Heading in to the final 18 months of President Barack Obama’s administration, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on Monday talked about the state of higher education, providing affordable college education to every student and what reform means for the country’s future.
Duncan spoke at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, making the point that “debt-free degrees” are “only part of the solution” for reforming the higher education system in this country. Today the average student graduates with about $35,000 in loan debt and the average student attending a public college in their state pays nearly $19,000 a year in tuition.
“America’s students know what they want out of college,” Duncan said in prepared remarks for Monday’s speech. “They want an education that will set them on a path to success. They want control of their future, without decades of overwhelming debt. They want a college degree that will help them thrive independently, support a family, shape the world and contribute to their communities.”
But Duncan, says that for millions of students there is inequity in the system that must be fixed.
“Unfortunately our higher education system just isn’t delivering what they need, and deserve.”
But making college more accessible is not enough, he said. Duncan wants changes to focus to on what he called “the outcome that matters: completing a quality degree at a reasonable cost. And we must have the courage to embrace innovations that meet the needs of a student body that has changed enormously in recent decades.”
He said the economic future of the country is a stake.
“The decisions we face here will define our generation,” Duncan said. “In the choices we make, we will decide what kind of country we are, and who gets to share in the nation’s success.”
The Washington Post reported excerpts from that speech.