CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Strengthening Our Economy Through College for All
Career College Central Summary:
The nation’s economy demands that workers possess increasing levels of knowledge, skills, and abilities that are best acquired through postsecondary education. Without workers who have the right foundations, the United States will lose ground to countries that have prepared better for the demands of the 21st century workforce and, ultimately, the United States economy and security will be jeopardized. It is time for a new plan—what CAP calls College for All—to ensure that Americans are prepared to meet the demands of the new global economy.
On January 9, President Barack Obama announced a plan that would go a long way toward making this goal a reality by making community college free for nearly all students. In a recent report, the Commission on Inclusive Prosperity called for taking even more aggressive action to ensure that every American has access to two-year or four-year programs of postsecondary education. Under this College for All proposal, the federal government would ensure that any student attending public college or university would not be asked to pay any tuition and fees during enrollment. Students and families will not need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid to receive support from the federal government. Students who achieve significant economic gains from the education they receive would repay some or all of the funds provided through the tax system.
A recent study by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce found that at current levels of production, the U.S. economy will have a shortfall of 5 million college-educated workers by 2020. This gap is unsurprising. By 2020, 65 percent of all jobs will require bachelor’s or associate’s degrees or some other education beyond high school, particularly in the fastest growing occupations—science, technology, engineering, mathematics, health care, and community service. Although the U.S. economy is demanding workers with increasing levels of education beyond high school, the postsecondary educational attainment rate has changed very little over the past decade, while other countries have made more significant gains in postsecondary educational attainment. Adults in the United States between the ages of 55 and 64 are the third most educated among the 34 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, or OECD, countries that are competitors for future jobs. Meanwhile, young adults in the United States ranked 10th in terms of their rate of postsecondary education credentials among OECD peers.
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CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS