In his address to the National Urban League Wednesday evening in New Orleans, President Barack Obama announced that he will be launching an education initiative to help African American students.
Obama plans to sign an executive order to create a new office, the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for African Americans.
This new office will be in charge of coordinating the efforts of communities with those of the federal government to provide African Americans “a complete and competitive education from the time they’re born all through the time they get a career,” said the President.
This cradle-to-career plan is the first ever executive order to help African Americans, but not an unprecedented step to help a minority group. In 1990, President George H.W. Bush issued an executive order on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans, which was renewed by presidents Clinton and George W. Bush. Obama renewed this order in December of 2011 by appointing Jose Rico as Executive Director for a White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans.
In his speech, Obama stressed the rising cost of college education as a major barrier to education access for young Americans, saying “A higher education in a 21st century cannot be a luxury. It is a vital necessity that every American should be able to afford.” With over one trillion dollars in outstanding student loans, and almost 90 percent of them being federal student loans, our need to borrow to afford college and subsequent failure to pay back loans has put further strain on federal finances.
In a speech at University of Michigan in January, Obama told the Ann Arbor crowd, “We can’t keep subsidizing skyrocketing tuition…No matter how much we subsidize it, sooner or later we’re going to run out of money.” His executive order to help African Americans demonstrates his commitment to using strategies outside of direct subsidies to improve our quality of, and access to, education.
Despite education policy hits and misses, the Obama administration continues taking steps to improve our education system. Last week, he released his plans for the master science and math teacher program. This week the administration released a college-shopping sheet to help less financially literate students make more informed decisions about college costs in the face of rising tuition.
After the announcement about the education initiative for African American students, Obama’s demeanor got more serious. He stressed that students also need to fulfill their end of the bargain. He jokingly mentioned that American students need to stop watching The Real Housewives and get serious about competing with kids from China and India. Check out an excerpt of his speech in this video.
What do you think of Obama’s education initiative? Tell us in comments?