Obama to ‘laser’ in on college completion



In last week’s State of the Union address, President Barack Obama’s focuses included creating more opportunities and better strategies for Americans to obtain college educations. Thursday, one cabinet member explained the specifics of that goal.

The Obama administration is honing in on the country’s college completion rate with a “laserlike” focus, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a teleconference with college media outlets.

Duncan said as many as 10 countries have passed the U.S. in college completion rates, but the administration has several ways to ease the pockets of those wanting to attend college.

One of the ideas is to reduce bank subsidies and use the money saved for education. Duncan said those paying back college loans would have to put 10 percent of their monthly income toward their debt, instead of the current 15 percent. After 20 years, all remaining debt would be forgiven, and for those in the public service sector, any remaining debt would be forgiven after only 10 years.

Duncan said the administration aims to put $10.6 billion into the investment of community colleges, and $5 million toward developing online learning resources.

Duncan said students would take classes and tests online at a free or reduced cost, and the university would choose how to apply that for course credit.

Obama also aims to increase the Pell Grant to $5,710, Duncan said. He said Obama wants to make it $6,900 eventually.

“This constitutes the biggest investment in higher education since the G.I. Bill,” Duncan said.

Duncan said Obama wants the U.S. to have the highest college completion rate in the world by 2020, and to do this the country needs an additional 10 million student graduates from two- or four-year colleges.

“In 10 years, the jobs that employers are looking to fill will require a college degree. … We’re convinced that we have to educate our way to a better economy,” Duncan said.