Spellings Calls For “Strategic Vision For Higher Education”
“We must have the vision to see where higher education can take us in a future where both freedom and competition are on the move,” Secretary Spellings said. “This is a world defined less by where you live and more by what you know. We must find a way to give all Americans the skills they’ll need to lead in this new world. This will take all of the foresight and imagination we can muster.
“And we must hold ourselves accountable for providing them. If we do those two things, we will fulfill the social compact raised up over generations and passed down to ours. And we will help the next generation of Americans realize the long-held promise of higher education–a stake in the American experiment and a shot at the American Dream. It is a major step toward what President Bush calls the ‘Ownership Society,’ and the ‘security, dignity and independence’ it would bring.”
Secretary Spellings emphasized the need to better prepare high school students to pursue higher education, citing one study that found only 32 percent of students who leave high school are prepared for college, and said the President’s budget proposals would focus resources to students most at risk of falling behind or dropping out of school.
“The goal is to ensure that a high school diploma is a ticket to success, whether a graduate chooses higher education or the workforce,” Secretary Spellings said.
Secretary Spellings also noted the challenges to providing consumers with useful information about higher education institutions, including the lack of compatible and comprehensive data measurements, such as accurate cost information, how credit hours compare at different institutions and the average time it takes to graduate by major, and encouraged states and schools to adopt compatible, connected, data-based systems.
Secretary Spellings said that the ability to afford a higher education will play a critical role in the 21st century, noting that a person’s financial limitations should not be a barrier to obtaining a higher education, and emphasized that student financial aid has increased steadily, including free grants and low-cost loans. President Bush’s proposed 2006 budget would provide an additional $19 billion over ten years for the Pell Grant program, which would enable more than 5.5 million students to receive a grant in 2006. The President also has proposed increasing the maximum Pell Grant award by $100 per year over the next five years, from the current $4,050 to $4,550. President Bush’s budget also would retire the Pell program’s $4.3 billion funding shortfall and make grants available year-round to help more students.