Conversation About Access Can’t Stop at Affordability

As Congress looks to reauthorize the Higher Education Act, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan Monday outlined the department’s intent to shift the focus in higher education to addressing issues around student success.

At a panel discussion hosted at the University of Maryland at Baltimore County, Duncan said that the focus on student success is “not just an economic imperative, but a moral necessity.”

“Ensuring the opportunity of college success for all students who are willing to work hard is a core tenet of the American covenant,” he said. “Unfortunately, for millions of … students, our higher education system isn’t delivering what they need, or deserve. As a nation, we can change that—and we must.”

“The challenge we face is easy to articulate, if not to solve. Today, the critical ticket to the middle class is a degree. … The simple fact is every hardworking student in this country must have a real opportunity to achieve a meaningful, affordable degree. America’s prosperity, our democracy and our identity as the land of opportunity and social mobility depend on it. … The idea for the past century that public education only goes from kindergarten to high school is over,” said Duncan, saying education must begin much earlier—in preschool—and continues through to ensuring post-secondary success.

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