Opening Remarks by Second Lady Jill Biden Before the Higher Education Panel, "The Path to the American Dream: A Survey on Post-Secondary Education" in New York City

September 27, 2010

NBC's Education Nation Summit

[As Prepared for Delivery]

I want to begin by thanking NBC for the commitment you have shown in dedicating valuable time to the vital issue of education. The power of your network plus the participation of such notable stakeholders is testament to the critical role of education in the future of our country.

I am pleased to be here representing the President and our Administration, and I am thrilled to be here as a teacher.

I've been an educator for the past 29 years -- and I continue to teach full-time at a community college not far from the White House. So the challenge to elevate education is personal to me: Every single day in my classroom, I see the power of education to break down barriers and instill confidence. I also see just how critical the college experience is to putting my students on the path to success.

I am gratified to be a part of an Administration that recognizes the value of education and strives to support our students – even in challenging times.

We know that an education is the first step in realizing the American dream. For that reason, the entire Administration is working hard to support students and families, and to make college affordable and accessible. We are making historic investments in financial aid, by tripling the tax credit for college expenses, and streamlining the financial aid process. And we are making historic investments to strengthen institutions of higher learning that largely serve low and middle income students.

The President believes that higher education is critical to strengthening the American workforce. In a global economy, it is no secret that the nation that out-educates us today will out-compete us tomorrow. So, President Obama has set the goal for the United States that we will once again lead the world in the proportion of college graduates by the end of this decade.

That is not a Democratic or a Republican goal. It is a goal that recognizes the hopes and potential of every American.

It is an ambitious, but achievable, goal. To reach it, many more underrepresented students--including minority students, older students, and immigrants--will not only have to enroll in college but earn their degrees. In other words, it is not enough to get students into college, we have to keep them there and see them graduate.

In my own teaching and in my travels and meetings with students, faculty and businesses, I have seen first-hand how colleges and universities across the country are working together to support students all the way to graduation day.

As a community college instructor, I see every day how community colleges are especially critical to this work. As the largest, fastest-growing, and most affordable segment of our higher education system, they are the backbone of our nation's educational and workforce system. They provide affordable post-secondary education and workforce training to millions of Americans, and the Administration has made a historic investment in community colleges and their students.

In recognition of the vital role that community colleges play in higher education, President Obama has asked me to chair the first-ever White House Summit on Community Colleges which will take place next week. The summit is an opportunity to bring together students, community colleges, business, philanthropy, federal and state policy leaders and others to discuss how community colleges can help meet the job training and education needs of our country.

I am thrilled to announce that we will be joined by leaders in government, education, business and philanthropy including the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mullen, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Melinda Gates, Co-Chair and Trustee of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, William Green, the Chairman and CEO of Accenture, Eduardo Padron, President of Miami Dade College who is on the panel here today…as well as many fantastic students.

The title of today's panel is "The Path to the American Dream." There could not be a more apt description of higher education in the United States. Education is the great equalizer in America.

I look forward to hearing from this group of experts about how we can strengthen our education system and fulfill that American Dream.

Jill Biden, Opening Remarks by Second Lady Jill Biden Before the Higher Education Panel, "The Path to the American Dream: A Survey on Post-Secondary Education" in New York City Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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