"Every capable, hard-working, and responsible student should be able to afford to go to college. That's not a Democratic dream or a Republican one. It's the American Dream," Duncan will say.
Today, the Administration released new numbers showing college attainment state-by-state based on census bureau data from 2009 to 2010. All told, the percentage of 25-34 year olds with some kind of postsecondary degree rose half a percentage point from 38.8 percent to 39.3 percent. America used to be No. 1 in the world for the percentage of adults with college degrees but has recently slid to 16th. President Obama has called for America to increase the number of degree-holders to 60 percent by the end of the decade.
"To meet the president's goal for America to become No. 1 in the world for college graduates all of us—the federal government, states, and institutions—must work together. We've made some progress, but the combination of deep state budget cuts and rising tuition prices is pushing an affordable college education out of reach for middle class families," Duncan will say. "As the President has said, the countries that out-educate today will out-compete us tomorrow. The federal government has done a tremendous amount to increase the amount of aid available to students. But we need states and institutions to meet us halfway by doing more to keep college costs down."
While 40 states have cut funding for higher education in the past year and tuition at four-year public universities has risen 15 percent on average in the last two years, Duncan plans to highlight states that are doing a good job of controlling costs and boosting completion.
He will also discuss the Administration's record in keeping college affordable, including boosting Pell Grant funding, streamlining the student aid system, and maintaining interest rates on federal subsidized Stafford loans at 3.4 percent.
Finally, at the NGA meeting, Duncan and his predecessor Margaret Spellings will discuss the status of reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (No Child Left Behind) and the Administration's ongoing efforts to offer temporary flexibility to states from the law in exchange for a commitment to high standards, teacher effectiveness and accountability.