All posts in category Education
Political Musings February 28, 2014: Emotional Obama launches My Brother’s Keeper program to help minority youth
Posted by bonniekgoodman on February 28, 2014
Full Text Obama Presidency February 27, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech Launching My Brother’s Keeper, His New Initiative to Help Young Men of Color
OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:
President Obama Launches My Brother’s Keeper, His New Initiative to Help Young Men of Color
Source: WH, 2-27-14
This afternoon, in the East Room of the White House, President Obama delivered remarks at the launch event for My Brother’s Keeper – his new initiative aimed at helping young men and boys of color facing tough odds reach their full potential. The initiative will bring together private philanthropies, businesses, governors, mayors, faith leaders, and nonprofit organizations that are committed to helping them succeed….READ MORE
President Barack Obama delivers remarks at an event to highlight “My Brother’s Keeper,” an initiative to expand opportunity for young men and boys of color, in the East Room of the White House, Feb. 27, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Remarks by the President on “My Brother’s Keeper” Initiative
Source: WH, 2-27-14
3:43 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Everybody, please have a seat. Well, good afternoon, everybody.
AUDIENCE: Good afternoon.
THE PRESIDENT: Welcome to the White House. And thank you, Christian, for that outstanding introduction. And thank you for cheering for the White Sox, which is the right thing to do. (Laughter.) Like your parents and your teachers, I could not be prouder of you. I could not be prouder of the other young men who are here today. But just so we’re clear — you’re only excused for one day of school. (Laughter.) And I’m assuming you’ve got your assignments with you so that you can catch up — perhaps even on the flight back. (Laughter.)
As Christian mentioned, I first met Christian about a year ago. I visited the Hyde Park Academy in Chicago, which is only about a mile from my house. And Christian was part of this program called “Becoming a Man.” It’s a program that Mayor Rahm Emanuel introduced to me. And it helps young men who show a lot of potential but may have gotten in some trouble to stay on the right path.
They get help with schoolwork, but they also learn life skills like how to be a responsible citizen, and how to deal with life’s challenges, and how to manage frustrations in a constructive way, and how to set goals for themselves. And it works. One study found that, among young men who participate in the BAM program, arrests for violent crimes dropped 44 percent, and they were more likely to graduate from high school. (Applause.)
So as Christian mentioned, during my visit, they’re in a circle and I sat down in the circle, and we went around, led by their counselor, and guys talked about their lives, talked about their stories. They talked about what they were struggling with, and how they were trying to do the right thing, and how sometimes they didn’t always do the right thing. And when it was my turn, I explained to them that when I was their age I was a lot like them. I didn’t have a dad in the house. And I was angry about it, even though I didn’t necessarily realize it at the time. I made bad choices. I got high without always thinking about the harm that it could do. I didn’t always take school as seriously as I should have. I made excuses. Sometimes I sold myself short.
And I remember when I was saying this — Christian, you may remember this — after I was finished, the guy sitting next to me said, “Are you talking about you?” (Laughter.) I said, yes.
And the point was I could see myself in these young men. And the only difference is that I grew up in an environment that was a little bit more forgiving, so when I made a mistake the consequences were not as severe. I had people who encouraged me — not just my mom and grandparents, but wonderful teachers and community leaders — and they’d push me to work hard and study hard and make the most of myself. And if I didn’t listen they said it again. And if I didn’t listen they said it a third time. And they would give me second chances, and third chances. They never gave up on me, and so I didn’t give up on myself.
I told these young men my story then, and I repeat it now because I firmly believe that every child deserves the same chances that I had. And that’s why we’re here today — to do what we can, in this year of action, to give more young Americans the support they need to make good choices, and to be resilient, and to overcome obstacles, and achieve their dreams.
This is an issue of national importance — it’s as important as any issue that I work on. It’s an issue that goes to the very heart of why I ran for President — because if America stands for anything, it stands for the idea of opportunity for everybody; the notion that no matter who you are, or where you came from, or the circumstances into which you are born, if you work hard, if you take responsibility, then you can make it in this country. (Applause.) That’s the core idea.
And that’s the idea behind everything that I’ll do this year, and for the rest of my presidency. Because at a time when the economy is growing, we’ve got to make sure that every American shares in that growth, not just a few. And that means guaranteeing every child in America has access to a world-class education. It means creating more jobs and empowering more workers with the skills they need to do those jobs. It means making sure that hard work pays off with wages you can live on and savings you can retire on and health care that you can count on. It means building more ladders of opportunity into the middle class for anybody who’s willing to work hard to climb them.
Those are national issues. They have an impact on everybody. And the problem of stagnant wages and economic insecurity and stalled mobility are issues that affect all demographic groups all across the country. My administration’s policies — from early childhood education to job training, to minimum wages — are designed to give a hand up to everybody, every child, every American willing to work hard and take responsibility for their own success. That’s the larger agenda.
But the plain fact is there are some Americans who, in the aggregate, are consistently doing worse in our society — groups that have had the odds stacked against them in unique ways that require unique solutions; groups who’ve seen fewer opportunities that have spanned generations. And by almost every measure, the group that is facing some of the most severe challenges in the 21st century in this country are boys and young men of color.
Now, to say this is not to deny the enormous strides we’ve made in closing the opportunity gaps that marred our history for so long. My presence is a testimony to that progress. Across this country, in government, in business, in our military, in communities in every state we see extraordinary examples of African American and Latino men who are standing tall and leading, and building businesses, and making our country stronger. Some of those role models who have defied the odds are with us here today — the Magic Johnsons or the Colin Powells who are doing extraordinary things — the Anthony Foxxes.
Anthony, yesterday he and I were talking about how both of us never knew our dads, and shared that sense of both how hard that had been but also how that had driven us to succeed in many ways. So there are examples of extraordinary achievement. We all know that. We don’t need to stereotype and pretend that there’s only dysfunction out there. But 50 years after Dr. King talked about his dream for America’s children, the stubborn fact is that the life chances of the average black or brown child in this country lags behind by almost every measure, and is worse for boys and young men.
If you’re African American, there’s about a one in two chance you grow up without a father in your house — one in two. If you’re Latino, you have about a one in four chance. We know that boys who grow up without a father are more likely to be poor, more likely to underperform in school.
As a black student, you are far less likely than a white student to be able to read proficiently by the time you are in 4th grade. By the time you reach high school, you’re far more likely to have been suspended or expelled. There’s a higher chance you end up in the criminal justice system, and a far higher chance that you are the victim of a violent crime. Fewer young black and Latino men participate in the labor force compared to young white men. And all of this translates into higher unemployment rates and poverty rates as adults.
And the worst part is we’ve become numb to these statistics. We’re not surprised by them. We take them as the norm. We just assume this is an inevitable part of American life, instead of the outrage that it is. (Applause.) That’s how we think about it. It’s like a cultural backdrop for us — in movies and television. We just assume, of course, it’s going to be like that. But these statistics should break our hearts. And they should compel us to act.
Michelle and I are blessed with two beautiful daughters. We don’t have a son. But I know if I had a son, on the day he was born I would have felt everything I felt with Malia and Sasha — the awe, the gratitude, the overwhelming sense of responsibility to do everything in my power to protect that amazing new life from this big world out there. And just as our daughters are growing up into wonderful, beautiful young women, I’d want my son to feel a sense of boundless possibility. And I’d want him to have independence and confidence. And I’d want him to have empathy and compassion. I’d want him to have a sense of diligence and commitment, and a respect for others and himself — the tools that he’d need to succeed.
I don’t have a son, but as parents, that’s what we should want not just for our children, but for all children. (Applause.) And I believe the continuing struggles of so many boys and young men — the fact that too many of them are falling by the wayside, dropping out, unemployed, involved in negative behavior, going to jail, being profiled — this is a moral issue for our country. It’s also an economic issue for our country.
After all, these boys are a growing segment of our population. They are our future workforce. When, generation after generation, they lag behind, our economy suffers. Our family structure suffers. Our civic life suffers. Cycles of hopelessness breed violence and mistrust. And our country is a little less than what we know it can be. So we need to change the statistics — not just for the sake of the young men and boys, but for the sake of America’s future.
That’s why, in the aftermath of the Trayvon Martin verdict, with all the emotions and controversy that it sparked, I spoke about the need to bolster and reinforce our young men, and give them the sense that their country cares about them and values them and is willing to invest in them. (Applause.) And I’m grateful that Trayvon’s parents, Sybrina and Tracy, are here with us today, along with Jordan Davis’s parents, Lucy and Ron.
In my State of the Union address last month, I said I’d pick up the phone and reach out to Americans willing to help more young men of color facing especially tough odds to stay on track and reach their full potential, so America can reach its full potential. And that’s what today is all about.
After months of conversation with a wide range of people, we’ve pulled together private philanthropies and businesses, mayors, state and local leaders, faith leaders, nonprofits, all who are committed to creating more pathways to success. And we’re committed to building on what works. And we call it “My Brother’s Keeper.”
Now, just to be clear — “My Brother’s Keeper” is not some big, new government program. In my State of the Union address, I outlined the work that needs to be done for broad-based economic growth and opportunity for all Americans. We have manufacturing hubs, infrastructure spending — I’ve been traveling around the country for the last several weeks talking about what we need to do to grow the economy and expand opportunity for everybody. And in the absence of some of those macroeconomic policies that create more good jobs and restore middle-class security, it’s going to be harder for everyone to make progress. And for the last four years, we’ve been working through initiatives like Promise Zones to help break down the structural barriers — from lack of transportation to substandard schools — that afflict some of this country’s most impoverished counties, and we’ll continue to promote these efforts in urban and rural counties alike.
Those are all government initiatives, government programs that we think are good for all Americans and we’re going to keep on pushing for them. But what we’re talking about here today with “My Brother’s Keeper” is a more focused effort on boys and young men of color who are having a particularly tough time. And in this effort, government cannot play the only — or even the primary — role. We can help give every child access to quality preschool and help them start learning from an early age, but we can’t replace the power of a parent who’s reading to that child. We can reform our criminal justice system to ensure that it’s not infected with bias, but nothing keeps a young man out of trouble like a father who takes an active role in his son’s life. (Applause.)
In other words, broadening the horizons for our young men and giving them the tools they need to succeed will require a sustained effort from all of us. Parents will have to parent — and turn off the television, and help with homework. (Applause.) Teachers will need to do their part to make sure our kids don’t fall behind and that we’re setting high expectations for those children and not giving up on them. Business leaders will need to create more mentorships and apprenticeships to show more young people what careers are out there. Tech leaders will need to open young eyes to fields like computer science and engineering. Faith leaders will need to help our young men develop the values and ethical framework that is the foundation for a good and productive life.
So we all have a job to do. And we can do it together — black and white, urban and rural, Democrat and Republican. So often, the issues facing boys and young men of color get caught up in long-running ideological arguments about race and class, and crime and poverty, the role of government, partisan politics. We’ve all heard those arguments before. But the urgency of the situation requires us to move past some of those old arguments and focus on getting something done and focusing on what works. It doesn’t mean the arguments are unimportant; it just means that they can’t paralyze us. And there’s enough goodwill and enough overlap and agreement that we should be able to go ahead and get some things done, without resolved everything about our history or our future.
Twenty years ago, Congresswoman Frederica Wilson started a program in the Miami public school system — feel free to stand up. (Applause.) To help young boys at risk of dropping out of school. Today, it serves thousands of students in dozens of schools.
As Mayor of New York, Mayor Bloomberg — Michael Bloomberg, who’s here today, started a “Young Men’s Initiative” for African-American and Latino boys, because he understood that in order for America to compete we need to make it easier for all our young people to do better in the classroom and find a job once they graduate.
A bipartisan group of mayors called “Cities United” has made this issue a priority in communities across the country. Senator Mike Lee — a leader of the tea party — has been working with Senator Dick Durbin — a Democrat from my home state of Illinois — to reduce disparities in our criminal justice system that have hit the African American and Latino communities especially hard.
So I want to thank everybody who’s been doing incredible work — many of the people who are here today, including members of Congress, who have been focused on this and are moving the needle in their communities and around the country.
They understand that giving every young person who’s willing to work hard a shot at opportunity should not be a partisan issue. Yes, we need to train our workers, invest in our schools, make college more affordable — and government has a role to play. And, yes, we need to encourage fathers to stick around, and remove the barriers to marriage, and talk openly about things like responsibility and faith and community. In the words of Dr. King, it is not either-or; it is both-and.
And if I can persuade Sharpton and O’Reilly to be in the same meeting — (laughter and applause) — then it means that there are people of good faith who want to get some stuff done, even if we don’t agree on everything. And that’s our focus.
While there may not be much of an appetite in Congress for sweeping new programs or major new initiatives right now, we all know we can’t wait. And so the good news is folks in the private sector who know how important boosting the achievement of young men of color is to this country — they are ready to step up.
Today, I’m pleased to announce that some of the most forward-looking foundations in America are looking to invest at least $200 million over the next five years — on top of the $150 million that they’ve already invested — to test which strategies are working for our kids and expand them in cities across the country. (Applause.)
Many of these folks have been on the front lines in this fight for a long time. What’s more, they’re joined by business leaders, corporate leaders, entrepreneurs who are stepping forward to support this effort as well. And my administration is going to do its part. So today after my remarks are done, I’m going to pen this presidential memorandum directing the federal government not to spend more money, but to do things smarter, to determine what we can do right now to improve the odds for boys and young men of color, and make sure our agencies are working more effectively with each other, with those businesses, with those philanthropies, and with local communities to implement proven solutions.
And part of what makes this initiative so promising is that we actually know what works — and we know when it works. Now, what do I mean by that? Over the years, we’ve identified key moments in the life of a boy or a young man of color that will, more often than not, determine whether he succeeds, or falls through the cracks. We know the data. We know the statistics. And if we can focus on those key moments, those life-changing points in their lives, you can have a big impact; you can boost the odds for more of our kids.
First of all, we know that during the first three years of life, a child born into a low-income family hears 30 million fewer words than a child born into a well-off family. And everybody knows babies are sponges, they just soak that up. A 30-million-word deficit is hard to make up. And if a black or Latino kid isn’t ready for kindergarten, he’s half as likely to finish middle school with strong academic and social skills. So by giving more of our kids access to high-quality early education — and by helping parents get the tools they need to help their children succeed — we can give more kids a better shot at the career they’re capable of, and the life that will make us all better off. So that’s point number one right at the beginning.
Point number two, if a child can’t read well by the time he’s in 3rd grade, he’s four times less likely to graduate from high school by age 19 than one who can. And if he happens to be poor, he’s six times less likely to graduate. So by boosting reading levels, we can help more of our kids make the grade, keep on advancing, reach that day that so many parents dream of — until it comes close and then you start tearing up — and that’s when they’re walking across the stage, holding that high school diploma.
Number three, we know that Latino kids are almost twice as likely as white kids to be suspended from school. Black kids are nearly four times as likely. And if a student has been suspended even once by the time they’re in 9th grade they are twice as likely to drop out.
That’s why my administration has been working with schools on alternatives to the so-called “zero tolerance” guidelines — not because teachers or administrators or fellow students shold have to put up with bad behavior, but because there are ways to modify bad behavior that lead to good behavior — as opposed to bad behavior out of school. We can make classrooms good places for learning for everybody without jeopardizing a child’s future. (Applause.) And by building on that work, we can keep more of our young men where they belong — in the classroom, learning, growing, gaining the skills they need to succeed.
Number four, we know that students of color are far more likely than their white classmates to find themselves in trouble with the law. If a student gets arrested, he’s almost twice as likely to drop out of school. By making sure our criminal justice system doesn’t just function as a pipeline from underfunded schools to overcrowded jails, we can help young men of color stay out of prison, stay out of jail. And that means then, they’re more likely to be employable, and to invest in their own families, and to pass on a legacy of love and hope.
And finally, we know young black men are twice as likely as young white men to be “disconnected” — not in school, not working. We’ve got to reconnect them. We’ve got to give more of these young men access to mentors. We’ve got to contine to encourage responsible fatherhood. We’ve got to provide more pathways to apply to college or find a job. We can keep them from falling through the cracks, and help them lay a foundation for a career and a family and a better life.
In the discussion before we came in, General Powell talked about the fact that there are going to be some kids who just don’t have a family at home that is functional, no matter how hard we try. But just an adult, any adult who’s paying attention can make a difference. Any adult who cares can make a difference.
Magic was talking about being in a school in Chicago, and rather than going to the school he brought the school to the company, All-State, that was doing the work. And suddenly, just that one conversation meant these young men saw something different. A world opened up for them. It doesn’t take that much. But it takes more than we’re doing now.
And that’s what “My Brother’s Keeper” is all about — helping more of our young people stay on track; providing the support they need to think more broadly about their future; building on what works, when it works, in those critical life-changing moments. And when I say, by the way, building on what works, it means looking at the actual evidence of what works. There are a lot of programs out there that sound good, are well-intentioned, well-inspired, but they’re not actually having an impact. We don’t have enough money or time or resources to invest in things that don’t work, so we’ve got to be pretty hard-headed about saying if something is not working, let’s stop doing it. Let’s do things that work. And we shouldn’t care whether it was a Democratic program or a Republican program, or a fait-based program or — if it works, we should support it. If it doesn’t, we shouldn’t.
And all the time recognizing that “my neighbor’s child is my child” — that each of us has an obligation to give every child the same chance this country gave so many of us.
So, in closing, let me just say this. None of this is going to be easy. This is not a one-year proposition. It’s not a two-year proposition. It’s going to take time. We’re dealing with complicated issues that run deep in our history, run deep in our society, and are entrenched in our minds. And addressing these issues will have to be a two-way bargain. Because no matter how much the community chips in, it’s ultimately going to be up to these young men and all the young men who are out there to step up and seize responsibility for their own lives. (Applause.)
And that’s why I want to close by speaking directly to the young men who are here today and all the boys and young men who are watching at home. Part of my message, part of our message in this initiative is “no excuses.” Government and private sector and philanthropy and all the faith communities — we all have a responsibility to help provide you the tools you need; we’ve got to help you knock down some of the barriers that you experience. That’s what we’re here for. But you’ve got responsibilities, too.
And I know you can meet the challenge — many of you already are — if you make the effort. It may be hard, but you will have to reject the cynicism that says the circumstances of your birth or society’s lingering injustices necessarily define you and your future. It will take courage, but you will have to tune out the naysayers who say the deck is stacked against you, you might as well just give up — or settle into the stereotype.
It’s not going to happen overnight, but you’re going to have to set goals and you’re going to have to work for those goals. Nothing will be given to you. The world is tough out there, there’s a lot of competition for jobs and college positions, and everybody has to work hard. But I know you guys can succeed. We’ve got young men up here who are starting to make those good choices because somebody stepped in and gave them a sense of how they might go about it.
And I know it can work because of men like Maurice Owens, who’s here today. I want to tell Moe’s story just real quick.
When Moe was four years old, he moved with his mom Chauvet from South Carolina to the Bronx. His mom didn’t have a lot of money, and they lived in a tough neighborhood. Crime was high. A lot of young men ended up in jail or worse. But she knew the importance of education, so she got Moe into the best elementary school that she could find. And every morning, she put him on a bus; every night, she welcomed him when he came home.
She took the initiative, she eventually found a sponsorship program that allowed Moe to attend a good high school. And while many of his friends got into trouble, some of it pretty serious, Moe just kept on getting on the bus, and kept on working hard and reaching for something better. And he had some adults in his life that were willing to give him advice and help him along the way. And he ended up going to college. And he ended up serving his country in the Air Force. And today, Moe works in the White House, just two doors down from the Oval Office, as the Special Assistant to my Chief of Staff. (Applause.) And Moe never misses a chance to tell kids who grew up just like he did that if he can make it, they can, too.
Moe and his mom are here today, so I want to thank them both for this incredible example. Stand up, Moe, and show off your mom there. (Applause.) Good job, Moe.
So Moe didn’t make excuses. His mom had high expectations. America needs more citizens like Moe. We need more young men like Christian. We will beat the odds. We need to give every child, no matter what they look like, where they live, the chance to reach their full potential. Because if we do — if we help these wonderful young men become better husbands and fathers, and well-educated, hardworking, good citizens — then not only will they contribute to the growth and prosperity of this country, but they will pass on those lessons on to their children, on to their grandchildren, will start a different cycle. And this country will be richer and stronger for it for generations to come.
So let’s get going. Thank you. God bless you. God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)
4:17 P.M. EST
Posted by bonniekgoodman on February 27, 2014
Political Musings February 19, 2014: Obama rehabs art history loving image, sends apology letter, hosts Monuments Men
OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:
OP-EDS & ARTICLES
Obama appreciates two new Edward Hopper paintings now adorning the Oval Office
President Barack Obama appreciates two new Edward Hopper painting now adorning the Oval Office, Jan. 7, 2014; Obama is trying to rehab his image relating to the arts after joking about art history degrees in a speech about technical job training, Jan. 30, 2014 (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
Posted by bonniekgoodman on February 19, 2014
Political Musings February 10, 2014: Obama focuses on economic opportunity through executive orders in weekly address
OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:
OP-EDS & ARTICLES
- February 10, 2014
Posted by bonniekgoodman on February 10, 2014
University Musings February 6, 2014: Princeton Review releases list of best value public and private colleges
EDUCATION & UNIVERSITY MUSINGS
Posted by bonniekgoodman on February 6, 2014
Full Text Obama Presidency February 4, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech on Education and ConnectED Wireless Internet Access Initiative
OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:
President Obama Visits a Middle School Classroom
Source: WH, 2-4-14
President Barack Obama records video on an iPad using an app from NASA during a classroom visit at Buck Lodge Middle School in Adelphi, Md., February 4, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Earlier today, President Obama visited Buck Lodge Middle School in Adelphi, Maryland to announce major progress on his ConnectED initiative. Before his remarks, however, he stopped by one of the school’s math classes to chat with students – and have some fun with their technology….READ MORE
Remarks by the President on ConnectED
Source: WH, 2-4-14
Watch the Video
Buck Lodge Middle School
11:37 A.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Hello, everybody. (Applause.) Thank you so much. Well, can everybody please give Nelson a big round of applause for the outstanding job that he did? (Applause.) So Nelson just told me backstage he plans on being a Navy SEAL. So I was really nice to him now so he doesn’t mess with me later. (Laughter.) We are very proud of him, proud of all the students who are here today.
I want to thank Principal Richardson for the great job that he’s doing. (Applause.) And I want to thank all the wonderful teachers who are here at Buck Lodge Middle School. Go, Vikings! (Applause.)
I brought along some people who very much care about the future of these young people. We’ve got America’s Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, in the house. (Applause.) We’ve got the FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and two of his fellow commissioners who are here, doing great work. (Applause.) Congressman Steny Hoyer is in the house. (Applause.) County Executive Rushern Baker is here. (Applause.) And we’ve got some business leaders who’ve made some very big commitments today — because they know that your education is the very best investment that all of us can make in America.
Now, last week, in my State of the Union address, I spent some time talking about opportunity for everybody, which is at the heart of this country — the idea that no matter who you are, no matter what you look like — if you have a chair feel free to sit down. (Laughter.) That wasn’t actually my line, but I thought — (laughter.) But at the core of America, the essence of it, what makes us exceptional is this idea, no matter what you look like, where you come from, what your last name is, if you’re willing to work hard, if you’re willing to live up to your responsibilities, you can make it here in America.
But each generation has to work hard to make sure that dream of opportunity stays alive for the next generation. And the opportunity agenda that I laid out last week will help us do that. It’s focused on four areas: Number one, more new jobs; number two, training folks with the skills to fill those jobs; number three, making sure our economy rewards hard work with decent wages and economic security; and number four, the piece I’m here to talk about today — guaranteeing every child access to a world-class education. Every child. Not just some, but everybody. (Applause.)
Now, I’m only standing here today because my education gave me a chance. I’m not so different than a lot of these young people. I was raised by a single mom, with the help of my grandma and my grandpa. We didn’t have a lot of money, and for a while my mother was working and going to school at the same time as she was raising a couple of kids. And there were times where times were tight. But with a family who loved me, and with some hard work on my part — although it wasn’t always consistent — as my mother and my grandparents would point out. And then, ultimately, with the help of scholarships and student loans, I was able to go to college. I was able to go to law school. And entire worlds of opportunity opened up to me that might not otherwise have been available.
So the country invested in me. My parents invested in me, my grandparents invested in me, but my country invested in me. And I want America to now invest in you — because in the faces of these students, these are future doctors and lawyers and engineers, scientists, business leaders. We don’t know what kinds of products, services, good work that any of these students may do. But I’m betting on them, and all of us have to bet on them.
So five years ago, we set out to change the odds on all of our kids. Our Race to the Top challenge has helped raise expectations and performance in states all across the country. Our high school graduation rate is the highest that it’s been in more than 30 years. (Applause.) That’s an achievement. The dropout rate among Latino students has been cut in half since 2000 — a really big deal. (Applause.) We reformed our student loan programs, so that more young people are able to afford to go to college, and now we’ve got more young people earning a college degree than ever before.
Teachers and principals across the country are working hard to prepare students like you with the skills you need for a new economy — not just the basics of reading and writing and arithmetic, but skills like science and technology, engineering, critical thinking, creativity — asking, what do you think about that idea, and how would you do things differently.
Now, we still have more work to do to reach more kids and reach them faster. And some of the ideas that I’ve presented will require Congress to act. But while Congress decides what it’s going to do, I said at the State of the Union — and I want to repeat here today — I will act on my own. Wherever I have the opportunity to expand opportunity for more young people, wherever I have a chance to make a difference in their lives, I’m going to act. I’m going to act. (Applause.)
So in this Year of Action, we’re going to work with states and communities to help them make high-quality pre-K available to more young children. We know it’s a good investment. (Applause.) We want to keep working to partner high schools with colleges and employers to offer real-world education experiences that can lead directly to jobs and careers. And we want to do more to make sure no middle-class kid is priced out of a college education and, obviously, no poor kid is priced out of a college education. That’s got to be a priority for us. (Applause.)
But today, we’re here to announce some big strides that we’re making to put the world and outer space at every child’s fingertips — whether they live in a big city or a quiet suburb or in rural America.
Last year, I launched something called ConnectED — a new initiative to close the technology gap in our schools and connect 99 percent of America’s students to high-speed broadband Internet within five years. Now, this is something we can do without waiting for Congress. We do need some help, though. So we picked up the phone and we started asking some outstanding business leaders to help bring our schools and libraries into the 21st century. Today, thanks to the leadership of some of these companies, we’ve got some big announcements to make.
But first, I want you to know why it matters that we make sure technology is available to every child. Technology is not the entire answer, by the way, when it comes to educational excellence. We’ve got to make sure we’ve got outstanding teachers. (Applause.) We’ve got to make sure that parents are doing what they need to do. (Applause.) We need young people to make the effort and to have high expectations for themselves. (Applause.) But technology can help; t’s a tool, it’s just one more tool.
So today, the average American school has about the same Internet bandwidth as the average American home, but it serves 200 times as many people. Think about it. So you’ve got the same bandwidth, but it’s a school — it’s not your house. Only around 30 percent of our students have true high-speed Internet in the classroom. In countries like South Korea, that’s 100 percent. We shouldn’t give that kind of competitive advantage over to other countries. We want to make sure our young people have the same advantages that some child in South Korea has right now. In a country where we expect free Wi-Fi with our coffee, we should definitely demand it in our schools. (Applause.)
Now, here at Buck Lodge, you are showing how we can use technology to teach our young people in innovative ways. And by the way, the principal told me that part of how this got started was some of the stimulus dollars that we put in place almost five years ago now. But every student here has access to their own iPad. And you don’t just write papers or take tests; they’re animating movies, they’re designing blogs, they’re collaborating on multimedia projects. In the word of an 8th grader, Annie Gomez, she says, “You can learn even more, you can take in more, and then you know more about the world.”
And new technologies are helping teachers. So in Mr. Jeter’s science class, students take quizzes on their tablets; he then can check the answers in real time and he can figure out who needs extra help. In Ms. Galinat’s language arts class, students learn vocabulary not just with flashcards, but with online video. In Ms. Stover’s math class — I was just over with Ms. Stover — students bring their tablets home to watch lectures about concepts like ratios and rational numbers, and then use the next day’s classroom time applying those concepts to the real world. So technology allows teachers here to spend more time being creative, less time teaching to the test, giving continual feedback, being able to pinpoint where a young person is having trouble because they’re able to see their work right away in a pretty efficient way.
And I will say, I was just in a classroom — there was a lesson plan that was organized around the Curiosity Rover on Mars. And the young people there were doing some amazing stuff — making their own iBooks with video and multimedia. And as I was walking out, I was talking to Steny Hoyer about how I remember using gluesticks — (laughter) — and scissors to cut stuff out and it didn’t look very good. (Laughter.) These guys were making books you could publish. (Laughter.)
But it makes learning exciting, it makes it interesting. If you’re studying science and you are actually seeing the engineers who built Rover talk about what it is — or the Curiosity Rover — talking about what they’re doing and how they did it, and being able to see the Rover on the Martian landscape, it makes vivid and real math and science in a way that is more interesting to students, which means that they’re more likely to be engaged and can potentially do better.
And this is how it should be for every student and every teacher at every school and library in the country. That’s how it should be for everbody, not just some. (Applause.)
Today, almost eight months after we launched ConnectED, we can announce some very big commitments that are going to go a long way towards realizing that vision where every child has the access to the technology that they can use to help them learn. So, under Tom Wheeler’s leadership, the FCC is announcing a down payment of $2 billion to connect more than 15,000 schools and 20 million students to high-speed broadband over the next two years — (applause) — 15,000 schools, 20 million students. (Applause.) It won’t require a single piece of legislation from Congress. It won’t add a single dime to the deficit.
And even better, some of America’s biggest tech companies have decided to join this effort, with commitments worth more than three-quarters of a billion dollars. So let me just give you some examples.
Apple will donate $100 million worth of iPads, MacBooks, and other products to schools across the country. (Applause.) That’s an enormous commitment.
Sprint will provide free wireless service for up to 50,000 low-income high school students over the next four years, so their 21st century education isn’t confined to the classroom. (Applause.)
AT&T will donate over $100 million worth of wireless service to middle-school students, so that they can continue to do homework when they get home. (Applause.)
Autodesk will make its 3D-design software available for free to every high school in the country. (Applause.)
Microsoft will offer products like Windows to students and teachers at a deep discount, and provide 12 million free copies of Office to our schools. (Applause.)
O’Reilly Media and Safari Books Online will donate more than $100 million worth of eBooks that will help students learn technology skills like coding and web design. (Applause.)
And finally, because no technology will ever be as important as a great teacher, Verizon will expand a program to help train educators to use all these new tools in all 50 states. (Applause.)
So I want to thank all the business leaders who are here today for stepping up. Why don’t you stand up? Let’s give them a big round of applause. (Applause.) We’re very proud of them. Thank you. (Applause.)
Now, this is an extraordinary commitment by these business leaders, but they’re business leaders, so they’re not just doing it out of the goodness of their heart. They want the country to do well, but they also understand that they want educated customers. They want customers who are able to get good jobs, who are going to be using these tools in the future. They want that next young architect coming out of here to be familiar with using that iPad so that they’re designing buildings and using their products.
They know that the entire economy will be lifted if more of our young people are doing better. So they’re doing good, but it will also help them succeed from a bottom-line perspective by this kind of participation. They are united in their support of young people like you, even though sometimes they compete against each other — because all of us have a stake in your education and in your future.
And that’s why we have to build on this progress together. Later this year, I’m going to ask Congress to do its part and give teachers using cutting-edge technologies the training they deserve. (Applause.) Because it’s important — as I said before, technology is not a silver bullet. It’s only as good as the teachers who are there using it as one more tool to help inspire and teach and work through problems.
And although I’ve noticed that these days when I visit schools, most teachers are much younger than I am — (laughter) — I’m getting on in years, obviously, which means that I’m not always as familiar with iPads and technology as I need to be. We want every teacher in every school to understand from soup to nuts how you can potentially use this technology. And that oftentimes requires a training component that makes sure that the technology is not just sitting there, but is actually used and incorporated in the best way possible.
So I’m going to ask every business leader across America to join us in this effort. Ask yourself what you can do to help us connect our students to the 21st century. Ask yourselves what you can do to support our teachers and our parents and give every young people every shot at success.
And we can make this happen. And just imagine what it will mean for our country when we do. Imagine what it could mean for a girl growing up on a farm to be able to take AP Biology or AP Physics even if her school is too small to offer it, because she’s got the access to technology that allows her to take those classes online. Imagine what it means for a boy with an illness that confines him sometimes to home where he can join his classmates for every lesson with FaceTime or Skype. Imagine what it means for educators to spend less time grading tests and papers, more time helping young people learn. Imagine more businesses starting here and hiring here, because they know for a fact that the young people here are going to be equipped with the skills that are better than anybody else on Earth.
That’s the future we’re building. That’s what these companies are investing in. And if America pulls together now — if we do our part to make sure every young person can go as far as their passion and their hard work will take them, whether it’s to Mars or to the bottom of the ocean or to anywhere on this planet where you’ve got an Internet connection — if we commit ourselves to restoring opportunity for everybody, then we can keep the American Dream alive for generations to come.
That’s our main project. That’s our main obligation. That’s why I ran for President. That’s what I’m going to be working on for the next three years. (Applause.)
Thank you for all the work that you’re doing here at this outstanding school. God bless you. God bless America. Thank you. (Applause.)
12:04 P.M. EST
Posted by bonniekgoodman on February 4, 2014
OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:
OP-EDS & ARTICLES
- February 2, 2014
Posted by bonniekgoodman on February 2, 2014
Political Musings February 1, 2014: Obama follows through with economic opportunity tour after State of the Union
OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:
OP-EDS & ARTICLES
- February 1, 2014
Posted by bonniekgoodman on February 1, 2014
Full Text Obama Presidency January 16, 2014: President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama’s Speeches at College Opportunity Summit
OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:
Remarks by the President and First Lady at College Opportunity Summit
Source: WH, 1-16-14
President Barack Obama, with First Lady Michelle Obama and Bard College student Troy Simon, delivers remarks during the College Opportunity Summit in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building South Court Auditorium, Jan. 16, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
South Court Auditorium
Eisenhower Executive Office Building
11:37 A.M. EST
MRS. OBAMA: Good morning. Thank you, everyone. (Applause.) Thank you so much. Thank you. You guys rest yourselves. Thank you so much.
It is really great to be here today with all of you. We have with us today college and university presidents; we have experts and advocates, and civic and business leaders. And I want to thank all of you for taking the time to be here today and for working every day to help young people pursue their education and build brighter futures for themselves and for our country.
And I’d also like us to give a really big hand to Troy for sharing that story. (Applause.) That’s pretty powerful stuff, and presented so eloquently. I know yesterday I met Troy — he was nervous. (Laughter.) I don’t really know why you were nervous. You’re pretty awesome.
MR. SIMON: Thank you.
MRS. OBAMA: Troy’s story reminds us all of the limitless capacity that lies within all of our young people no matter where they come from or how much money they have. Troy is an example of why we all should care deeply about this issue.
And Troy, and millions of others like him, are why I care so much about this issue, and why in the coming years I’m going to be spending more and more of my time focusing on education. Because as everyone here knows, education is the key to success for so many kids. And my goal specifically is to reach out directly to young people and encourage them to take charge of their futures and complete an education beyond high school. And I’m doing this because so often when we talk about education, we talk about our young people and what we need to do for them. We talk about the programs we need to create for them, about the resources we need to devote to them.
But we must remember that education is a two-way bargain. And while there is so much more we must do for our kids, at the end of the day, as Troy described, the person who has the most say over whether or not a student succeeds is the student him or herself. Ultimately, they are the ones sitting in that classroom. They’re the ones who have to set goals for themselves and work hard to achieve those goals every single day.
So my hope is that with this new effort, that instead of talking about our kids, we talk with our kids. I want to hear what’s going on in their lives. I want to inspire them to step up and commit to their education so they can have opportunities they never even dreamed of. I’m doing this because that story of opportunity through education is the story of my life, and I want them to know that it can be their story, too –- but only if they devote themselves to continuing their education past high school.
And for many students, that might mean attending a college or university like the ones many of you represent. For others, it might mean choosing a community college. It might mean pursuing short-term professional training. But no matter what they do, I want to make sure that students believe that they have what it takes to succeed beyond high school. That’s going to be my message to young people.
But here’s the thing: I know that that message alone isn’t enough. Like I said, this is a two-way street, and that means we all have to step up. Because make no mistake about it, these kids are smart. They will notice if we’re not holding up our end of the bargain. They will notice if we tell them about applying for college or financial aid, but then no one is there to help them choose the right school or fill out the right forms. They will notice if we tell them that they’re good enough to graduate from college, but then no college asks them to apply, no college invites them to visit their campus.
And so we’ve got to re-commit ourselves to helping these kids pursue their education. And as you discussed in your first panel today, one of the first steps is getting more underserved young people onto college campuses. The fact is that right now we are missing out on so much potential because so many promising young people — young people like Troy who have the talent it takes to succeed — simply don’t believe that college can be a reality for them. Too many of them are falling through the cracks, and all of you know that all too well.
And that’s why so many of you are already finding new ways to reach out to the underserved students in your communities. You’re helping them navigate the financial aid and college admissions process, and you’re helping them find schools that match their abilities and interests. And I know from my own experience just how important all of that work is that you’re doing.
See, the truth is that if Princeton hadn’t found my brother as a basketball recruit, and if I hadn’t seen that he could succeed on a campus like that, it never would have occurred to me to apply to that school — never. And I know that there are so many kids out there just like me — kids who have a world of potential, but maybe their parents never went to college or maybe they’ve never been encouraged to believe they could succeed there.
And so that means it’s our job to find those kids. It’s our job to help them understand their potential and then get them enrolled in a college that can help them meet their needs. But then we all know that just getting into school is only half the story, because once students are there, they have got to graduate. And that’s not always easy, especially given what many of these kids are dealing with when they get to campus.
Just think about it. You just heard a snippet from Troy. Just to make it to college, these kids have already overcome so much — neighborhoods riddled with crime and drugs, moms and dads who weren’t around, too many nights when they had to go to bed hungry. But as I tell these kids when I talk to them, we can’t think about those experiences that they’ve had as weaknesses — just the opposite. They’re actually strengths.
In facing and overcoming these challenges, these kids have developed skills like grit and resilience that many of their peers will never be able to compete with — never. And when they get out in the world, those are the exact skills they will need to succeed. And they will succeed.
But imagine how hard it is to realize that when you first get to college. You’re in a whole new world. You might have trouble making friends because you don’t see any peers who come from a background like yours. You might be worried about paying for classes, and food, and room and board because you have never had to set your own budget before. You might be feeling guilty when you call home because Mom and Dad are wondering why you didn’t get a job so you could help support their family. Those are the kinds of obstacles these kids are facing right from day one.
But let’s be clear — all of that isn’t just a challenge for them. It’s a challenge for folks like us, who are committed to helping them succeed. And make no mistake about it, that is our mission — not simply giving speeches or raising money or hosting conferences, but to take real, meaningful action that will help our young people get into college, and more importantly, actually get their degree.
And here’s the good news: Time and again you all have shown that you have the experience, the passion and the resources to help these young people thrive. For example, in recent decades, you’ve realized that students from across the socioeconomic spectrum have been coming to campus with more and more issues like eating disorders and learning disabilities, emotional challenges like depression and anxiety, and so much more. And luckily, you all have not shied away from these issues. I’ve seen it. I worked at a university. And you haven’t said, these aren’t our problems; we’re a university, not a hospital or a counseling center. No, you’ve stepped up.
And while there’s still work left to do on these issues, you’re working every day to support these kids through treatment programs and outreach initiatives and support groups, because you know that these issues have a huge impact on whether students can learn and succeed at your school. So now, as you begin to see more and more underserved students on your campuses, we need you to direct that same energy and determination toward helping these kids face their unique challenges.
Now, fortunately, you’ve already got the expertise you need to address these issues. And simply by building on what you’re already doing best, you can make real differences for these kids. And that’s what so many of you are doing with commitments you’ve made here at this summit.
For example, every school offers financial aid services, but listen to what the University of Minnesota is doing. They’re committing to expand those services to include financial literacy programs to help students and their families manage the costs of college. And every school has advisors who desperately want their students to succeed. Oregon Tech is committing to set up a text message program so that these advisors can connect more easily with students who need some extra encouragement or academic support.
And every college has orientation programs or learning communities to help students transition to college. And many of the schools here today are supplementing those programs by partnering with organizations like the Posse Foundation so that underserved students can connect and build a social network before they even step foot on campus. And those were the types of resources that helped a kid like me not just survive but thrive at a school like Princeton.
When I first arrived at school as a first-generation college student, I didn’t know anyone on campus except my brother. I didn’t know how to pick the right classes or find the right buildings. I didn’t even bring the right size sheets for my dorm room bed. (Laughter.) I didn’t realize those beds were so long. (Laughter.) So I was a little overwhelmed and a little isolated.
But then I had an opportunity to participate in a three-week, on-campus orientation program that helped me get a feel for the rhythm of college life. And once school started, I discovered the campus cultural center, the Third World Center, where I found students and staff who came from families and communities that were similar to my own. And they understood what I was going through. They were there to listen when I was feeling frustrated. They were there to answer the questions I was too embarrassed to ask anyone else.
And if it weren’t for those resources and the friends and the mentors, I honestly don’t know how I would have made it through college. But instead, I graduated at the top of my class, I went to law school — and you know the rest. (Laughter.) So whether it’s aligning with an organization like Posse or offering a new advising or mentoring program, or creating a central space where students can connect with one another, you all can take simple steps that can determine whether these kids give up and drop out, or step up and thrive.
And that’s not just good for these young people, it’s good for your schools — because if you embrace and empower these students, and if you make sure they have good campus experiences, then they’re going to stay engaged with your school for decades after they graduate. They will be dressed up in school colors at homecoming games. They’ll be asking to serve on your committees and advisory boards. And they’ll be doing their part when fundraising season rolls around. (Laughter.)
So believe me, these will be some of the best alumni you could possibly ask for, because after everything these kids will have overcome to get into college and get through college, believe me, they will have all the skills they need to run our businesses and our labs, and to teach in our classrooms, and to lead our communities.
Just look at me, and look at Troy and the countless success stories from the organizations and schools represented here in this room. That’s how we will win, this country. We will win by tapping the full potential of all of our young people so that we can grow our economy and move this country forward. And let me tell you that is something that my husband understands deeply, because his life story, just like mine, is rooted in education as well. And as President, that is was drives him every single day — his goal of expanding opportunity to millions of Americans who are striving to build better futures for themselves, for their families and for our country, as well.
So now it is my pleasure to introduce my husband, the President of the United States, Barack Obama. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you, everybody. Everybody, please have a seat. Have a seat. Welcome to the White House, everybody. And let me begin by thanking Troy and sharing his remarkable story. I could not be more inspired by what he’s accomplished and can’t wait to see what he’s going to accomplish in the future.
My wife — it’s hard to speak after her. (Laughter and applause.) We were in the back, and Gene Sperling, who did extraordinary work putting this whole summit together, said, “Everybody is so excited that Michelle is here.” (Laughter.) And I said, well, what about me? (Laughter.) But you should be excited, her being here, because she brings a passion and a body of experience and a passion to this issue that is extraordinary. And I couldn’t be prouder of the work she’s already done and the work I know that she’s going to keep on doing around these issues.
She did leave one thing out of her speech, and that is it’s her birthday tomorrow. (Applause.) So I want everybody to just keep that in mind.
Now, we are here for one purpose: We want to make sure more young people have the chance to earn a higher education. And in the 21st century economy, we all understand it’s never been more important.
The good news is, is that our economy is steadily growing and strengthening after the worst recession in a generation. So we’ve created more than 8 million new jobs. Manufacturing is growing, led by a booming auto industry. Thanks to some key public investments in advances like affordable energy and research and development, what we’ve seen is not only an energy revolution in this country that bodes well for our future, but in areas like health care, for example, we’ve slowed the growth of health care costs in ways that a lot of people wouldn’t have anticipated as recently as five or ten years ago.
So there are a lot of good things going on in the economy. And businesses are starting to invest. In fact, what we’re seeing are businesses overseas starting to say, instead of outsourcing, let’s insource back into the U.S.
All that bodes well for our future. Here’s the thing, though: We don’t grow just for the sake of growth. We grow so that it translates into a growing middle class, people getting jobs, people being able to support their families, and people being able to pass something on to the next generation. We want to restore the essential promise of opportunity and upward mobility that’s at the heart of America — the notion that if you work hard, you can get ahead, you can improve your situation in life, you can make something of yourself. The same essential story that Troy so eloquently told about himself.
And the fact is it’s been getting harder to do that for a lot of people. It is harder for folks to start in one place and move up that ladder — and that was true long before the recession hit. And that’s why I’ve said that in 2014, we have to consider this a year of action, not just to grow the economy, not just to increase GDP, not just to make sure that corporations are profitable and the stock market is doing well and the financial system is stable. We’ve also got to make sure that that growth is broad-based and that everybody has a chance to access that growth and take advantage of it. We’ve got to make sure that we’re creating new jobs and that the wages and benefits that go along with those jobs can support a family. We have to make sure that there are new ladders of opportunity into the middle class, and that those ladders — the rungs on those ladders are solid and accessible for more people.
Now, I’m going to be working with Congress where I can to accomplish this, but I’m also going to act on my own if Congress is deadlocked. I’ve got a pen to take executive actions where Congress won’t, and I’ve got a telephone to rally folks around the country on this mission.
And today is a great example of how, without a whole bunch of new legislation, we can advance this agenda. We’ve got philanthropists and business leaders here; we’ve got leaders of innovative non-for-profits; we’ve got college presidents — from state universities and historically black colleges to Ivy League universities and community colleges. And today, more than 100 colleges and 40 organizations are announcing new commitments to help more young people not only go to, but graduate from college. And that’s an extraordinary accomplishment, and we didn’t pass a bill to do it.
Everybody here is participating, I believe, because you know that college graduation has never been more valuable than it is today. Unemployment for Americans with a college degree is more than a third lower than the national average. Incomes — twice as high as those without a high school diploma. College is not the only path to success. We’ve got to make sure that more Americans of all age are getting the skills that they need to access the jobs that are out there right now. But more than ever, a college degree is the surest path to a stable, middle-class life.
And higher education speaks to something more than that. The premise that we’re all created equal is the opening line in our American story. And we don’t promise equal outcomes; we’ve strived to deliver equal opportunity — the idea that success does not depend on being born into wealth or privilege, it depends on effort and merit. You can be born into nothing and work your way into something extraordinary. And to a kid that goes to college, maybe like Michelle, the first in his or her family, that means everything.
And the fact is, is if we hadn’t made a commitment as a country to send more of our people to college, Michelle, me, maybe a few of you would not be here today. My grandfather wasn’t rich, but when he came home from the war he got the chance to study on the GI Bill. I grew up with a single mom. She had me when she was 18 years old. There are a lot of circumstances where that might have waylaid her education for good. But there were structures in place that allowed her then to go on and get a PhD. Michelle’s dad was a shift worker at the city water plant; mom worked as a secretary. They didn’t go to college. But there were structures in place that allowed Michelle to take advantage of those opportunities.
As Michelle mentioned, our parents and grandparents made sure we knew that we’d have to work for it, that nobody was going to hand us something, that education was not a passive enterprise — you just tip your head over and somebody pours education into your ear. (Laughter.) You’ve got to work for it. And I’ve told the story of my mother — when I was living overseas, she’d wake me up before dawn to do correspondence courses in English before I went to the other school. I wasn’t that happy about it. (Laughter.) But with that hard work — but also with scholarships, also with student loans, and with support programs in place — we were able to go to some of the best colleges in the country even though we didn’t have a lot of money. Every child in America should have the same chance.
So over the last five years, we’ve worked hard in a variety of ways to improve these mechanisms to get young people where they need to be and to knock down barriers that are preventing them from getting better prepared for the economies that they’re going to face. We’ve called for clearer, higher standards in our schools — and 45 states and the District of Columbia have answered that call so far. We’ve set a goal of training 100,000 new math and science teachers over the next 10 years, and the private sector has already committed to help train 40,000. We’ve taken new steps to help students stay in school, and today the high school dropout rate is the lowest it has been in 40 years — something that’s rarely advertised. The dropout rate among Hispanic students, by the way, has been cut in half over the last decade.
But we still have to hire more good teachers and pay them better. We still have to do more training and development, and ensure that the curriculums are ones that maximize the chances for student success. When young people are properly prepared in high school, we’ve got to make sure that they can afford to go to college, so we took on a student loan system that was giving billions of dollars of taxpayer dollars to big banks and we said, let’s give that money directly to students. As a consequence, we were able to double the grant aid that goes to millions of students. And today, more young people are earning college degrees than ever before.
So we’ve made progress there, but as I’ve discussed with some of you, we’re still going to have to make sure that rising tuition doesn’t price the middle class out of a college education. The government is not going to be able to continually subsidize a system in which higher education inflation is going up faster than health care inflation. So I’ve laid out a plan to bring down costs and make sure that students are not saddled with debt before they even start out in life.
Even after all these steps that we’ve taken over the last five years, we still have a long way to go to unlock the doors of higher education to more Americans and especially lower-income Americans. We’re going to have to make sure they’re ready to walk through those doors. The added value of a college diploma has nearly doubled since Michelle and I were undergraduates. Unfortunately, today only 30 percent of low-income students enroll in college right after high school and, far worse, by their mid-twenties only 9 percent earn a bachelor’s degree.
So if we as a nation can expand opportunity and reach out to those young people and help them not just go to college but graduate from college or university, it could have a transformative effect. There is this huge cohort of talent that we’re not tapping.
Now, what this meeting today tells me is we’ve got dedicated citizens across the country who are ready to stand up and meet this challenge. And what I want to really do is highlight some of the commitments that have been made here today. So we know that not enough low-income students are taking the steps required to prepare for college. That’s why I’m glad the University of Chicago, my neighbor, and the place where Michelle and I both worked in the past, is announcing a $10 million College Success Initiative that will reach 10,000 high schools over the next five years. It’s why iMentor, a mentoring program that began 15 years ago with just 49 students in the South Bronx, has committed to matching 20,000 new students with mentoring in more than 20 states over the next five years.
We also know that too many students don’t apply to the schools that are right for them. They may sometimes underestimate where they could succeed, where they could go. There may be a mismatch in terms of what their aspirations are and the nature of what’s offered at the school that’s close by. And they kind of assume, well, that’s my only option. So UVA, for example, is going experiment with new ways to contact high-achieving, low-income students directly and encourage them to apply. Organizations like the College Board are going to work with colleges to make it easier for students to apply to more schools for free.
I know sometimes for those of you in university administrations, the perception may be that $100 application fees is not a big deal. But for a lot of these students, that’s enough of a barrier that they just don’t end up applying.
Number three, we know that when it comes to college advising, and preparing for tests like the ACT and the SAT, low-income kids are not on a level playing field. We call these standardized tests — they’re not standardized. Malia and Sasha, by the time they’re in seventh grade at Sidwell School here, are already getting all kinds of advice and this and that and the other. The degree of preparation that many of our kids here are getting in advance of actually taking this test tilts the playing field. It’s not fair. And it’s gotten worse.
I was telling Michelle, when I was taking the SAT I just barely remembered to bring a pencil. I mean, that’s how much preparation I did. (Laughter.) But the truth of the matter is, is that we don’t have a level playing field when it comes to so-called standardized tests. So we’ve got a young man here today named Lawrence Harris who knows this better than most. Lawrence went to the University of Georgia, and like a lot of first-generation college students it wasn’t easy for him. He had to take remedial classes. He had to work two part-time jobs to make ends meet. At one point, he had to leave school for a year while he helped support his mom and his baby brother. Those are the kinds of just day-to-day challenges that a lot of these young people with enormous talent are having to overcome. Now, he stuck with it. He graduated.
But now he’s giving back. He’s made it his mission to help other young people like him graduate, as a college advisor at Clarke Central High School in Athens, Georgia. And today the National College Advising Corps, the program that placed Lawrence in Clarke Central, is announcing plans to add 129 more advisors who will serve more than 80,000 students over the next three years.
Finally, we know that once low-income students arrive on campus — Michelle I think spoke eloquently to her own personal experience on this — they often learn that even if they were at the top of their high school class, they still have a lot of catching up to do with respect to some of their peers in the classroom. Bunker Hill Community College is addressing this by giving more incoming students the chance to start catching up over the summer before their freshman year. And we’ve got 22 states and the District of Columbia who have joined together in a commitment to dramatically increase the number of students who complete college-level math and English their first year.
So these are just a sampling of the more than 100 commitments that your organizations and colleges are making here today. And that’s an extraordinary first step. But we’ve got more colleges and universities than this around the country. We’ve got more business leaders around the country and philanthropies around the country. And so we have to think of this as just the beginning; we want to do something like this again, and we want even more colleges and universities and businesses and non-for-profits to take part.
For folks who are watching this who were not able be here today, we want you here next time. Start thinking about your commitments now. We want you to join us. For those who were able to make commitments today, I want to thank you for doing your part to make better the life of our country — because what you’re doing here today means that there are a bunch of young people, like Troy and like Michelle and like me, who suddenly may be able to see a whole new world open up before — that they didn’t realize was there.
So I’ll end with a great story that I think speaks to this. There’s a former teacher here today named Nick Ehrmann. Where’s Nick? So here’s Nick right here. Five years ago, Nick founded a New York City nonprofit called Blue Engine, and they recruit recent college graduates to work as teaching assistants in public high schools that serve low-income communities, teaming up to help students build the skills they need to enter college ready for college.
The first group of students to work with those teaching assistants are seniors now. One of them, Estiven Rodriguez, who also is here today — where is he? There he is — good-looking, young guy right here. (Laughter.) Could not speak a word of English when he moved to the United States from the Dominican Republic at the age of nine. Didn’t speak much more English by the time he entered sixth grade.
Today, with the support of a tightly knit school community, he’s one of the top students in his senior class at Washington Heights Expeditionary Learning School, or WHEELS. Last month, he and his classmates put on their WHEELS sweatshirts, unfurled a banner, waved flags and marched down the streets of Washington Heights in New York City through cheering crowds. You would have thought it was the Macy’s parade. (Laughter.) But the crowds on the sidewalk were parents and teachers and neighbors. The flags were college pennants. The march was to the post office, where they mailed in their college applications. (Applause.) And Estiven just heard back — this son of a factory worker who didn’t speak much English just six years ago won a competitive scholarship to attend Dickinson College this fall. (Applause.)
So everywhere you go you’ve got stories like Estiven’s and you’ve got stories like Troy’s. But we don’t want these to be the exceptions. We want these to be the rule. That’s what we owe our young people and that’s what we owe this country. We all have a stake in restoring that fundamental American idea that says: It doesn’t matter where you start, what matters is where you end up. And as parents and as teachers, and as business and philanthropic and political leaders — and as citizens — we’ve all got a role to play.
So I’m going to spend the next three years as President playing mine. And I look forward to working with you on the same team to make this happen. Thank you very much, everybody. (Applause.)
12:15 P.M. EST
Posted by bonniekgoodman on January 16, 2014
Full Text Obama Presidency January 15, 2014: First Lady Michelle Obama’s Speech at a Discussion with Education Stakeholders
OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:
Remarks by the First Lady at a Discussion with Education Stakeholders
Source: WH, 1-15-14
State Dining Room
Posted by bonniekgoodman on January 15, 2014
Full Text Obama Presidency October 25, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech on Education, Investing in America’s Future, in Brooklyn
OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:
Remarks by the President on Investing in America’s Future
Source: WH, 10-25-13
President Barack Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan talk with students while visiting a classroom at the Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) in Brooklyn, NY, Oct. 25, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Pathways in Technology Early College High School
Brooklyn, New York
3:55 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Hello, Brooklyn! (Applause.) How you doing?
THE PRESIDENT: It is good to be back in Brooklyn. Good to be in New York City. And it is good to see some friends who stick up for students and teachers and education every day. We’ve got your Governor — Andrew Cuomo is in the house. Give him a big round of applause. (Applause.) We’ve got your Senator, Chuck Schumer. (Applause.) Outstanding Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan. (Applause.) We’ve got — your outstanding congressional delegation is here. Give them a big round of applause. (Applause.) We’ve got your public advocate and my friend — Bill DeBlasio is here. (Applause.) We’ve got the outstanding leader of one of America’s iconic companies, IBM CEO Ginni Rometty. (Applause.) And I want to give a special shout-out to a man who’s been an extraordinary mayor for this city; he’s been a leader throughout the country for the past 12 years — Mr. Michael Bloomberg is here. (Applause.)
And I want to thank your principal here at P-TECH, Rashid Davis, who I am pretty confident is the coolest-looking principal in America. (Laughter and applause.) I mean, there just are not that many principals with dreadlocks and yellow kicks. (Applause.) There aren’t that many of them. I mean, there may be some, but there aren’t that many. (Laughter.)
And I had a wonderful time visiting with one of your teachers, Ms. Seifullah — Seifullah? Ms. Seifullah. She was outstanding. She welcomed me into her classroom. She showed me around. I want to thank all of you for letting me spend some time here. In return, you got out of class a little early on Friday, which I know always gets a little applause — although, in this school maybe not, because you guys are enjoying learning so much. That’s worth applauding — that you’re enjoying learning so much. (Applause.)
Now, part of the reason I’m glad to be here is because I used to live in Brooklyn, and I actually landed Marine One in Prospect Park — I used to live across the street from Prospect Park. (Applause.) But mainly I’m here because I wanted to come here ever since I talked about you in my State of the Union address this year — because what’s going on here at P-TECH is outstanding, and I’m excited to see it for myself.
I know Brooklyn in general is blowing up right now. When I was living here, Brooklyn was cool, but not this cool. (Laughter.) Barclays Center hadn’t been built yet. I know the Nets just picked up Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett offseason, which is a lesson to all the young people — old people can still play. (Laughter.) We’ve still got some gas in the tank.
But this whole borough is where generations of hopeful, striving immigrants came in search of opportunity — a chance to build better lives for themselves and for their kids. And that’s been true for decades. And I’m here today to talk about what we need to do, as a country, to build the same kind of opportunity for your generation, for the next generation, and for your kids, and for future immigrants.
This country should be doing everything in our power to give more kids the chance to go to schools just like this one. We should be doing everything we can to put college within the reach of more young people. We should be doing everything we can to keep your streets safe and protect you from gun violence. We should be doing everything we can to keep families from falling into poverty, and build more ladders of opportunity to help people who are willing to work hard climb out of poverty. We should be doing everything we can to welcome new generations of hopeful, striving immigrants.
I want us to do everything we can to give every single young person the same kind of opportunity that this country gave me and gave Chuck, and gave Governor Cuomo and gave Mayor Bloomberg and gave your principal. That’s what I’m focused on.
Yes, by the way, if you have chairs, go ahead and sit down. (Laughter.) If you don’t have chairs, then don’t sit down because you’ll fall. (Laughter.) I didn’t realize everybody had chairs there. I would have told you to sit down earlier. (Laughter.)
So that’s what we can achieve together. It’s possible. We know we can do it. P-TECH is proof of what can be accomplished, but we’ve got to have the courage to do it. The American people work hard, and they try to do right, day in and day out. And that resilience and that toughness helped to turn our economy around after one of the hardest periods that we’ve ever faced as a country. But what we also need is some political courage in Washington. We don’t always see that.
Right now we need to all pull together. We need to work together to grow the economy, not shrink it; to create good jobs, not eliminate jobs. We’ve got to finish building a new foundation for shared and lasting prosperity so that everybody who works hard, everybody who studies hard at a school like this one, or schools all across the country have a chance to get ahead. That’s what we need to do. That’s what I’m focused on.
And that all begins with the education that we give young people. Because all of you are growing up in changing times, especially for the economy. The world you’re growing up in is different than the one that previous generations here in Brooklyn knew and all across the country knew.
In the old days, a young person, they might have just followed their parents’ footsteps and gotten a job in their parents’ line of work, keep that job for 30, 40 years. If you were willing to work hard, you didn’t necessarily need a great education. If you’d just gone to high school, you might get a job at a factory, or in the garment district. You might be able to just get a job that allowed you to earn your wages, keep pace with people who had a chance to go to college. But those days are over, and those days are not coming back.
We live in a 21st century global economy. And in a global economy, jobs can go anywhere. Companies, they’re looking for the best-educated people, wherever they live, and they’ll reward them with good jobs and good pay. And if you don’t have a well- educated workforce, you’re going to be left behind. If you don’t have a good education, then it is going to be hard for you to find a job that pays a living wage.
And, by the way, other countries know this. In previous generations, America’s standing economically was so much higher than everybody else’s that we didn’t have a lot of competition. Now you’ve got billions of people from Beijing to Bangalore to Moscow, all of whom are competing with you directly. And they’re — those countries are working every day to out-educate and out-compete us.
And every year brings more research showing them pulling ahead, especially in some of the subject matter that this school specializes in — math and science and technology. So we’ve got a choice to make. We can just kind of shrug our shoulders and settle for something less, or we can do what America has always done, which is adapt. We pull together, we up our game, we hustle, we fight back, we work hard, and we win.
We have to educate our young people — every single person here, but also all the young people all across Brooklyn, all across New York City, all across New York State and all across this country — so that you’re ready for this global economy. And schools like P-TECH will help us do that.
Here at P-TECH, you’ve got folks from IBM, City Tech, City University of New York, City Department of Education — everybody is pulling together to make sure a high school education puts young people on a path to a good job. So you guys have opportunities here that you don’t find in most high schools yet. You can take college-level courses in math and science. You can work with mentors from IBM, so you’re learning specific skills that you know leads to a good job. And most important, you’ll graduate with a high school diploma and an Associate’s Degree in computer systems or electromechanical engineering. And that means you’ll be in demand. Companies will want to hire you. IBM has even said that P-TECH graduates will be first in line when you apply for jobs once you graduate.
And at a moment when the cost of higher education keeps going up — and Arne and I are working hard to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to reduce the burden of student loans on young people — here’s how much two years of college will cost P-TECH students and their families: Zero. Nothing. Nothing. (Applause.) I noticed some of the parents were the first to clap. They’re like, “Yeah.” (Laughter.) They like that.
But that’s a huge burden. I mean, that’s thousands of dollars that you’re saving, and that means when you start working, you’re going to have that much less of a burden in terms of debt, which means you can afford to buy a house sooner, you can afford to start your business sooner. Radcliffe was saying how he’s thinking about starting his own business. And that kind of attitude is a lot easier when you’re not burdened with a lot of student loans.
So this is a ticket into the middle class, and it’s available to everybody who’s willing to work for it. And that’s the way it should be. That’s what public education is supposed to do. And the great thing is that what started small is now growing. So Governor Cuomo, he’s opening up P-TECH model schools in districts throughout the state — throughout the state. (Applause.) So all those schools together, they’re going to prepare more than 6,000 high school students for good, high-skilled jobs.
Back in my hometown of Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel is opening up schools like this one. He’s opening up a school, for example, called Sarah E. Goode STEM Academy. And — you got a little Chicago person here. Yes, there you go. (Laughter.) Across the country, companies like Verizon, and Microsoft, and ConEd, and Cisco, they saw what IBM was doing, and they said, well, this is a good idea; we can do this, too. So they’re working with educators and states to replicate what you’re already doing here. And you guys should feel good about that. You’re starting something all across the country. (Applause.)
So as a country, we should all want what all of you are receiving right now, the same chance for a great education. Here’s what I think we should do as a country to make sure they’ve got the same opportunities you do. First of all, we’ve got to give every child an earlier start at success by making high-quality pre-school available to every 4-year-old in America. (Applause.)
We should give every student access to the world’s information. When I went into the classroom today, young people were working off computers, and the problem is a lot of places, even if they’ve got computers, they’re not hooked up to wireless. So what we’re doing is having the federal agencies moving forward on a plan to connect 99 percent of America’s students to high-speed Internet within five years. We’re already moving on that front. (Applause.)
We need to bring down the cost of college and give more young people the chance to go to college. (Applause.) So a couple of months ago, I put forward an ambitious new plan to do that, to reduce the cost of college.
We need to redesign more of our high schools so that they teach young people the skills required for a high-tech economy. So I’ve been meeting with business leaders and innovative educators to spread the best ideas.
And I also want to congratulate Governor Cuomo and all of you in New York for having the courage to raise your standards for teaching and learning to make sure that more students graduate from high school ready for college and a career. It’s not easy, but it’s the right thing to do. It’s going to prepare more young people for today’s economy. We should stay at it. (Applause.)
And here’s one more thing we should do, and that is just — remember, none of this works unless we’ve got outstanding teachers, which means we’ve got to — (applause) — we’ve got to make sure that we’re funding education so that teachers have the support that they need so that they can support their own families, so that they’re not having to dig into their pockets for school supplies. (Applause.) And we’ve got to show them the respect, and provide pathways of excellence for teachers so that they’re treated like the professionals that they are. It is a hard job, and we’ve got to make sure we’re investing in them. (Applause.)
Now, some of these ideas I’ve laid out before; some of them I’m just going ahead and doing on my own. Some of them do require Congress to do something. (Applause.) And one way we can start is by Congress passing a budget that reflects our need to invest in our young people. (Applause.) I know that budgets aren’t the most interesting topic for a Friday afternoon, even at a school where young people like math. And, by the way, I just sat in on a lesson called “real-world math,” which got me thinking whether it’s too late to send Congress here — (laughter) — for a remedial course.
But a budget is important, because what a budget does is it sets our priorities. It tells us what we think is important, what our priorities are. And the stakes for our middle class could not be higher. If we don’t set the right priorities now, then many of you will be put at a competitive disadvantage compared to other countries.
If you think education is expensive, wait until you see how much ignorance costs. (Applause.) So we’ve got to invest.
So we need a budget that is responsible, that is fiscally prudent, but a budget that cuts what we don’t need, closes wasteful tax loopholes that don’t create jobs, freeing up resources to invest in the things that actually do help us grow — things like education and scientific research, and infrastructure, roads, bridges, airports. This should not be an ideological exercise, we should use some common sense.
What’s going to help us grow; what’s going to create jobs; what is going to expand our middle class; what’s going to give more opportunity to young people — those are the things we should be putting money into. (Applause.) That’s what we need to do.
And we’ve got enough resources to do it if we stop spending on things that don’t work and don’t make sense, or if we make sure that people aren’t wiggling out of their taxes through these corporate loopholes that only a few people at the very top can take advantage of. If we just do everything in a fair, common-sense way, we’ve got the resources to be fiscally responsible and invest in our future.
And this obsession with cutting just for the sake of cutting hasn’t helped our economy grow, it’s held it back. It won’t help us build a better society for your generation. And, by the way, it’s important to remember, for those who are following the news, our deficits are getting smaller. They’ve been cut in half since I took office. (Applause.) So that gives us room to fix longer-term debt problems without sticking it to your generation. We don’t have to choose between growth and fiscal responsibility; we’ve got to do both. And the question can’t just be how much more we can cut, it’s got to be how many more schools like P-TECH we can create. That should be our priority. (Applause.)
And after the manufactured crisis that Congress — actually, a small group in the House of Representatives just put us through, shutting down the government and threatening to potentially default on our debt, I don’t want to hear the same old stuff about how America can’t afford to invest in the things that have always made us strong. Don’t tell me we can afford to shut down the government, which cost our economy billions of dollars, but we can’t afford to invest in our education system. Because there’s nothing more important than this. (Applause.)
In fact, what I’d like to do is have every member of Congress — maybe Chuck can arrange and the congressional delegation can arrange some tours for some of their colleagues. Come here. Come to Brooklyn. Meet some of these young people. (Applause.) They ought to meet some of the young people here. (Applause.)
Meet somebody like Leslieanne John, the young woman who sang the national anthem this afternoon. (Applause.) Leslieanne is in the 11th grade, she’s already taken eight college classes, which is about as many as I took when I was in college. (Laughter.) She knows she has a great opportunity here, she’s working hard to make the most of it. Eventually, she plans to become a lawyer.
And Leslieanne is clear-eyed about the challenges that the students here face. She put it in a way that a lot of people can relate to — she said, “We see a whole bunch of craziness going on in the streets of Crown Heights sometimes.” That’s what she said. But she also said that being here at P-TECH taught her something important: “There’s more for us than just the streets.” (Applause.) And she said that, “At the end of the day, we’ve got to make something of ourselves.” And that’s important — that’s important.
It’s not just what the government or adults can do for you; it’s also what you can do for yourselves. And that sense of responsibility, that sense that you set the bar high for yourself, that’s what America is all about — that’s been the history of New York: People working hard but also working together to make sure that everybody has got a fair shot; to make sure you don’t have to be born wealthy, you don’t have to be born famous; that if you’ve got some drive and some energy, then you can go to a school that teaches you what you need to know. You can go to college even if you don’t have a lot of money. You can start your own business even if you didn’t inherit a business.
Making something of ourselves, that’s what we do in this country. That’s a message worth sending to Washington. No more games, no more gridlock, no more gutting the things that help America grow, and give people the tools to make something of themselves. That’s what this is about. That’s what P-TECH represents, that’s what Brooklyn represents.
And as long as I have the privilege to be your President, I’m going to keep fighting to make sure that no matter who you are, where you come from, what you look like, this country will always be the place where you can make it if you try.
So thank you, Brooklyn. God bless you. God bless America. (Applause.)
4:20 P.M. EDT
Posted by bonniekgoodman on October 25, 2013
Political Headlines August 23, 2013: President Obama, Vice President Biden Side-By-Side in Scranton, But What About 2016?
OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:
Obama, Biden Side-By-Side in Scranton, But What About 2016?
SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images
Ever since President Obama and Hillary Clinton appeared together for a joint network interview in January, it seemed like the president had unofficially made the former Secretary of State his heir apparent.
But on Friday, President Obama stood by Vice President Joe Biden in his hometown of Scranton, Pa., heaping praise on the man who has dutifully been at his side since Obama picked him as his running mate five years ago to the day….READ MORE
Posted by bonniekgoodman on August 24, 2013
Political Headlines August 23, 2013: President Barack Obama Fields Questions on Education at Townhall at Binghamton University
OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:
Obama Fields Questions on Education at Townhall
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images
In a rare townhall on the second day of his bus tour, President Obama fielded questions ranging from how to keep Head Start funding intact to the education and civil rights progress made since the March on Washington 50 years ago.
“We don’t have an urgent deficit crisis. The only crisis we have is one that’s manufactured in Washington, and it’s ideological,” President Obama told students, faculty, and parents at Binghamton University, the State University of New York, Friday….READ MORE
Posted by bonniekgoodman on August 23, 2013
Full Text Obama Presidency August 23, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Remarks in Town Hall Meeting on College Affordability, College Cost Cutting Plan at Binghamton University
OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:
Remarks by the President in Town Hall at Binghamton University
Source: WH, 8-23-13
Binghamton, New York
12:48 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Hello, Binghamton! (Applause.) It is good to see all of you. Thank you so much. Now, go ahead and have a seat — I’m going to be here a while. (Laughter.)
Well, first of all, let me thank the university and your president, Harvey Stenger, for having me here today. Give your president a big round of applause. (Applause.) There he is. A couple other people I want to recognize — Mayor Matt Ryan is here. (Applause.) Two wonderful Congressmen — Richard Hanna and Paul Tonko. (Applause.) Your former Representative, Maurice Hinchey, is here as well. (Applause.)
So, first of all, thank you, because it’s really nice outside, so for you to be willing to come inside, I greatly appreciate. And I’m not going to do a lot of talking at the top because I want to have a conversation with you about a range of issues, but in particular, something that is personal for me.
A lot of you know that I wasn’t born into a lot of wealth or fame, there wasn’t a long Obama dynasty. And so the only reason I’m here today, the only reason Michelle and I have been able to accomplish what we accomplished is because we got a great education. And I think the essence of the American Dream is that anybody who’s willing to work hard is able to get that good education and achieve their dreams.
And central to that is the issue that — you’ve got a big sign there — we try to message effectively — (laughter) — College Affordability — making sure that people can afford to go to college.
I’m on a road trip from New York to Pennsylvania. Yesterday I was at the University of Buffalo. I visited students at Syracuse. Later today, I’m going to meet Joe Biden in Scranton, his hometown. But I decided to stop here for a couple of reasons. Number one, I’ve been told that it’s very important for me to get a spiedies while I’m here. (Laughter and applause.) So we’re going to pick one up and try it on the road. Number two, I’m excited because of the great work that SUNY campuses like Binghamton are doing to keep costs down for hardworking students like so many of you.
Chancellor Zimpher is making sure that hundreds of thousands of SUNY students all across the state are getting a world-class higher education but without some of the debt and financial burden that is stopping too many young people from going to college. And that’s what we want for all of our students and all of our families all across the country.
Over the past month, I’ve been visiting towns throughout America, and I’ve talked about how do we secure a better bargain for the middle class and everybody who’s trying to work their way into the middle class.
We’ve fought our way through a very brutal recession, and now we’re at a point where we’re creating jobs, the economy is growing, budget deficits are falling, health care inflation has been reduced. And yet there are still a lot of working families out there who are having a tough time in this competitive global economy that we live in.
And the fact is even before this last financial crisis, we had increasingly an economy where folks at the top were doing better and better and better, but the average individual or family was seeing their incomes and their wages flat-lining. And you start getting a tale of two Americas. And the whole premise of upward mobility in this country, which is central to who we understand ourselves to be, was being diminished for too many people. So, from my perspective, reversing that trend should be Washington’s highest priority. It’s certainly my highest priority.
Unfortunately, what we’ve seen in Washington all too often is, instead of focusing on how do we bring good middle-class jobs back to America, how do we make sure the economy is growing robustly and that growth is broad-based, we’ve been spending a lot of time arguing about whether we should be paying our bills that we’ve already accrued. Or the discussion has been about slashing spending on education and basic research and science — all the things that are going to make sure that we remain competitive for the future.
Most recently, there’s been threats that we would shut down the government unless we agree to roll back the health care reform that’s about to provide millions of Americans with health care coverage for the first time. And that’s not an economic plan. That’s not going to grow the economy. That’s not going to strengthen the middle class and it’s not going to create ladders of opportunity into the middle class.
What we need to do is focus on the pocketbook, bread-and-butter issues that affect all of you — making sure we’ve got good jobs with good wages; a good education; a home of your own; affordable health care; a secure retirement; and a way for people who are currently in poverty to get out of poverty. That’s what we should be spending our time thinking about when it comes to domestic policy. That’s what’s always made America great. And nothing is more important to that process than what we’re doing in terms of K through 12 education and higher education.
Now, here’s the challenge: At the time when higher education has never been more important — and when I say higher education I mean two-year, four-year, technical colleges — it doesn’t all have to be four-year, traditional bachelor of arts or sciences — at a time when that’s never been more important, college has never been more expensive.
And in fact, what you’ve seen is, is that over the last three decades, the cost of higher education has gone up 260 percent, at a time when family incomes have gone up about 18 percent. So I’m not a math major — there are probably some here — but if you’ve got one line going up 260 percent and another line going up 16 percent, you start getting a bigger and bigger gap. And what’s happened as a consequence is that either college has become out of reach for too many people, or young people are being loaded up with more and more debt.
Now, we’ve tried to close that gap. When I came into office, we reformed our financial aid system, so the student loan programs were being run through banks and banks were making billions of dollars on it, and we said let’s just give the money directly to students, cut out the middleman. And we then were able to re-funnel billions of dollars to provide more students with more grants and more assistance. We’ve done our best to keep interest rates on student loans as low as possible.
But even with all the work that we’re doing there, the fact is the average student is still coming out with $26,000 worth of debt when they graduate. And for a lot of students it’s much more than that. And particularly, for those young people who are choosing careers where — like teaching, where they may not make a lot of money, if they’re burdened with tens of thousands of dollars of debt, in some cases it’s impossible for them ever to pay it off — or they have to put off buying a home, or starting a business, or starting a family. And that has a depressive effect on our economy overall. So it’s not just bad for the students, it’s also bad for the economy as a whole.
The bottom line is this: We can’t price higher education so prohibitively that ordinary families can’t afford it. That will ruin our chances to make sure the 21st century is the American Century just like the 20th century was.
So what we’ve done — and I announced this yesterday — is propose three basic reforms to try to shake the system up.
Number one, we want to start rating colleges based on how well they’re doing in providing good value and opportunity for students. I mean, right now you’ve got a bunch of ranking systems, some of them commercial, and when you look at what’s being rated it’s typically how selective the schools are, how few students they take in, and how expensive they are and what are their facilities like. And what we want to do is to start looking at factors like how much debt do students leave with, and do they actually graduate, and do they graduate in four years as opposed to six or eight or 10, and do they find a job after they graduate — giving some concrete measures that will allow students and families to gauge if I go to this school, am I going to get a good deal.
And since taxpayers are often providing those families and students assistance, we want to make sure taxpayers are getting a good deal as well. And that will create an atmosphere in which college presidents and trustees start thinking about affordability and don’t just assume that tuition can keep on going up and up and up.
Now, what we’re also going to be doing is putting pressure on state legislatures to rebalance, because part of the reason so many state universities have had to increase tuition is because state legislative priorities have shifted all across the country — more money into prisons, less money into schools. That means that costs are passed on to students in the form of higher tuition. So we’ve got to do something about that.
And we’re also going to ask a little more from students. What we’re going to say to students is you need to actually finish courses before you take out more loans and more grants. And we want to say that to students not to be punitive, but instead, to prevent a situation where students end up taking out a lot of debt but never actually getting the degree, which puts them in a deeper financial hole than they otherwise would be.
So that’s point number one. Second, we want to jumpstart competition among colleges and states to think of more innovative ways to reduce costs. And there are schools that are doing some terrific work in reducing costs while maintaining high-quality education. So, for example, there are some schools that are experimenting where you can get credits based on your competency, as opposed to how much time you’re spending in the classroom.
There’s no law that says you have to graduate — that for you to be in school for four years rather than three or three and a half somehow automatically gives you a better education. And so, schools are experimenting with how can we compress the time and thereby reduce the costs. Are there ways that we can use online learning to improve the educational quality and, at the same time, make things a little cheaper for students?
So we’re going to work with states, schools, university presidents to see what’s working and what’s not. And let’s spread best practices all across the country.
And then the third thing we want to do is to is to expand and better advertise a program that we put in place and expanded when I came into office, and that is a program that says for college graduates who do have debt we’re going to cap the monthly payments that you have to make to 10 percent of your income.
And the notion is that that way it’s manageable, and you’re not going to have to make career decisions simply based on how much money can I make to pay off those student loans. If I want to be a teacher, if I want to be a social worker, if I want to go into public service, then I can do that and I’m still going to be able to act responsibly and pay off my debt.
We already have that program in place, but it’s not as widely known as it needs to be, and not as many young people are eligible for it as we want them to be. So we’re going to work to improve on that front.
Bottom line is we need to stop taking the same business-as-usual approach when it comes to college education. Not all the reforms that we’re proposing are going to be popular. There are some who are benefitting from the status quo. There will be some resistance. There’s going to have to be a broad-based conversation, but part of our goal here is to stir a conversation because the current path that we’re on is unsustainable. And it’s my basic belief and I suspect the belief of most people here, higher education shouldn’t be a luxury. It’s an economic necessity in this knowledge-based economy. And we want to make sure that every family in America can afford it. (Applause.)
So I’m interested if you guys have other ideas — if you have other ideas about things that we should be looking at, we want to hear them. And that’s part of the purpose of this town hall discussion. I’m interested in hearing your stories, getting your questions. And this will be a pretty informal affair — well, as informal as it gets when the President comes — (laughter) — and there are a bunch of cameras everywhere.
So with that, I’d just like to start the discussion. And what I’m going to do is I’m just going to call on folks. Just raise your hand. I would ask you to stand up, introduce yourself. There are people with mics and they’ll bring the mic to you. And I’m going to go girl, boy, girl, boy, to make sure that it’s fair. (Laughter.) All right?
So we’ll start with this young lady right here in the striped top.
Q Thank you. It’s an honor to have you here today.
THE PRESIDENT: Hold on a second. I think — here we go.
Q Thank you. It’s an honor to have you here today, Mr. President. I’m from the Decker School of Nursing here, which is an outstanding school of nursing that has excellent outcomes.
My question today is, because advanced practice nurses, primarily nurse practitioners and nurse midwives, have such an outstanding reputation, we have good outcomes. And the Affordable Care Act is ready to be rolled out soon. Nurse practitioners and advanced practice nurses are in an excellent position to really serve vulnerable populations and people who don’t have care. I’m wondering if there’s any provisions within your educational act that would support health care workers and nurse practitioners to create a sustainable workforce that would be able to support caring for people as we roll out the Affordable Care Act.
THE PRESIDENT: It is a great question. Now, first of all, let me — without buttering you up — I love nurses. (Laughter.) Michelle and I have been blessed, we haven’t been sick too much, but — knock on wood. But every interaction we’ve had at the hospital, the doctors are wonderful and we appreciate them, but I know when Malia and Sasha were being born, we spent 90 percent of the time with the nurses and 10 percent with the OB/GYN. When my grandmother got sick and was passing away at the end, it was nurses who were caring for her in an incredible compassionate but also professional way.
And you’re absolutely right that one of the keys to reducing our health care costs overall is recognizing the incredible value of advanced practice nurses and giving them more responsibilities because there’s a lot of stuff they can do in a way that, frankly, is cheaper than having a doctor do it, but the outcomes are just as good.
The challenge we have is we still have a nursing shortage in too many parts of the country. My understanding — you probably know this better than I do — part of the problem is, is that too many professors of nursing or instructors in nursing are getting paid less than actual nurses. So what ends up happening is we don’t have enough slots in some of the nursing schools. That may not be true here, but there are parts of the country where that’s true.
So we have to upgrade a little bit the schools of nursing and make sure that they’re properly resourced so that we have enough instructors. And, in fact, as part of the Affordable Care Act, one of the things that we thought about was how are we going to expand and improve the number of nurses and making sure that they can actually finance their educations. And so there are some special programs for nurses who are committing themselves — as well as doctors who are committing themselves — to serving in underserved communities. And we will be happy to get that information to the school of nursing here.
One other element to this that I think is really interesting — we’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about making sure that our veterans coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan are getting the opportunities they need. So we instituted something called the Post-9/11 GI Bill that provides the same kind of support that my grandfather got when he came back from World War II.
And the young people who have served in our armed forces just do extraordinary work. One of the problems, though, is, is that they don’t always get credit for the skills that they already possess when they come home. So one — and we’ve got a gentleman here who’s a veteran. And one great example actually is in the medical profession — when you get medics coming back who served in the worst possible circumstances, out in theater, having to make life-or-death decisions — I met a young man up in Minnesota. He had come back, wanted to continue to pursue his career and become a professional nurse, and he was having to start from scratch, taking the equivalent of Nursing 101.
And what we’re trying to do is to make sure that states and institutions of higher learning recognize some of the skills, because as we bring more and more of our veterans home — we’ll be ending the war in Afghanistan by the end of next year — we want to make sure that those folks have the opportunity to succeed here in America. (Applause.) Great question, though.
All right. It’s a guy’s turn. Right here, yes. Hold on, let’s get a mic all the way to the back.
Q Hello, Mr. President. I’m glad for you to come to Binghamton University. I’m the director of Rainbow Pride Union here, and it’s the largest LGBT organization on campus. And my main concern is that I know a lot of stories of people who are LGBT who come out to their parents, and their parents are supporting them financially for college, and when they come out their parents cut out that support. I was wondering if maybe in the future part of your affordability for college would be able to include LGBT people.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, the programs that we have in place don’t discriminate and shouldn’t discriminate. And the good news is I think the phenomenon that you just described is likely to happen less and less and less with each successive year. I mean, think about the incredible changes that have been made just over the last decade, DOMA is gone. “Don’t ask, don’t tell” is gone. But more importantly, people’s hearts and minds have changed. And I think that’s reflective of parents as well.
That doesn’t mean that there aren’t still going to be struggles internally, but I think, more and more, what we recognize is, is that just as we judge people on — should judge people on the basis of their character, and not their color or religion or gender, the same is true for their sexual orientation.
So I don’t suspect that we’ll have special laws pertaining to young people who are cut off from support by their parents because their parents hadn’t gotten to the place I think they should be when it comes to loving and supporting their kids regardless of who they are, but we are going to make sure that all young people get the support that they need so that if their parents aren’t willing to provide them support, and they’re functionally independent, that they’re able to still go to college and succeed. All right?
Right here, in the Obama t-shirt. (Laughter.) You know, so if you — here’s a general rule in the presidential town hall: If you want to get called on, wear the President’s face on your shirt. (Laughter.)
Q Good afternoon, President Obama. I’m a graduate student in the College of Community and Public Affairs. I study student affairs administration. With that being said, as we’re all students, we know how vital it is to have a good foundation in our education. How does your administration plan to address the major budget cuts that are happening with Head Start schools around the U.S.?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, this is a great question. And this will be a major topic over the next several months. First of all, I want to expand early childhood education so that it’s accessible for every young person in America. (Applause.)
And I talked about this in my State of the Union address. It is just common sense. We know, study after study has shown that the biggest bang for the buck that we get when it comes to education is to invest early.
If we get 3-year-olds, 4-year-olds well prepared when they start school that momentum continues. If they start behind, too often they stay behind. Kids are resilient and they can make up for some tough stuff early on in life, but it’s a lot harder for them than if we get them young.
In fact, studies have shown that there’s some very smart programs out there where you identify low-income single moms in the maternity ward, and nurses talk to them immediately not just about the health of their child, but also parenting, and create a little packet with some books and some toys, and talk about engagement and expanding vocabulary. All that can make a difference. And high-quality early childhood education can continue that process so that by the time the kid starts school, they know their colors, they know their letters. They’re ready to go.
Now, unfortunately, right now the federal budget generally has been a political football in Washington. Partly, this came out of the financial crisis. We had a terrible crisis. We had to immediately pump money into the system to prevent a great depression. So we cut taxes for middle-class families. We initiated programs to rebuild our roads and our bridges. We helped states so that they wouldn’t have to lay off as many teachers and firefighters and police officers. And that’s part of the reason why we avoided a depression, although we still had a terrible recession.
But the combination of increased spending and less revenue meant that the deficit went up. And by the time the Republicans took over the House in 2011, they had made this a major issue. And, understandably, a lot of families said, well, we’re having to tighten our belts — the federal government should, too. Although, part of what you want the federal government to do when everybody else is having a hard time is to make sure that you’re providing additional support.
As the economy has improved, the deficit has gone down. It’s now dropped at the fastest rate in 60 years. I want to repeat that, because a lot of people think that — if you ask the average person what’s happening with the deficit, they’d tell you it’s going up. The deficit has been cut in half since 2009 and is on a downward trajectory. (Applause.) And it’s gone down faster than any time since World War II.
So we don’t have a problem in terms of spending on education. We don’t have a problem when it comes to spending on research and development. We do have a long-term problem that has to do with our health care programs, Medicare and Medicaid. The good news is, is that in part because of the Affordable Care Act — Obamacare — costs have actually gone down — health care inflation has gone down to the slowest rate that we’ve seen in a long time.
So we’re starting to get health care costs under control. We’ll still have to make some modifications when it comes to our long-term entitlement program so that they’re there for young people here when they are ready for retirement.
But we don’t have an urgent deficit crisis. The only crisis we have is one that’s manufactured in Washington, and it’s ideological. And the basic notion is, is that we shouldn’t be helping people get health care, and we shouldn’t be helping kids who can’t help themselves and whose parents are under-resourced — we shouldn’t be helping them get a leg up. And so some of the proposals we’ve seen now are talking about even deeper cuts in programs like Head Start; even deeper cuts in education support; even deeper cuts in basic science and research.
And that’s like eating your corn seed. It’s like being pennywise and pound-foolish. Because if young people aren’t succeeding, if we’re not spending on research and maintaining our technological edge, if we’re not upgrading our roads and our bridges and our transportation systems and our infrastructure — all things that we can afford to do right now and should be doing right now, and would put people to work right now — if we don’t do those things, then 20 years from now, 30 years from now we will have fallen further and further behind.
So when we get back to Washington — when Congress gets back to Washington, this is going to be a major debate. It’s the same debate we’ve been having for the last two years. The difference is now deficits are already coming down. And what we should really be thinking about is how do we grow an economy so that we’re creating a growing, thriving middle class, and we’re creating more ladders of opportunity for people who are willing to work hard to get into the middle class.
And my position is going to be that we can have a budget that is sensible, that doesn’t spend on programs that don’t work, but does spend wisely on those things that are going to help ordinary people succeed. All right? Good.
Let’s see. It is a gentleman’s turn. This gentleman right here. He’s had his hand up for a while.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Yay! (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: Well, that settles it. You have a little cheering section there. (Laughter.)
Q Hello, Mr. President. I’m a faculty member of the computer science department. I’m very excited and encouraged by your plan on the affordability reform. My question is related about the quality of future higher education. As you know, many universities are trying their best to provide the best value by doing better with less. But the challenges are real, and they’re getting tougher and tougher as the budget cuts are getting tougher and tougher. So my question is what your administration will do to ensure the best American universities remain to be the best in the world in the 21st century? Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, what’s really important is to make sure that we’re supporting great teachers. And since you got an applause line, you must be a pretty good one. (Laughter.) And I don’t think that there is a conflict between quality and paying attention to costs as it’s affecting students.
Now, I mentioned earlier, one of the big problems that we’ve seen in public universities is a diminished level of support from states, state legislatures. And part of what we’re going to try to do is to provide more incentives to states to boost the support that they’re giving to colleges and universities.
Traditionally, when you think of the great state university systems, it was because those states understood if we invest in our people we’ll have a better-trained workforce, which means companies will want to locate here, which creates a virtuous cycle and everybody benefits.
But starting, let’s say, 15 years ago, 20 years ago, you saw a trend in which state legislatures who were trying to balance their budgets kept on cutting support to state education. What happened was that — and I don’t know whether this is true, Mr. President, for SUNY, but around the country, on average, what you’ve seen is a drop from about 46 percent of the revenues of a public college coming from states down to about 25 percent. It’s almost been cut in half. And essentially, the only way these schools have figured to make it up is to charge higher tuition.
So states have to do their jobs. But what is true also, though, is that universities and faculty need to come up with ways to also cut costs while maintaining quality — because that’s what we’re having to do throughout our economy. And sometimes when I talk to college professors — and, keep in mind, I taught in a law school for 10 years, so I’m very sympathetic to the spirit of inquiry and the importance of not just looking at X’s and O’s and numbers when it comes to measuring colleges. But what I also know is, is that there are ways we can save money that would not diminish quality.
This is probably controversial to say, but what the heck, I’m in my second term so I can say it. (Laughter.) I believe, for example, that law schools would probably be wise to think about being two years instead of three years — because by the third year — in the first two years young people are learning in the classroom. The third year they’d be better off clerking or practicing in a firm, even if they weren’t getting paid that much. But that step alone would reduce the cost for the student.
Now, the question is can law schools maintain quality and keep good professors and sustain themselves without that third year. My suspicion is, is that if they thought creatively about it, they probably could. Now, if that’s true at a graduate level, there are probably some things that we could do at the undergraduate level as well.
That’s not to suggest that there aren’t some real problems. Colleges, for example, they’ve got health care costs like everybody else. Personnel is one of the most important — it’s the biggest cost you’ve got. And if health care costs to provide insurance for your employees is going up as fast as it’s been going up, that affects folks.
So our idea is not to just have some cookie-cutter approach that doesn’t take quality into account. The idea is, understanding we’ve got to maintain high quality, are there ways that we can reorganize schools, use technology, think about what works so that, overall, we’re creating a better value for the student.
And one of the best things that we could do for students is to make sure that they graduate in a more timely fashion. And unfortunately, too many young people go to schools where they’re not getting the kind of support and advice on the front end that they need and they drift, and four years, five years, six years into it, they’ve got a bunch of credits but it all doesn’t result in actual graduation. And then they get discouraged. And that’s an area where we know we can be making improvement as well.
Okay? And if you’ve got any other ideas, let me know. (Applause.)
Let’s get a young person in here. Right there, yes.
Q Welcome to Binghamton, President Obama.
THE PRESIDENT: Thanks.
Q I’m a doctoral student here as well as a writing instructor at Syracuse University. And I’m interested in the giving of federal funds to students who are going to for-profit colleges — or colleges I might even call predatory. And I’m very conflicted about this issue and so I’d like to hear your insight. Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, you probably know more about it than I do since you’ve written about it. But let me describe for the audience what the challenge is.
For-profit institutions in a lot of sectors of our lives obviously is the cornerstone of our economy. And we want to encourage entrepreneurship and new ideas and new approaches and new ways of doing things. So I’m not against for-profit institutions, generally. But what you’re absolutely right about is, is that there have been some schools that are notorious for getting students in, getting a bunch of grant money, having those students take out a lot of loans, making big profits, but having really low graduation rates. Students aren’t getting what they need to be prepared for a particular field. They get out of these for-profit schools loaded down with enormous debt. They can’t find a job. They default. The taxpayer ends up holding the bag. Their credit is ruined, and the for-profit institution is making out like a bandit. That’s a problem.
I was mentioning veterans earlier. Soldiers and sailors and Marines and Coast Guardsmen, they’ve been preyed upon very badly by some of these for-profit institutions. And we actually created a special task force inside our consumer advocate protection organization that we set up just to look out for members of the armed forces who were being manipulated. Because what happened was these for-profit schools saw this Post-9/11 GI Bill, that there was a whole bunch of money that the federal government was committed to making sure that our veterans got a good education, and they started advertising to these young people, signing them up, getting them to take a bunch of loans, but they weren’t delivering a good product.
This goes to, then, the point I made earlier about how we can rate schools. We’re going to spend some time over the course of the next year talking to everybody — talking to university professors, talking to faculty members, talking to students, talking to families — but if we can define some basic parameters of what’s a good value, then it will allow us more effectively to police schools whether they’re for-profit or non-for-profit — because there are some non-for-profit schools, traditional schools that have higher default rates among their graduates than graduation rates — and be able to say to them, look, either you guys step up and improve, or you’re not going to benefit from federal dollars. (Applause.)
Because there are a bunch of schools like this one that are doing a good job, and we don’t want money being funneled to schools that aren’t doing a good job. We want to encourage students to be smart shoppers, to be good consumers.
So there are probably more problems in the for-profit sector on this than there are in the traditional non-for-profit colleges, universities and technical schools, but it’s a problem across the board. And the way to solve it is to make sure that we’ve got ways to measure what’s happening and we can weed out some of the folks that are engaging in bad practices.
All right, this corner of the room has been neglected. So the gentleman right there, right in the corner there.
Q Thank you for taking the time to visit Binghamton University. I’m a sophomore student of Binghamton University. I am from Turkey and I want to ask something about the international students. Most of my friends’ families have been facing some hardships to support them financially. For example, when we consider two Turkish lira equals one American dollar, this situation is getting more important for us. We think that the most reason of this situation is the high level of payment. What do you think, and do you have any working about the situation? Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, we’re glad you’re here and we hope you’re having a wonderful experience. One of the great things about American universities is they are magnets for talent from around the world. And that has enriched us immeasurably. It enriches us in part because students who come here and study and excel may end up staying here and working and starting businesses, and that’s always been part of the American experience, is smart, striving immigrants coming here and succeeding. And that makes everybody better off — which is part of the reason why we‘ve got to get immigration reform done so that if we’re taking the time to train a great computer scientist or engineer or entrepreneur, we’re not, then, just sending them back to their country. Let’s invite them, if they want to stay, to succeed here and start jobs here and create businesses here. (Applause.)
Now, obviously, when it comes to federal grants, loans, supports, subsidies that we provide, those are for our citizens. And a lot of Americans are having a tough time affording college, as we talked about, so we can’t spread it too thin. What we can do, though, is to make sure that if tuition is reasonable for all students who enroll, then it makes it easier for international students to come and study here as well.
So all the things that I talked about before apply to foreign students as well as American students. We need to make sure that college is affordable, that it’s a good value. The good news is that there are schools out there that are doing a great job already. And we just need to make sure that we’re duplicating some of those best practices across the country.
All right, who’s next? Let’s see, it’s a young lady’s turn, isn’t it? Okay. Go ahead, right there in the red — or orange.
Q My name is Anne Bailey, and I am a faculty member in the History and Afrikana Studies department here. And I teach African American history and African diaspora studies. And tomorrow, I’m going to the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. And I’m going — and I’m going with my son — because I’m here, as you said, because of a good education, and that good education became possible because of that faith-inspired movement that really reached such an important milestone 50 years ago.
And I’m so grateful for the fact that I had that opportunity, and that my son and that these young people will have these opportunities. But I still kind of wonder where we are now in terms of education and civil rights. Have we — where do you think we are? What do we need to do to kind of make sure that it is education for all, including under-represented groups? That’s just my question. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Well, 50 years after the March on Washington and the “I Have a Dream Speech,” obviously we’ve made enormous strides. I’m a testament to it. You’re a testament to it. The diversity of this room and the students who are here is a testimony to it. And that impulse towards making sure everybody gets a fair shot is one that found expression in the Civil Rights Movement, but then spread to include Latinos and immigrants and gays and lesbians.
And what’s wonderful to watch is that the younger generation seems — each generation seems wiser in terms of wanting to treat people fairly and do the right thing and not discriminate. And that’s a great victory that we should all be very proud of.
On the other hand, I think what we’ve also seen is that the legacy of discrimination — slavery, Jim Crow — has meant that some of the institutional barriers for success for a lot of groups still exist. African American poverty in this country is still significantly higher than other groups. Same is true for Latinos. Same is true for Native Americans.
And even if there weren’t active discrimination taking place right now — and obviously, we know that some discrimination still exists, although nothing like what existed 50 years ago — but let’s assume that we eliminated all discrimination magically, with a wand, and everybody had goodness in their heart. You’d still have a situation in which there are a lot of folks who are poor and whose families have become dysfunctional because of a long legacy of poverty, and live in neighborhoods that are run down and schools that are underfunded and don’t have a strong property tax base. And it would still be harder for young people born into those communities to succeed than those who were born elsewhere.
So if, in fact, that’s the case — and that is what I believe — then it’s in all of our interests to make sure that we are putting in place smart policies to give those communities a lift, and to create ladders so that young people in those communities can succeed.
Well, what works? We’ve already talked about what works. Early childhood education works. We know that can make a difference. It’s not going to solve every problem, but it can help level the playing field for kids early in life so that — they’re still going to have to work hard. Not everybody is going to succeed, but they’ll have a better chance if we put those things in place.
Making college affordable — that makes a difference. Because we know, in part because of the legacy of discrimination, that communities of color have less wealth. If they have less wealth, it means that mom and dad have a more difficult time financing college. Well, we should make sure that every young person, regardless of their color, can access a college education.
I think the biggest challenge we have is not that we don’t know what policies work, it’s getting our politics right. Because part of what’s happened over the last several decades is, because times have been tough, because wages and incomes for everybody have not been going up, everybody is pretty anxious about what’s happening in their lives and what might happen for their kids, and so they get worried that, well, if we’re helping people in poverty, that must be hurting me somehow, it’s taking something away from me.
And part of what I think we have to understand is that America has always been most successful, we’ve always grown fastest, and everybody’s incomes have gone up fastest when our economic growth is broad-based, not just when a few people are doing well at the top, but when everybody is doing well.
And so if working people and folks who are struggling — whether they’re white, black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, disabled, LGBT — if working folks join together around common principles and policies that will help lift everybody, then everybody will be better off — including, by the way, the folks at the top. Because when the economy is growing and people have jobs and people are seeing better incomes, they go out and they shop more. And that means businesses are doing better. And you buy a new iPod and Apple is happy, and shareholders are pleased.
But unfortunately, we’ve got politics sometimes that divides instead of bringing people together. And we’ve seen that over the last couple of years, the tendency to suggest somehow that government is taking something from you and giving it to somebody else, and your problems will be solved if we just ignore them or don’t help them. And, that, I think is something that we have to constantly struggle against — whether we’re black or white or whatever color we are.
All right? Thank you. (Applause.)
How much time do we got? I want to make sure that I get a couple more questions in here. Two more. We’ll make it three. (Laughter.) We’ll make it three. This gentleman right here in the front. Here, we got a mic right here.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. My name is Adam Flint. I work currently at Cooperative Extension, but I’ve been connected to this institution since 1966. And I want to tell you about the Broome Energy Conservation Corps where we are educating, training and also employing Binghamton University graduates and current students to really take the vision that, well, Kennedy and others advanced of service to the problems of the community and to the country.
And at Cooperative Extension, our energy corps students are helping people who could not benefit from energy efficiency, they’re helping getting people employed with local home performance contactors. And we could do so much more if it were possible for programs like ours across the country to be able to know that we’re going to be here in 2014, which we don’t right now.
And so I guess we’ve been in discussions with Harvey and with many of the people in this room, with Matt Ryan, with many of the senior Binghamton University folks, and we’d really like to see coming out of Washington some good news about funding for the green economy for the future and for our ability to give a future to our children that right now I’m doubtful about.
You have two girls. I’ve got two girls. And this is the last century of fossil fuels, so we’ve got to make it happen. With this energy corps, we could move to food corps and on and on and on. I’ve said enough. I’m afraid it’s one of the family business of the professoriate to say too much. And I’m going to shut up and listen to the wisdom that I hope you will bring to my question. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Well, as you indicated in your remarks, we are going to have to prepare for a different energy future than the one we have right now.
Now, we’re producing traditional energy — fossil fuels — at record levels. And we’ve actually achieved, or are on the verge of achieving about as close as you can get to energy independence as America is going to see. I mean, natural gas, oil, all that stuff is going up.
In some cases, what you’ve seen is that, for example, transitional fuels like natural gas have replaced coal, which temporarily are reducing greenhouse gases. But the bottom line is those are still finite resources. Climate change is real. The planet is getting warmer. And you’ve got several billion Chinese, Indians, Africans and others who also want cars, refrigerators, electricity. And as they go through their development cycle, the planet cannot sustain the same kinds of energy use as we have right now. So we’re going to have to make a shift.
That’s why when I came into office, we made record investments in green energy. And that’s why I think it’s critical for us to invest in research and development around clean energy. And that’s why it sounds like programs like yours need to take advantage of technologies that already exist.
We’re going to have to invent some new technologies to solve all of our energy problems. But we know, for example, the low-hanging fruit of energy efficiency. We know that if we design our schools, homes, hospitals more efficiently, that as a country we could probably cut our power usage by 20, 25, 30 percent with existing technologies, and without lowering our standard of living.
And, by the way, we can put a whole bunch of folks to work doing it right now. We could gather up a whole bunch of young people here in this community, train them for insulation, for energy-efficient construction, and redo a whole bunch of buildings and institutions right here, and eventually it would pay for itself. So it’s win-win across the board.
Unfortunately, what we’ve seen too often in Congress is that the fossil fuel industries tend to be very influential — let’s put it that way — on the energy committees in Congress. And they tend not to be particularly sympathetic to alternative energy strategies. And, in some cases, we’ve actually been criticized that it’s a socialist plot that’s restricting your freedom for us to encourage energy-efficient light bulbs, for example. I never understood that. (Laughter.) But you hear those arguments. I mean, you can go on the Web, and people will be decrying how simple stuff that we’re doing, like trying to set up regulations to make appliances more energy-efficient — which saves consumers money and is good for our environment — is somehow restricting America’s liberty and violates the Constitution.
So a lot of our job is to educate the public as to why this can be good for them — in a very narrow self-interested way. This is not pie in the sky. This is not tree-hugging, sprout-eating university professors. (Laughter.) This is a practical, hardheaded, smart, business-savvy approach to how we deal with energy. And we should be investing it and encouraging it and expanding it. And so I budgeted for it. I will fight for it.
But just as I will be advocating and fighting for Head Start or increases in our science and technology funding, the challenge is going to be that my friends in the other party right now in Congress seem less interested in actual governing and taking practical strategies, and seem more interested in trying to placate their base or scoring political points. Or they’re worried about primaries in the upcoming election.
That can’t be how we run a country. That’s not responsible leadership. (Applause.) And my hope is, is that we’ll see a different attitude when we get back. But we’ll only see a different attitude if the public pushes folks in a different direction.
Ultimately, what has an impact on politicians is votes. And that influence is not — it can’t just come from districts that are strongly Democratic. We need voices in Republican districts to say this is a smart thing to do. And we can make — and, by the way, businesses can make money doing it, and people can get jobs doing it. And it’s just sensible. And it’s good, by the way, for our national security because those countries that control the energy sources of the future, they’re the ones that are going to be in a position to succeed economically.
So, all right. I’ve got time for a couple more. Yes, right here.
Q Good afternoon, Mr. President. I’m an integrative neuroscience major –
THE PRESIDENT: That sounds very impressive. (Laughter.) What was that again?
Q Integrative neuroscience.
THE PRESIDENT: Okay, so tell me about that. Explain that to me. It has something to do with the brain and nerves and –
Q It’s a mix between psychology and biology.
THE PRESIDENT: Okay.
Q So it’s not as impressive as –
THE PRESIDENT: No, it’s very impressive. (Laughter.) Come on. Absolutely. Anyway, what’s the question?
Q Well, my question today is about financial aid. Currently, financial aid eligibility is based on — or heavily based on students’ parents’ income. Now, there are many middle-class families that send their students to state schools like Binghamton, who live in high-cost regions such as New York City. Now, do you think it’s possible for the financial aid formula to include the living costs of the region that applicants live in? (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: It’s an interesting question, and sounds like it’s got some sympathy. What’s absolutely true is that what it means to be middle class in New York is going to be different than what it means to be middle class in Wyoming, just in terms of how far your dollar goes. And I think it is a relevant question.
It is a challenging problem because if you start getting into calibrating cost of living just in a state like New York, a big state that has such diversity in terms of cost of living, then it might get so complicated that it would be difficult to administer. But why don’t I just say this: I think it is a important question, and I’m going to talk to Secretary Arne Duncan about it and find out what kind of research and work we’ve done on that issue to see if we can potentially make a difference.
Now, one way of handling this would not be at the federal level but potentially at the state level. So you could manage something at the state level, where people may have a better sense of the differences in cost of living in a state, and say, we’ll make some adjustments for students who are coming from higher-cost areas versus lower-cost areas. That might be easier to do than to try to administer it at the federal level from Washington for all 50 states.
But I’ll check with the Department of Education. And I’ll make sure my team gets your email so that you get a personal answer from the Secretary. (Applause.)
I’ve got one last question and I want to make sure it’s a student. Are you a student?
THE PRESIDENT: Maybe? No, that doesn’t count if he said maybe. (Laughter.)
Q I am.
THE PRESIDENT: Okay, this young man right here. (Laughter.) I just wanted to make sure. He might have been a young-looking professor. (Laughter.)
Q Mr. President, I’m Danny. I’m from here — I’m a student here. I’m from the community college. My question is — you spoke about increasing financial aid for college students. However, I feel that with the competitive job market, a bachelor’s will not be enough to secure a job. My question is will any of these funds go towards grad school programs? Or will it be strictly limited to undergraduate education?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, a good undergraduate education means you are much more employable and you’re much more likely to get a job. Each additional chunk of education that you get — if done well, if you’re getting good value — is going to enhance your marketability. And we see that in the statistics. That’s not just talk.
The fact is that the average American who has more than a college education or greater is a third less likely to be unemployed than somebody who just graduated from high school. So don’t underestimate the power of an undergraduate education. It can make a difference.
Now, what’s true is that if you, for example, in computer sciences want to get a master’s in computer science or a Ph.D. in computer science, presumably that will make you even more marketable. And we want to make sure that financial aid is also available for graduate students. And the way programs currently exist, that financial aid does exist, although typically you get fewer subsidies and a less favorable interest rate for graduate education.
We’re probably not going to be able to completely solve that, and here’s the reason why. I got a lot of scholarships and grant money for my undergraduate education, so I didn’t have a lot of debt when I got out. I then decided to go to law school. And I went to a very good law school that was very expensive. Most of my debt when I graduated was from law school; I had about $60,000 worth of debt. But the truth was I was able to — if I wanted to, at least — earn so much money coming out of law school that I really didn’t need a subsidy. I could pay it back. It took me a little longer to pay it back than some of my friends because I went into public service and I didn’t try to maximize my income. But if I had been a partner at a law firm pulling down half a million dollars a year, there’s no reason why I should necessarily have gotten a subsidy for that.
The one area where I think we can make a big difference goes back to the very first question that was asked of me when it came to schools of nursing. Across the board in graduate school, what we want to do is to provide incentives for folks who need specialized education but are willing to give back something to the community, to the country — doctors who are willing to serve in underserved communities, nurses who are willing to serve in underserved communities, lawyers who are willing to work in the State’s Attorney’s Office or as a public defender.
So the more we can do around programs for graduate studies where we say to you, if you’re willing to commit to five years working in a place that doesn’t have a doctor and you’re studying to be a doctor, we’re going to forgive you a bunch of those loans — I’d like to see more programs like that. And I’ve asked the Secretary of Education to see how we can make those more accessible to more students.
Well, listen, everybody, this has been a great conversation. (Applause.) And let me just say that you will be hearing more about this debate over the course of the next year. We will be talking to your university president. We’ll be talking to the chancellor of the entire system. We’ll be talking to faculty. We’ll be talking to students. If you have ideas or questions that were not somehow addressed, then we’d like to hear from you. And go to whitehouse.gov. There’s a whole section where we can get comments, ideas. And I promise you we actually pay attention when you guys raise questions.
And for those of you who are still sorting out student aid — if you’re still in high school, for example, and you’re thinking about going to college and you don’t know exactly what makes sense for you, we do have a website called studentaid.gov that can be very helpful to you in identifying what you should be thinking about when it comes to financing your college education.
But we’re going to do everything we can to make sure that not only are you able to succeed without being loaded up with debt, but hopefully, you’re going to be able to afford to send your kids to college as well.
Thank you for your great hospitality. I appreciate it. Thank you. (Applause.)
1:55 P.M. EDT
Posted by bonniekgoodman on August 23, 2013