Obama pointed to the increase in global competition for education, highlighting the nation’s sliding standing from first in the world one generation ago to 12th today. The president called for 8 million more college graduates by 2020 to help the country climb back to the top.
This is not exactly a dramatic new announcement. About a year ago he called for 5 million more college graduates.
Another 8 million graduates would actually require massive changes in the American education system.
Obama’s speech proposed direct lending (which has already passed), tax credits, and increasing funding for Pell grants. These reforms are positive developments, but it’s not going to get 8 million more Americans though college or make America the world leader in post-secondary attainment.
“A country that out-educates us will out-compete us,” Obama said. Good point. Why are more students going to college in other countries? Part of this surely has to do with the fact that students and their families in most other countries have to contribute far less of their own money to pay for college.
That’s the part that matters. The tax credits are a decidedly marginal part of any real solution.