Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Obama Touts Higher Education Goals in TX

This from the El Paso Times:

Wooing Texas is not an easy feat for Democratic President Barack Obama, but on Monday an audience in the state's capital roared with applause when he proclaimed that "education is the economic issue of our time."

Despite being in the heart of a Republican-dominated state, Obama was on friendly ground as he addressed a crowd of about 3,500 people -- most of them students -- at the University of Texas at Austin.

He said the United States, which used to top world rankings with its number of college graduates, has fallen behind. It now trails 11 other developed countries, including Canada, Japan and New Zealand.

"Now, that's unacceptable, but it's not irreversible," Obama said. "We can retake the lead."

Obama said higher education must be affordable because more than a third of the country's college students and more than half of its minority students fail to graduate in six years.

"We don't just need to open the doors of college to more Americans; we need to make sure they stick with it through graduation," he said to the boisterous crowd. "That is critical."

Family incomes during the past 30 years have not kept pace with increases in college tuition, according to the president, who called on university leaders to rein in costs. Obama told students the federal government is tripling its investment in the college tax credit for middle-income families, and Pell Grants should keep up with inflation.

Though Obama did not directly mention Republicans, he pointed to a recent battle won by Democrats to change the way federal college loans were administered.

He said the legislation kept the government from "handing over $60 billion in subsidies to big banks and financial institutions" to act as middlemen.

"We went to battle against the lobbyists and a minority party united in their support of an outrageous status quo," Obama said. "And, Texas, I am here to report that we won."

The president also briefly touted the federal government's Race to the Top program, which he said creates superior schools with higher standards and improved ways of measuring progress...

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