President Obama Wants to Improve College Access, Costs and Grad Rates

The President mentions Education Datapalooza, a gathering of 500 experts, in his State of the Union Address.

This past Tuesday, President Obama participated in a long-standing American tradition, the State of the Union Address. Within his Address, the President had a lot to say about the state of the American education system.

In fact, he opened with a statistic that “America’s graduation rate [is at] its highest levels in more than three decades.” A success the President attached later in his speech to student loan reforms over the last 5 years.

However, for decades, the tuition rates in America have increased faster than incomes can bear. If the President wants to ensure that higher education is not a luxury for the privileged, but a medium for everyone, then more reform is needed.

“It’s not enough to train today’s work force, we also have to prepare tomorrow’s workforce by guaranteeing every child access to world class education,” he said. He was also quick to mention that “last month thanks to the work of Democrats and Republicans, Congress finally produced a budget that undoes some of last year’s severe cuts to priorities like education.”

He hopes this boost will make “big strides in preparing students with the skills for the new economy: problem solving, critical thinking, science, technology, engineering, math.” After all, he adds that “Research shows that one of the best investments we can make in a child’s life is high quality early education.”

He added that “we’re shaking up our system of higher education to give parents more information, and colleges more incentive to offer better value so that no middle class kid is priced out of a college education. We’re offering millions the opportunity to cap their monthly student loan payments to 10% of their income.”

To that end, perhaps one of the most important announcements was that “the White House just organized a college opportunity summit where already 150 universities, businesses, [and] non-profits have made concrete commitments to reduce inequality and access to higher education and to help every hard working kid go to college and succeed where they get to campus.”

The summit he is likely speaking of is “Education Datapalooza,” A collection of 500 private sector representatives and education experts up to the challenge of tackling these cost, retention and availability issues.

The announcement comes in the wake of President Obama’s plan for affordable education this past August, and PCAST’s recommendation to the President on MOOCs. It is worth noting that in their report, PCAST recommended regulation flexibility, and it appears this didn’t fall on deaf ears. Innovations in technologies like MOOCs and online education are essential to the Administration’s plans for the private sector.

At the summit, tools for college selection, online education and new education paths were developed and/or showcased. The Administration points out that it is important these tools facilitate education while maintaining the safety of users’ private information. These technologies also tend to use the freely available education material from the Department of Education and the Federal government.

One featured representative at the Datapalooza was the Student Success Academy. Their goal is to match students with career paths in order to improve upon the average 38 minutes a student will have with their guidance counsellor deciding the fate of their future.

Another invited organization is Harvard’s Center for Teaching and Learning. They offer certification to instructors and students to better reflect on their performance.

I only wonder who will be present to represent the student body?

Sources 1, 2, The 2014 State of the Union Address

Written by

Shawn Wasserman

For over 10 years, Shawn Wasserman has informed, inspired and engaged the engineering community through online content. As a senior writer at WTWH media, he produces branded content to help engineers streamline their operations via new tools, technologies and software. While a senior editor at, Shawn wrote stories about CAE, simulation, PLM, CAD, IoT, AI and more. During his time as the blog manager at Ansys, Shawn produced content featuring stories, tips, tricks and interesting use cases for CAE technologies. Shawn holds a master’s degree in Bioengineering from the University of Guelph and an undergraduate degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Waterloo.