View from Here - It's simple. Only invest in reform

5th February 2010 at 00:00
In his first State of the Union Address last week, President Barack Obama devoted 4.5 minutes out of 71 minutes to education

"We need to invest in the skills and education of our people.

Now, this year, we've broken through the stalemate between left and right by launching a national competition to improve our schools (the $1.35 billion "Race to the Top" initiative, TESS last week). And the idea here is simple: instead of rewarding failure, we only reward success. Instead of funding the status quo, we only invest in reform - reform that raises student achievement; inspires students to excel in math and science; and turns around failing schools that steal the future of too many young Americans, from rural communities to the inner city.

In the 21st century, the best anti-poverty programme around is a world- class education. And in this country, the success of our children cannot depend more on where they live than on their potential.

When we renew the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, we will work with Congress to expand these reforms to all 50 states. Still, in this economy, a high-school diploma no longer guarantees a good job. That's why I urge the Senate to follow the House and pass a bill that will revitalise our community colleges, which are a career pathway to the children of so many working families.

To make college more affordable, this bill will finally end the unwarranted taxpayer subsidies that go to banks for student loans. Instead, let us take that money and give families a $10,000 (pound;6,245) tax credit for four years of college and increase Pell Grants (The Federal Pell Grant Program provides need-based grants to low-income under-graduate and certain post-bacca-laureate students to promote access to post- secondary education).

And let's tell another one million students that, when they graduate, they will be required to pay only 10 per cent of their income on student loans, and all of their debt will be forgiven after 20 years - and forgiven after 10 years if they choose a career in public service, because in the United States of America, no one should go broke because they chose to go to college.

And, by the way, it is time for colleges and universities to get serious about cutting their own costs because, they too, have a responsibility to help solve this problem."

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