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Arthur Levine on State of the Union

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FOR RELEASE: Tuesday, January 30, 2018

CONTACT: Patrick Riccards | [email protected]  |  (703) 298-8283

Arthur Levine: Education Is Just as Essential to 

Tonight’s State of the Union As Economy

PRINCETON, NJ (January 30, 2018) – During tonight’s State of the Union address, President Donald J. Trump’s domestic agenda will likely focus on jobs and economic renewal.. But this first State of the Union for President Trump offers the opportunity to also highlight one policy issue capable of driving employment and economic growth – higher education.

While education is typically not a major focus of such presidential addresses to Congress, postsecondary education can serve as a unifying subject, uniting the right and the left, urban and rural communities, employers and employees. Reflecting on past State of the Union speeches and the concerns currently facing students today, Arthur Levine, president of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation and former president of Teachers College Columbia University, today offered some thoughts Trump should consider before addressing the nation.

“Ultimately, higher education is the engine that drives jobs, economic renewal, and success. Following World War II, the GI Bill created an incredibly strong pipeline of well-educated individuals to fill the jobs created during the height of the industrial era,” Levine said. “Because of postsecondary learning opportunities, the generations that followed all saw the possibility of doing better, economicallys, , than the generations before it. And all were able to gain the skills and knowledge necessary to thrive in the new jobs created in an ever-changing economy.”

“Today, we have families that are questioning the value of higher education, both in terms of cost and return on investment. These families still must understand that, in our rapidly evolving digital, information economy, postsecondary education is now a non-negotiable to succeed in the workforce and be a productive part of the economic renewal President Trump seeks,” Levine said.

“The President must be bold when it comes to the State of the Union and the role education can play in the strengthening our our nation, both economically and societally. To do that, Trump must think beyond the limitations of past federal action on higher education, using his bully pulpit to raise both the profile and expectations of higher education, both today and tomorrow,” Levine continued.

“That means following the lead of states like Tennessee and New York and offering two years of ‘free’ college so that today’s students can gain the needed higher-level skills sought by forward-thinking employers. By expanding access to postsecondary learning opportunities, we can dramatically increase the re-training and upskilling necessary to fill the millions of jobs that have been lost to automation, or remain unfilled  for lack of skilled workers, and are yet to be created” Levine said.

“It means in creating income-contingent financial aid and capping tuition price increases, while providing relief from student loan debt,” Levine noted. “At the same time, we must deny recognition and access to financial aid to those colleges and universities with rock-bottom outcomes. After all, to goal of college is to educate.”

“We must also invest in innovation and change, with our colleges and universities serving as one of the sparks to launch our next-generation economy,” Levine said. “Our current higher education system was created for the Industrial Age, and for the jobs created for the industrial economy. Higher education must be given the flexibility and the incentive to make the changes necessary to prepare Americans for the jobs that will be created in our digital, information economy.”

“At a time of continued division on virtually every policy issue, education can and should be a great unifier. The greatest economic transformations in our country, the most significant gains in jobs and income growth, were spurred by higher education investment. As we look to the future, we must not lose sight of this history,” Levine concluded.

 

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About the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation

Founded in 1945, the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation (www.woodrow.org) identifies and develops the nation’s best minds to meet its most critical challenges. The Foundation supports its Fellows as the next generation of leaders shaping American society.


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