President Obama’s health care and student loan victories have overshadowed the collapse of another key domestic priority: helping more students graduate from college, writes The New Republic’s Kevin Carey. Because of last-minute political developments, the administration allowed negotiators of the reconciliation bill to strip out a “smart, progressive” package of reforms that could have helped millions of low- and moderate-income students earn college degrees. “The administration now has no plausible agenda to reach its much-lauded goal of having the United States regain the international lead in the proportion of college graduates by 2020,” writes Carey. “The danger is that, in the flush of success offered by student loan reform, it will pretend otherwise.” The $12 billion plan would have been the foundation of a new multi-year effort to work with governors, legislators, universities, and community colleges to help millions more earn valuable higher-education credentials. It included new support for cash-strapped community colleges and an unprecedented push for states to hold colleges accountable for helping students learn and get degrees. Currently, 34 million Americans over age 24 report their highest level of education as “some college, no degree.”
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Obama will hold a summitt meeting this fall on community colleges that may lead to a new political strategy to improve college completion, but it also may merely end up as a discussion with scant follow up.