and build the largest middle class in history,” he said.

Following his visit to Emerson, Duncan gave a speech at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education’s Askwith Forum, entitled “Fighting the Wrong Education Battles.”  Duncan encouraged education advocates to “seek common ground—knowing that it will both take you outside of your comfort zone and require tough-minded collaboration.” He said that we need to “stop defending the status quo when it hurts children. Let’s wage the right education battles. Together, let’s work collectively to advance achievement and a love of learning in America.”

Read the entire speech here.

Obama in Michigan: Views from a Teacher and Parent

… The degree you earn from Michigan will be the best tool you have to achieve that basic American promise … be part of something that is adding value to this country and maybe changing the world.  …That’s what the American Dream is all about.  

My grandfather got the chance to go to college because this country decided that every returning veteran of World War II should be able to afford it.  My mother was able to raise two kids by herself because she was able to get grants and work her way through school.  I am only standing here today because scholarships and student loans gave me a shot at a decent education.”

When President Obama spoke these words to the crowd at the University of Michigan on Friday, he described the situation of many students in the audience who struggle to pay for the education they’ll need to participate in the American Dream. Like the President, I have two daughters of whom I am very proud, and both are fortunate to attend the University of Michigan.

Tracey with Secretary Duncan in Michigan

Tracey with Secretary Duncan at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor before President Obama's speech.

As a high school teacher in Ann Arbor and a single parent who is solely responsible for my daughters’ tuition bills, I welcome the President’s plans in the “Blueprint for an America Built to Last” to make college more affordable for families like ours. Everyday I worry about the debt my girls will have when they graduate. Expanding work study opportunities and keeping interest rates low on federal loans will be crucial to my daughters’ and other students’ ability to finish college. As the President said, “… In this economy, there is no greater predictor of individual success than a good education.”

Fortunately, thanks to the President’s support for manufacturing and the auto industry, the Michigan economy is starting to recover, and I agree with the President that the United States has to continue to be a country where everybody has a chance to succeed, and affordable education is the key to that goal.

As a 2010 Classroom Teaching Ambassador Fellow with the Department of Education, I have experienced Secretary Duncan and President Obama’s commitment to having teachers at the table in policy discussions.  Through the fellowship, I have had unique opportunities to engage in meaningful conversations with diverse groups of educators and policy makers. These were all great experiences.  When I met President Obama after the speech, and he thanked me for my work, I was immensely grateful both for the chance of a lifetime and for an administration that clearly values teachers and education.

Tracey Van Dusen

Tracey Van Dusen is a 2010 Classroom Teaching Ambassador Fellow who teaches AP Government and American Studies at Pioneer High School in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Duncan Discusses College Affordability During Florida Town Halls

Secretary Duncan at Florida Town Hall

Secretary Duncan holds a town hall in Pembroke Pines, Fla. Official Department of Education photo by Joshua Hoover.

“The way we’re going to bring in and keep the great jobs in this country is by having the most educated workforce,” Secretary Duncan said last week at a town hall in Pembroke Pines, Fla. Speaking with a large group of students, teachers and parents, Duncan explained that the U.S. used to be 1st in college completion and is now ranked 16th. Arne also echoed the President’s State of the Union message that we are facing a “make or break moment” for America’s middle class.

Over the past week, President Obama and Secretary Duncan both described that more than ever, education is essential to helping Americans become full contributors to the American economy. The unemployment rate for Americans with a college degree is about half the national average, and in our knowledge-based economy, our nation’s economic prosperity will be determined by the education of our people.

Before arriving in Pembroke Pines, Duncan stopped in Tallahassee to hold a community town hall around the same theme of keeping college affordable and within reach for all Americans. And while Duncan reminded the audience that college has never been more important, he also noted that it is also more expensive than ever. The Obama Administration has taken significant action in helping students and their families afford college, and on Friday, Secretary Duncan joined President Obama at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor to outline a Blueprint to making college more affordable.

Click here to read more about the President’s Blueprint, and click here to watch a video of Vice President Biden and Secretary Duncan traveling the country addressing the cost of college.

Everything You Need to Know About President Obama’s Blueprint for College Affordability

President Obama at Ann Arbor

President Barack Obama delivers remarks on college affordability while speaking at the football practice field at the University of Michigan's Al Glick Field House in Ann Arbor, Mich., Jan. 27, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Cross-posted from the White House Blog.

In the State of the Union, President Obama made a point to talk about two critically important trends when it comes to education.

First, if you look at unemployment rates broken down by education level, you’ll notice something stark: Those without a college diploma are twice as likely to be without a job as those who earned a bachelor’s degree. For those who finished college or received more education still, the unemployment rate is just 4.1 percent—less than half the national average. And even among the employed, those who finished college make twice as much as those who failed to finish high school.

But even as a college degree has become more important than ever, the cost of that diploma has [begun to] skyrocketed. For the first time, Americans owe more on their student loans than they do on their credit cards. A senior in high school today has seen the cost of full-time attendance at a public university nearly double in her lifetime.

This morning at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, the President outlined a Blueprint for making college more affordable.

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Affording College? Maybe it IS a reality!

Ed. Note: Chanda Kropp is a high school Spanish teacher in Hutchinson, Minn., and a 2010 Mom Congress Delegate. Here she shares her impressions from a recent town hall in Minneapolis.

I must admit, the thought has crossed my mind many times of how my children will ever afford college with the current tuition rates. My dream is that my two wonderful children will attend the college of their choice, whether it is a public school, a private school or a school with out-of-state tuition. As a teacher, I value education and believe it opens so many doors. However, if reality means that a college student’s loan repayment is as much as her mortgage, I worry!

Piggy BankMy concern changed to optimism last week as I sat with many South Minneapolis high school students, the Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Minnesota Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and many other distinguished local dignitaries for a town hall on college affordability. Hearing Secretary Duncan say that $40 billion dollars is currently being invested in Pell Grants and that the administration wants to expand its income based student loan repayment program, makes me incredibly happy!

A recent law signed by President Obama allows new borrowers who receive student loans after July 1, 2014, to cap their student loan repayments at 10 percent of their discretionary income. If the borrower keeps up with his or her payments over time, the balance will be forgiven after 20 years. Public service workers – such as teachers, nurses, and those in military service – will see any remaining debt forgiven after 10 years. Additionally, the administration is proposing to move up the 2014 start date to 2012 for some borrowers.

I’m hopeful that the combination of Pell Grants and reasonable loan repayment schedules will be a winning formula for all students in America. The United States once led the world with the percentage of students attending college; we have now slipped to 16th place. That simply will not be acceptable if we want to compete in a global market. America’s children should be concentrating on their academic degrees, not their degree of debt!

Chanda Kropp