John F. Kennedy photo

Special Message to the Congress on Education.

January 29, 1963

To the congress of the United States:

Education is the keystone in the arch of freedom and progress. Nothing has contributed more to the enlargement of this nation's strength and opportunities than our traditional system of free, universal elementary and secondary education, coupled with widespread availability of college education.

For the individual, the doors to the schoolhouse, to the library and to the college lead to the richest treasures of our open society: to the power of knowledge--to the training and skills necessary for productive employment--to the wisdom, the ideals, and the culture which enrich life--and to the creative, self-disciplined understanding of society needed for good citizenship in today's changing and challenging world.

For the nation, increasing the quality and availability of education is vital to both our national security and our domestic well being. A free Nation can rise no higher than the standard of excellence set in its schools and colleges. Ignorance and illiteracy, unskilled workers and school dropouts-these and other failures of our educational system breed failures in our social and economic system: delinquency, unemployment, chronic dependence, a waste of human resources, a loss of productive power and purchasing power and an increase in tax-supported benefits. The loss of only one year's income due to unemployment is more than the total cost of twelve years of education through high school. Failure to improve educational performance is thus not only poor social policy, it is poor economics.

At the turn of the century, only 10 percent of our adults had a high school or college education. Today such an education has become a requirement for an increasing number of jobs. Yet nearly 40 percent of our youths are dropping out before graduating from high school; only 43 percent of our adults have completed high school; only 8 percent of our adults have completed college; and only 16 percent of our young people are presently completing college. As my Science Advisory Committee has reported, one of our most serious manpower shortages is the lack of Ph.D.'s in engineering, science and mathematics; only about one half of 1 percent of our school age generation is achieving Ph.D. degrees in all fields.

This nation is committed to greater investment in economic growth; and recent research has shown that one of the most beneficial of all such investments is education, accounting for some 40 percent of the nation's growth and productivity in recent years. It is an investment which yields a substantial return in the higher wages and purchasing power of trained workers, in the new products and techniques which come from skilled minds and in the constant expansion of this nation's storehouse of useful knowledge.

In the new age of science and space, improved education is essential to give new meaning to our national purpose and power. In the last 20 years, mankind has acquired more scientific information than in all of previous history. Ninety percent of all the scientists that ever lived are alive and working today. Vast stretches of the unknown are being explored every day for military, medical, commercial and other reasons. And finally, the twisting course of the cold war requires a citizenry that understands our principles and problems. It requires skilled manpower and brainpower to match the power of totalitarian discipline. It requires a scientific effort which demonstrates the superiority of freedom. And it requires an electorate in every state with sufficiently broad horizons and sufficient maturity of judgment to guide this nation safely through whatever lies ahead.

In short, from every point of view, education is of paramount concern to the national interest as well as to each individual. Today we need a new standard of excellence in education, matched by the fullest possible access to educational opportunities, enabling each citizen to develop his talents to the maximum possible extent.

Our concern as a nation for the future of our children--and the growing demands of modern education which Federal financing is better able to assist--make it necessary to expand Federal aid to education beyond the existing limited number of special programs. We can no longer afford the luxury of endless debate over all the complicated and sensitive questions raised by each new proposal on Federal participation in education. To be sure, these are all hard problems--but this Nation has not come to its present position of leadership by avoiding hard problems. We are at a point in history when we must face and resolve these problems.

State and local governments and private institutions, responsive to individual and local circumstances, have admirably served larger national purposes as well. They have written a remarkable record of freedom of thought and independence of judgment; and they have, in recent years, devoted sharply increased resources to education. Total national outlays for education nearly trebled during the 1940's and more than doubled during the 1950's, reaching a level of nearly $25 billion in 1960. As a proportion of national income, this represented a rise from little more than 4 percent in 1940 to nearly 6 percent in 1960, an increase of over 40 percent in total effort.

But all this has not been enough. And the Federal Government--despite increasing recognition of education as a nationwide challenge, and despite the increased financial difficulties encountered by states, communities and private institutions in carrying this burden--has clearly not met its responsibilities in education. It has not offered sufficient help to our present educational system to meet its inadequacies and overcome its obstacles.

I do not say that the Federal Government should take over responsibility for education. That is neither desirable nor feasible. Instead its participation should be selective, stimulative and, where possible, transitional.

A century of experience with land-grant colleges has demonstrated that Federal financial participation can assist educational progress and growth without Federal control. In the last decade, experience with the National Science Foundation, with the National Defense Education Act, and with programs for assisting Federally affected school districts has demonstrated that Federal support can benefit education without leading to Federal control. The proper Federal role is to identify national education goals and to help local, state and private authorities build the necessary roads to reach those goals. Federal aid will enable our schools, colleges and universities to be more stable financially and therefore more independent.

These goals include the following:

--First, we must improve the quality of instruction provided in all of our schools and colleges. We must stimulate interest in learning in order to reduce the alarming number of students who now drop out of school or who do not continue into higher levels of education. This requires more and better teachers--teachers who can be attracted to and retained in schools and colleges only if pay levels reflect more adequately the value of the services they render. It also requires that our teachers and instructors be equipped with the best possible teaching materials and curricula. They must have at their command methods of instruction proven by thorough scientific research into the learning process and by careful experimentation.

--Second, our educational system faces a major problem of quantity--of coping with the needs of our expanding population and of the rising educational expectations for our children which all of us share as parents. Nearly 50 million people were enrolled in our schools and colleges in 1962--an increase of more than 50% since 1950. By 1970, college enrollment will nearly double, and secondary schools will increase enrollment by 50%--categories in which the cost of education, including facilities, is several times higher than in elementary schools.

--Third, we must give special attention to increasing the opportunities and incentives for all Americans to develop their talents to the utmost--to complete their education and to continue their self-development throughout life. This means preventing school dropouts, improving and expanding special educational services, and providing better education in slum, distressed and rural areas where the educational attainment of students is far below par. It means increased opportunities for those students both willing and intellectually able to advance their education at the college and graduate levels. It means increased attention to vocational and technical education, which have long been underdeveloped in both effectiveness and scope, to the detriment of our workers and our technological progress.

In support of these three basic goals, I am proposing today a comprehensive, balanced program to enlarge the Federal Government's investment in the education of its citizens--a program aimed at increasing the educational opportunities of potentially every American citizen, regardless of age, race, religion, income and educational achievement.

This program has been shaped to meet our goals on the basis of three fundamental guidelines:

A. An appraisal of the entire range of educational problems, viewing educational opportunity as a continuous life-long process, starting with pre-school training and extending through elementary and secondary schools, college, graduate education, vocational education, job training and retraining adult education, and such general community educational resources as the public library;

B. A selective application of Federal aid-aimed at strengthening, not weakening, the independence of existing school systems and aimed at meeting our most urgent education problems and objectives, including quality improvement; teacher training; special problems of slum, depressed, and rural areas; needy students; manpower shortage areas such as science and engineering; and shortages of educational facilities; and

C. More effective implementation of existing laws, as reflected in my recent Budget recommendations.

To enable the full range of educational needs to be considered as a whole, I am transmitting to the Congress with this Message a single, comprehensive education bill-the National Education Improvement Act of 1963. For education cannot easily or wisely be divided into separate parts. Each part is linked to the other. The colleges depend on the work of the schools; the schools depend on the colleges for teachers; vocational and technical education is not separate from general education. This bill recalls the posture of Jefferson: "Nobody can doubt my zeal for the general instruction of the people. I never have proposed a sacrifice of the primary to the ultimate grade of instruction. Let us keep our eye steadily on the whole system."

In order that its full relation to economic growth, to the new age of science, to the national security, and to human and institutional freedom may be analyzed in proper perspective, this bill should be considered as a whole, as a combination of elements designed to solve problems that have no single solution.

This is not a partisan measure--and it neither includes nor rejects all of the features which have long been sought by the various educational groups and organizations. It is instead an attempt to launch a prudent and balanced program drawing upon the efforts of many past Congresses and the proposals of many members of both Houses and both political parties. It is solely an educational program, without trying to solve all other difficult domestic problems. It is clearly realistic in terms of its cost--and it is clearly essential to the growth and security of this country.



Our present American educational system was rounded on the principle that opportunity for education in this country should be available to all--not merely to those who have the ability to pay. In the past, this has meant free public elementary and secondary schools in every community--thereafter, Land Grant, State and municipal Colleges, and vocational education--and more recently, job re-training and specialized teachers for students with special educational problems.

Now a veritable tidal wave of students is advancing inexorably on our institutions of higher education, where the annual costs per student are several times as high as the cost of a high school education, and where these costs must be borne in large part by the student or his parents. Five years ago the graduating class of the secondary schools was 1.5 million; 5 years from now it will be 2.5 million. The future of these young people and the Nation rests in large part on their access to college and graduate education. For this country reserves its highest honors for only one kind of aristocracy-that which the Founding Fathers called "an aristocracy of achievement arising out of a democracy of opportunity."

Well over half of all parents with schoolage children expect them to attend college. But only one-third do so. Some 40% of those who enter college do not graduate, and only a small number continue into graduate and professional study. The lack of adequate aid to students plays a large part in this disturbing record.

Federal aid to college students is not new. More than 3 million World War II and Korean conflict veterans have received $6 billion in Federal funds since 1944 to assist them to attend college.

Additionally, the National Defense Education Act college student loan program has aided more than 300,000 students in more than 1,500 institutions who have borrowed nearly $220 million. In 4 years of operations, defaults have totaled only $700 while repayment rates are more than twice that required by law.

But as effective as this program has been, it has not fulfilled its original objective of assuring that "no student of ability will be denied an opportunity for higher education because of financial need." The institutional ceiling of $250,000 per year on the Federal contribution limits loan funds in at least 98 of the presently participating institutions. The annual statutory ceiling of 190 million on Federal appropriations restricts the size of the program. As a result, only about 5 per cent of the students enrolled in participating colleges are assisted. Additionally, the forgiveness feature for teachers is rendered less attractive as well as less meaningful by excluding those who go on to teach in colleges, private schools or on overseas military posts. This proven program must be enlarged and strengthened.

Other types of assistance are needed. For students who cannot meet the financial criteria under the NDEA loan program, a loan insurance program--drawing on techniques well established by the FHA and other Federal Programs--would encourage banks and other institutions to loan more money for educational purposes.

Moreover, many students from families with limited incomes cannot and should not carry a heavy burden of debt. They must rely largely on income from employment while in college. For these students, the Federal Government should--as it did in the days of the National Youth Administration-help colleges provide additional student work opportunities of an educational character.

A serious barrier to increased graduate study is the lack of adequate financial aid for graduate students. Only 1,500 fellowships are permitted annually under the National Defense Education Act program, upon which we are dependent for urgently needed increases in the number of college teachers and the number of graduate students pursuing other courses essential to the Nation's advancement and security. The National Science Foundation has broad authority for fellowships and training grants, but its program, too, has been restricted by limited appropriations. The President's Science Advisory Committee has predicted that the dramatically increasing demand for engineers, mathematicians, and physical scientists, will require that the output of Ph. D.'s in these fields alone be increased 2 1/2 times, to a total of 7,500 annually by 1970, and that the number of Masters degrees awarded annually be substantially increased. In all fields the need exceeds the supply of doctoral recipients. The shortage is particularly acute in college teaching, where at present rates the Nation will lack 90,000 doctoral degree holders by 1970. It is clearly contrary to the national interest to have the number of graduate students limited by the financial ability of those able and interested in pursuing advanced degrees. Fellowship programs can ease much of the financial burden and, most importantly, encourage and stimulate a fuller realization and utilization of our human resources.

The welfare and security of the Nation require that we increase our investment in financial assistance for college students both at undergraduate and graduate levels. In keeping with present needs and our traditions of maximum self-help, I recommend that the Congress enact legislation to:

I. Extend the National Defense Education Act student loan program, liberalize the repayment forgiveness for teachers, raise the ceiling on total appropriations and eliminate the limitation on amounts available to individual institutions.

2. Authorize a supplementary new program of Federal insurance for commercial loans made by banks and other institutions to college students for educational purposes.

3. Establish a new work-study program for needy college students unable to carry too heavy a loan burden, providing up to half the pay for students employed by the colleges in work of an educational character--as, for example, laboratory, library or research assistants.

4. Increase the number of National Defense Education Act fellowships to be awarded by the Office of Education from 1,500 to 12,000, including summer session awards.

5. Authorize a thorough survey and evaluation of the need for scholarships or additional financial assistance to undergraduate students so that any further action needed in this area can be considered by the next Congress.

6. In addition, as part of this program to increase financial assistance to students, the 1964 budget recommendations for the National Science Foundation, which are already before the Congress, include a proposed increase of 835 million to expand the number of fellowships and new teaching grants for graduate study from 2,800 in 1963 to 8,%o in fiscal 1964.


Aid to college students will be to no avail if there are insufficient college classrooms. The long-predicted crisis in higher education facilities is now at hand. For the next 15 years, even without additional student aid, enrollment increases in colleges will average 340,000 each year. If we are to accommodate the projected enrollment of more than 7 million college students by 1970--a doubling during the decade--$23 billion of new facilities will be needed, more than 3 times the quantity built during the preceding decade. This means that, unless we are to deny higher education opportunities to our youth, American colleges and universities must expand their academic facilities at a rate much faster than their present resources will permit.

In many colleges, students with adequate modern dormitories and living quarters-thanks to the College Housing Act--are crammed in outmoded, overcrowded classrooms, laboratories, and libraries. Even now it is too late to provide these facilities to meet the sharp increases in college enrollment expected during the next two years. Further delay will aggravate an already critical situation.

I recommend, therefore, the prompt enactment of a program to provide loans to public and non-profit private institutions of higher education for construction of urgently needed academic facilities.

The opportunity for a college education is severely limited for hundreds of thousands of young people because there is no college in their own community. Studies indicate that the likelihood of going to college on the part of a high school graduate who lives within 20-25 miles of a college is 50 percent greater than it is for the student who lives beyond commuting distance. This absence of college facilities in many communities causes an unfortunate waste of some of our most promising youthful talent. A demonstrated method of meeting this particular problem effectively is the creation of 2-year community colleges--a program that should be undertaken without delay and which will require Federal assistance for the construction of adequate facilities.

I recommend, therefore, a program of grants to States for construction of public community junior colleges.

There is an especially urgent need for college level training of technicians to assist scientists, engineers, and doctors. Although ideally 1 scientist or engineer should have the backing of 2 or 3 technicians, our institutions today are not producing even 1 technician for each 3 science and engineering graduates. This shortage results in an inefficient use of professional manpower--the occupation of critically needed time and talent to perform tasks which could be performed by others--an extravagance which cannot be tolerated when the nation's demand for scientists, engineers, and doctors continues to grow. Failure to give attention to this matter will impede the objectives of the graduate and post-graduate training programs mentioned below.

I recommend, therefore, a program of grants to aid public and private non-profit institutions in the training of scientific, engineering and medical technicians in 2-year college-level programs, covering up to 50% of the cost of constructing and equipping as well as operating the necessary academic facilities.

Special urgency exists for expanding the capacity for the graduate training of engineers, scientists and mathematicians. The President's Science Advisory Committee has recently reported that an unprecedented acceleration in the production of advanced degrees is immediately necessary to increase our national capability in these fields. Added facilities, larger faculties, and new institutions are needed. I have recommended, therefore, in the proposed 1964 budget already before the Congress, a strengthening of the National Science Foundation matching grant program for institutions of higher education to expand and improve graduate and undergraduate science facilities.

Because today's trend in colleges and universities is toward less lecturing and more independent study, the college and university library becomes even more essential in the life of our students. Today, as reported by the American Library Association, nearly all college libraries are urgently in need of additional books, periodicals, scientific reports and similar materials to accommodate the growing number of students and faculty. Additionally, they need buildings, equipment and publications to serve their academic communities, whether public or private.

I recommend the authorization of Federal grants to institutions of higher education for library materials and construction, on a broad geographic basis, with priority to those most urgently requiring expansion and improvement.

Expansion of high quality graduate education and research in all fields is essential to national security and economic growth. Means of increasing our supply of highly trained professional personnel to match the rapidly growing demands of teaching, industry, government, and research warrants our interest and support.

We need many more graduate centers, and they should be better distributed geographically. Three quarters of all doctoral degrees are granted by a handful of universities located in r2 States. The remaining States with half our population produce only one-fourth of the Ph.D.'s.

New industries increasingly gravitate to or are innovated by strong centers of learning and research. The distressed area of the future may well be one which lacks centers of graduate education and research. It is in the national interest to encourage establishment of these critically needed centers of advanced learning, especially in parts of the nation now lacking them.

I recommend enactment of a Federal grant program administered by the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare for the development and expansion of new graduate centers. I also urge appropriation of the increased funds requested in my 1964 budget for expansion of the National Science Foundation program of science development grants, which will also contribute to strengthening of graduate education.

Our experience under the National Defense Education Act with respect to modern language and area centers has demonstrated that Federal aid can spur development of intellectual talent. They deserve our continuing support, with assurance that resources will be available for orderly expansion in keeping with availability of teaching talent.

I recommend that the current Modern Foreign Language program aiding public and private institutions of higher learning be extended and expanded.


A basic source of knowledge is research. Industry has long realized this truth. Health and agriculture have established the worth of systematic research and development. But research in education has been astonishingly meager and frequently ignored. A fraction of one percent of this Nation's total expenditures for education is now devoted to such research. It is appalling that so little is known about the level of performance, comparative value of alternative investments and specialized problems of our educational system--and that it lags behind, sometimes by as much as twenty or even fifty years, in utilizing the results of research and keeping abreast of man's knowledge in all fields, including education itself.

Highest priority must be given to strengthening our educational research efforts, including a substantial expansion of the course content improvement programs which the Government has supported, particularly through the National Science Foundation. Two interrelated actions are necessary:

1. I have recommended appropriations in the 1964 budget for substantially expanding the National Science Foundation science and mathematics course materials program and the Office of Education educational research program.

2. I recommend legislation to broaden the Cooperative Research Act to authorize support of centers for multipurpose educational research, and for development and demonstration programs; and to broaden the types of educational agencies eligible to conduct research.

The second step to improvement of educational quality is teacher training. The quality of education is determined primarily by the quality of the teacher. Yet one out of every 5 teachers in the United States has either not been certified by his State as qualified to teach or failed to complete 4 years of college study. In the field of English, between 40 and 60 percent of the secondary school teachers lack even the minimum requirement of a college major in that subject. Thus it is not surprising that, largely because of unsatisfactory elementary and secondary school instruction, our colleges and universities are now required to spend over $10 million annually on remedial English courses.

The lack of teacher quality and preparation in other fields is equally disturbing. More than two-thirds of our 1.6 million teachers completed their degree work more than 5 years ago. Yet, within the past 5 years, major advances have been made--not only in the physical, biological, engineering and mathematical sciences, but also in specialized branches of the social sciences, the arts and humanities, and in the art of teaching itself.

In addition, we lack sufficient trained teachers for 6 million handicapped children and youth, including 1.5 million mentally retarded and another 1.5 million with very serious social and emotional problems. Only through special classes, taught by specially trained teachers, can these children prepare for rehabilitation, employment and community participation. Yet less than one-fourth of these children now have access to the special education they require, primarily because of the lack of qualified special teachers, college instructors, research personnel, and supervisors. It is estimated that 75,000 special teachers--55,000 more than presently available--are needed for the mentally retarded alone.

The teacher training support programs of the National Science Foundation and the Office of Education have demonstrated their value.

I recommend, therefore:

--That the National Science Foundation program for training institutes for teachers in the natural sciences, mathematics, engineering and social sciences be expanded to provide for upgrading the knowledge and skills of 46,000 teachers, as provided in my 1964 budget recommendations;

--that new legislation be enacted to (a) broaden authority for teacher institutes financed by the Office of Education, now restricted to school guidance counselors and language teachers, to other academic fields; (b) authorize a program of project grants to help colleges and universities improve their teacher preparation programs by upgrading academic courses and staff, by encouraging the selection and retention of their most talented prospective teachers, and by attracting and training teachers from new sources such as retired military personnel or women whose family responsibilities permit them to teach; and (c) authorize training grants through colleges and universities for teachers and other education personnel requiring specialized training, with particular emphasis on the training of teachers of the mentally retarded and other handicapped children, teachers of gifted or culturally deprived children, teachers of adult literacy, librarians, and educational researchers.


Improved research and teacher training are not enough, if good teachers do not choose to teach. Yet present salary schedules in some cases are too low at the start to compete against other positions available to college graduates. In almost all cases, they are too low at the top to retain our ablest young teachers. Without sufficient incentive to make teaching a lifetime career, teachers with valuable training and experience but heavy family responsibilities too often become frustrated and drop out of the profession. Their children may never try to enter. Although teachers' salaries have generally improved in the nation in recent years, there are still districts which have starting salaries below $3,000.

Good teachers, moreover, need good schools. Last year, over 1,500,000 children were in overcrowded classrooms and an estimated two million others were studying amid grossly sub-standard health and safety conditions. In many areas school dropouts, or the education of the economically disadvantaged, the culturally deprived, the physically or mentally handicapped, and the gifted require specially designed programs which simply are not available.

I am not the first, but I hope to be the last, President to be compelled to call these needless shortcomings to the nation's attention. These are national problems crossing State boundaries, and deserving of national attention. In our mobile population--where every year one out of five families moves, sometimes across the street, but often across State lines--every family has reason to make teaching in every State a more rewarding and productive profession, and to help every State strengthen its public elementary and secondary education, particularly in those school districts that are financially unable to keep up.

Yet let us face the fact that the Federal Government cannot provide all the financial assistance needed to solve all of the problems mentioned. Instead of a general aid approach that could at best create a small wave in a huge ocean, our efforts should be selective and stimulative, encouraging the States to redouble their efforts under a plan that would phase out Federal aid over a four year period.

I recommend, therefore, a four-year program to provide $1.5 billion to assist States in undertaking under their own State plans selective and urgent improvements in public elementary and secondary education including: (1) increasing starting and maximum teacher salaries, and increasing average teacher salaries in economically disadvantaged areas; (2) constructing classrooms in areas of critical and dangerous shortage; and (3) initiating pilot, experimental, or demonstration projects to meet special educational problems, particularly in slums and depressed rural and urban areas.

I also recommend extension of the National Defense Education Act programs which contribute to improving the quality of elementary and secondary education. Grants for testing, guidance, and counseling programs should be expanded and continued beyond the 1964 expiration date. This program has great relevance for the detection of incipient problems which inhibit learning and for development of the talents of our youth. N.D.E.A. assistance for science, mathematics and foreign language laboratory equipment--which is essential for adequate educational programs using newly developed teaching methods--should also be continued beyond 1964.

Finally, in regard to elementary and secondary schools, I recommend a four-year continuation of those portions of the federally affected area laws which expire June 30, 1963. These statutes now assist some 4,000 school districts located in every State, which together enroll one-third of all public elementary and secondary school pupils in the Nation. Almost 60,000 critically needed classrooms have been constructed at a cost of $1.15 billion to house more than 1,700,000 pupils; and school operating budgets have been supplemented by more than $1.7 billion. For fiscal 1964 the present provisions would be extended. Limited modifications of the existing provisions, which would take effect beginning in 1965, would overcome certain inequities demonstrated by past experience. Also, the District of Columbia should be added to the jurisdictions eligible to participate.


Since the war-time Administration of President Woodrow Wilson, Congress has recognized the national necessity of widespread vocational education. Although revised and extended frequently since 1917, the national vocational education acts are no longer adequate. Many once-familiar occupations have declined or disappeared and wholly new industries and jobs have emerged from economic growth and change. The complexities of modern science and technology require training at a higher level than ever before.

For this reason, 2 years ago I requested the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare to convene an expert and representative committee to review and evaluate the present vocational education laws and to make recommendations for their modernization. The report of that Committee, shows the need for providing new training opportunities--in occupations which have relevance to contemporary America--to 21 million youth now in grade school who will enter the labor market without a college degree during the 1960's. These youth--representing more than 80 percent of the population between the ages of 16 and 21--will be entering the labor market at a time when the need for unskilled labor is sharply diminishing. It is equally necessary to provide training or retraining for the millions of workers who need to learn new skills or whose skills and technical knowledge must be updated.

Both budgetary action and enactment of new legislation is called for. In my 1964 budget I have recommended funds which would permit doubling the number of workers to be trained by the Manpower Development and Training Act programs. These programs have, in their brief existence, ready enrolled more than 18,000 men, women, and out-of-school youths who are being trained in occupations where jobs are available.

In addition, I recommend legislation to:

(a) Expand the scope and level of vocational education programs supported through the Office of Education by replacing the Vocational Education Act of 1946 with new grant-in-aid legislation aimed at meeting the needs of individuals in all age groups for vocational training in occupations where they can find employment in today's diverse labor markets, and

(b) Provide employment and training opportunities for unemployed youth in conservation and local public service projects. The details of this latter proposal are contained in a separate bill--the Youth Employment Opportunities Act--and will be discussed in a later message to be sent to the Congress.


Education need not and should not end upon graduation at any level. An increasing number of Americans recognize the need and the value of continuing education. The accountant, the salesman, the merchant, the skilled and semi-skilled worker, all interested in self-improvement, should all be afforded the opportunity of securing up-to-date knowledge and skills. Only one American in eight has even taken as much as one college course. Yet the State universities and land-grant colleges which offer the majority of extension or part-time courses enroll less than a half million people. Due to inadequate finances and facilities, these colleges can offer only a very limited adult education program.

I recommend legislation authorizing Federal grants to States for expanding university extension courses in land-grant colleges and State universities. Despite our high level of educational opportunity and attainment, nearly 23 million adult Americans lack an eighth grade education. They represent a staggering economic and cultural loss to their families and the Nation. I recommend again, as part of this comprehensive bill, a program to assist all States in offering literacy and basic education courses to adults.

The public library is also an important resource for continuing education. But 18 million people in this nation still have no access to any local public library service and over 110 million more have only inadequate service.

Advanced age, lack of space, and lack of modern equipment characterize American public library buildings in 1963. Their rate of replacement is barely noticeable: 2 per cent in a decade. There are now no Carnegie funds available for libraries--nor have there been for 40 years.

The public library building is usually one of the oldest governmental structures in use in any community. In one prosperous midwestern State, for example, 30 percent of all public library buildings were built before the year 1910, and 85 percent were erected before 1920. Many other States are in a similar situation.

I recommend enactment of legislation to amend the Library Services Act by authorizing a 3-year program of grants for urban as well as rural libraries and for construction as well as operation.


In all the years of our national life, the American people--in partnership with their governments--have continued to insist that "the means of education shall forever be encouraged," as the Continental Congress affirmed in the Northwest Ordinance. Fundamentally, education is and must always be a local responsibility, for it thrives best when nurtured at the grassroots of our democracy. But in our .present era of economic expansion, population growth and technological advance, State, local, and private efforts are insufficient. These efforts must be reinforced by national support, if American education is to yield a maximum of individual development and national well-being.

The necessity of this program does not rest on the course of the cold war. Improvement in education is essential to our nation's development without respect to what others are doing. Nevertheless, it is worthwhile noting that the Soviet Union recognizes that educational effort in the 1960's will have a major effect on a nation's power, progress and status in the 1970's and 1980's. According to a recent report prepared for the National Science Foundation, Soviet institutions of higher education are graduating 3 times as many engineers and 4 times as many physicians as the United States. While trailing behind this country in aggregate annual numbers of higher education graduates, the Soviets are maintaining an annual flow of scientific and technical professional manpower more than twice as large as our own. At the same time, they have virtually eliminated illiteracy, with a 23-fold increase since the turn of the century in the proportion of persons with an education beyond the 7th grade. This nation's devotion to education is surely sufficient to excel the achievements of any other nation or system.

The program here proposed is reasonable and yet far-reaching. It offers Federal assistance without Federal control. It provides for economic growth, manpower development and progress toward our educational and humanitarian objectives. It encourages the increase of the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and critical intelligence necessary for the preservation of our society. It will help keep America strong and safe and free. I strongly recommend it to the Congress for high priority action.


John F. Kennedy, Special Message to the Congress on Education. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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