With the 2012 presidential elections around the corner, young voters have a lot to keep an ear out for, especially when the topic of education is discussed. With tuition fees on the rise while government grants seem insufficient to avoid costly college debts, students should be paying close attention to what candidates and the government are saying about education reform.
This week, President Obama sat down with NBC News for the network's 2012 "Education Nation" Summit to talk about the future of the country's education system, why teacher bashing, like what occurred during the recent Chicago strike, needs to stop and why our best interests should lie in student achievement and providing educators with the tools necessary to meet these goals.
"The best education is one where kids learn how to learn, and they learn how to think for themselves," Obama said. "And my entire goal as a parent is the same goal I've got as parent — president, which is to make sure that every child out here is equipped to compete and to be good citizens in an environment that is changing so fast that you know, what you need to be able to do is to constantly take in new information, adapt it, analyze it, use it."
"And I think that we have all the ingredients we need to succeed in this competitive environment," the president continued. "But it does mean that we've got more work to do at the local level. And hopefully the federal government can be helpful. We can't do it all. We only count for 10% of education funding. But I think that we can leverage the resources we have to make sure that schools are making a difference."
Obama proposes hiring new teachers who are well-trained in their subjects of expertise "as opposed to just being thrown into the classroom without the kind of preparation they need." He also sees the value in introducing early childhood education in low-income communities and decreasing the amount of student loan money going towards banks to increase direct assistance to students via Pell Grants instead.
The NBC summit coincided with the White House's summit focusing on strengthening historically black colleges and universities. As the minority population in the U.S. increases, the HBCU system is in need of more funding to continue providing quality education for first generation black and Latino students. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, between 2000 and 2010, the percentage of Black college students rose from 11.3 to 14.5 and the percentage of Hispanic college students rose from 9.5 to 13.0. And despite having access to top-tier schools in the country, data shows that some feel more comfortable attending an HBCU instead.
Thankfully, several HBCU institutions have become similar to those of the Ivy League in their own right. Xavier College boasts a 77 percent acceptance rate of its graduates into medical school while Howard University has the most Blacks with doctorate degrees in the nation. In an attempt to overturn the costly effects budget cuts have had on them, the U.S. Department of Education announced that 97 HBCUs will receive $227.9 million in federal funding for grants.
"HBCU's have made enduring, even staggering contributions to American life despite the steep financial challenges many have faced," U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a press release earlier this month. "The grants will help these important institutions continue to provide their students with the quality education they need to compete in the global economy."
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