President Obama called on an assembly of college and university presidents and leaders of nonprofit and other education groups to rally around a goal of widening opportunities for disadvantaged students. “We still have a long way to go to unlock the doors of higher education to more Americans and especially lower-income Americans,” he said.
Both the president and the first lady spoke in personal terms, saying they had benefited from a national commitment to expand opportunities for young people that led them to attend elite universities. Obama graduated from Columbia University and his wife from Princeton University, and both graduated from Harvard Law School.
Tuition rates have climbed dramatically and student debt has raised. Achievement gaps for minorities and low-income students are too wide. Graduation rates from U.S. public universities are often no better than 50 percent. And employers complain that graduates lack needed skills.
For all its economic travails in recent years, America has maintained an enviable track record of innovation. This could be the year it shows the world new educational models which could benefit not just millions of young Americans but many more millions in emerging economies. Without more agile, adaptable regulation focused on providing good education at reasonable cost, however, America could find itself further ceding its leadership, and its young people´s prospects dimmed.