In a speech delivered before a joint session of Congress, President Obama called for every American to complete at least one year of postsecondary education and pledged greater financial support for those attending college. He also urged that America become the "best educated" nation and set the goal of having the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020.
In addition to healthcare and alternative energy, the president declared education to be a top priority for improving America's economy and its place in the world. He called on families, schools, and Congress to embrace this priority, and to better prepare citizens for careers that increasingly require some amount of education or training beyond high school.
President Obama promised greater funding for higher education in the federal budget for 2010. This may include the educational tax benefits he advocated in his campaign, as well as other increases to federal student financial aid. He once again mentioned community service or other national service as requirements for future financial aid.
In addition to pledging greater state support, he also asked for an individual commitment by each American to not only graduate from high school, but to set college goals and attend a college, university, community college, or vocational training program for at least one year. In addition to helping people succeed individually, greater education and training can lead to greater success for society.
Obviously, problems with paying for school will not disappear overnight. But with help from schools and the government, individuals who work hard and make higher education a priority can reap the benefits, despite the challenges that remain.