Obama’s American Graduation Initiative: What Happened?

It’s been two years since Barack Obama announced his American Graduation Initiative, designed to produce a country with the highest college graduation rate of any nation in the world by 2020 by creating an additional 5 million community college graduates. How’s that going?

According to an article by Jon Marcus at The Olympian, not so well. As he writes:

Conversations with dozens of experts and reviews of available data show that obstacles on the road to graduation have gotten only greater in the two years since then. Few believe the 2020 target will be met.

First, the $12 billion Obama initially promised to community colleges — a lynchpin of his strategy, which he called on to increase their number of graduates by 50 percent — was siphoned off to help get the contentious health care bill passed. As a compromise, $2 billion was pledged for career training through a program administered by the U.S. Department of Labor.

But it took until January of this year for the first $500 million to be made available — it won’t actually be awarded to schools with winning career-training proposals until the end of September — and the rest is in the sights of congressional budget-cutters.

In addition, state budget cuts have increased tuition for community college students in many states, making higher education less affordable. Community colleges increased their tuition 6 percent on average over the past year. This is not the way to get dramatically more students through college, which specific is the purpose of the initiative.

The title of the article is “two years after Obama’s college initiative, major obstacles remain.” I’m not really sure if this is merely a matter of “obstacles remaining.” The college innovative appears to have basically failed.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer