Stressing that "education is an economic issue," President Obama renewed on Monday his call for the United States to produce an additional eight million college graduates by 2020 and reclaim the top spot as the country with the highest percentage of college graduates.
It's a goal that he has touted since taking office and repeated before a cheering crowd at the University of Texas at Austin with emphasis on the need for an educated work force as the nation emerges from recession.
"Over a third of America's college students, and over half our minority students, don't earn a degree, even after six years," the president said. "So, 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 also spoke of the importance of education in today's global economy. "We know beyond a shadow of a doubt that countries that out-educate us today will out-compete us tomorrow," the president said.
As he's done in the past, President Obama praised the nation's community colleges, calling them "a great, under-appreciated asset that we should value and support." He emphasized Tennessee's Cleveland State Community College, which has boosted graduation rates after redesigning its remedial math courses.
"We ought to make a significant investment to help other states do the same," he said.
President Obama offered no new higher-education policy proposals in Monday's speech. Rather, he highlighted his administration's work in making college more affordable by increasing Pell Grant awards, simplifying the federal student-aid application form, and making information more widely available to students and their families about college costs and completion rates.
He also said his administration is making loan repayments more manageable for students so they don't graduate with massive loan payments each month.