College Board State Capitals Campaign

on College Completion Kick-Off

January 31, 2011

Annapolis, MD

As Delivered

 

Thank you very, very much, Chancellor Kirwin for your leadership and your discerning judgment of who’s on the side of education. It is great to be with all of you.

I said to Chancellor Kirwin as I was coming in – somewhat late I apologize, I had a shorter distance to travel than all of you so that’s my excuse – but I said I think the most important part of the meeting just concluded, and that is the part of the meeting when I heard that buzz, that energy that’s in this room because of our great leaders of our colleges and universities and community colleges all being in the same place, all being able to talk about what a privilege it really is, especially in tough times, to be able to strive and to work, and to find a way forward on something that’s as important as public education – the skills, the talents of our people. And it’s an honor to join you here today. I want to thank Governor Caperton, Dr. Grasmick, Dr. Bell, Senator Kasemeyer, Delegate Bohanan, Dr. Dukes, Dr. Wilson, Dr. Hrabowski, and all of you for being here and for taking the time.

We are very honored in our state to be chosen as the first stop on the College Board’s national tour – the very first stop, Annapolis. In Maryland, we’re happy to be able to share some of the strategies that we’re using to make sure that our kids get the skills, the knowledge that they need so that they can succeed … so that they can be winners in this change to a new economy.

Even in the toughest of times, as a state we’ve chosen to make record investments in public education. They’re investments we were making on our own for a couple of years and they were investments that President Obama and his courageous decision to act with the Recovery and Reinvestment Act helped us to make for the last two years. Now we’re at a point were we are starting to come out of this recession and we need to find a way to forge ahead in this new normal, where, yes, there’s fewer dollars, but there is greater need and whatever we might be doing right as a state it is tempered by the fact that we know other countries are doing more of it and they’re doing it faster and in some cases, with much larger populations than we are.

In every state every person matters – no such thing as a spare American we want to maximize the talents of all of our people. Right now, 50 cents out of every state general fund dollar goes to public education. Fifty cents out of every dollar. Thirty-seven cents goes to K-12 education, 13 cents goes to higher education. We now spend more on higher education – college, community colleges – than we do on public safety as a State.

We understand as a people that our economic future is tied to how well we prepare our people. I thought President Obama said it very clearly, very plainly and very well, that if we’re going to compete in a global economy we have got to do a better job educating, innovating and rebuilding our country.

In this changing new economy, we are in a fight for a children’s future. And the college completion agenda is something we’re very excited about in Maryland. This is something that our entire country needs to be engaged in, not just dreaming about, but we need to be engaged in bringing it to reality. We cannot win this fight for our children’s future unless we do a better job of educating more of our people, and college completion rates are a critical piece of that puzzle. I really want to thank all of you in the University of Maryland systems and our community colleges for the work that you are doing.

In the new economy, a high school diploma will no longer be enough. Over the next seven years, 66% – two out of three Maryland jobs – will require some level of training beyond high school, whether that’s a certificate, associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree or beyond. As a country, we are now falling behind other countries in high school and college graduation rates.

In Maryland, we believe we have a role in bringing our country back to the forefront. That’s always been how we’ve looked at our role as a revolutionary state, as a revolutionary people, and that’s true in this charge. To lead the way in educating our people we’ve set the important goal of becoming the first state in the country with 55% of its population achieving a degree beyond high school and we plan to do it by 2025.

The ways we are doing this are by making sure, number one, that our kids are prepared to succeed when they graduate from high school – making the largest investment we’ve ever made as a people in K-12 education.

That was last year. This year we are repeating, level funding albeit, but record funding for public education this year. And hopefully by the end of this session maybe there’ll be some opportunities to do even better. We’re focusing on closing the achievement gap so all our kids have better opportunities to succeed. We’re reinvigorating STEM education. We have achieved a 65% increase in the number of our high school students in Maryland schools that are taking and passing AP-level STEM related exams over the last four years. Science, technology, engineering and math are so critically important to our country’s future. Interesting thing about the president’s goals – innovating, educating, rebuilding … they all tie together, they’re all mutually reinforcing, and they all create jobs if we improve the way we do all of those things and do it in a much more impactful scale.

To make sure that all Marylanders can afford higher education we are the only state in the country that went four years in a row without a penny’s increase in college tuition. The 3% increase last year and this year is, I think, among the smallest in the country. And I challenge the press – who always love it when you challenge them – to find me a state that’s increased it less, even over the last two years when we’ve gone to inflationary increases.

We’ve also invested a record $462 million in tuition assistance and scholarships. The Milken Institute just came out with its rankings in states in science and technology, and among the various criteria that they looked at and measured was what we invest as a State in human capital. And Maryland was once again number one, not number two, not number three, not number four. We are number one in terms of the investment that we’ve been willing to make in the talents and education of our people.

We’ve increased funding for community colleges by 37% over the prior four years, and yet we know there’s so much more that can be done. There’s so much more that needs to be done. When I mention these little benchmarks, please don’t take me for one second as some sort of call to set off confetti cannons. I hope that they do encourage all of us. While other states have been slipping back in these tough recessionary times and Maryland actually has continued to lead into the future and make strides forward. We can do more.

In our fiscal year 2012 budget – that’s the nasty, difficult one that’s coming up, that’s under consideration right now – we have included a competitive grant initiative called “Complete College Maryland,” and it will support innovative practices to help ensure that our students not only get into a higher education program, but that they can complete their education.

After four years of making tough choices in tough times we are starting to see the results in the State, but we can’t let up.

I remember when I was in college – now I did not go to a University of Maryland system school, perhaps I wasn’t good enough to get in in my undergrad years – but I did go to a college that used to allow kids, I don’t know if it still does, but students would be able to take 3 additional credits a semester, as long as they kept their average above a “B,” and they could take those three additional credits for free.

At the end, therefore, of three and a half semesters, I had banked a semester’s tuition for free, which made my parents very, very happy and allowed me, even with taking a semester off, to be able to complete that phase of my ongoing lifelong experience of education. It allowed me to complete that phase within four years. So that’s one approach. The colleges will no doubt have others that allow more of our students to be able to complete college in four years.

We believe that if we want to be leaders in science, we want to be leaders in security, we want to be leaders in innovation, it all comes down to how well we educate our kids.

So with that, let me get out of the way. And thank all of you for the tremendous work that you’re doing, and again say to the College Board, their advocacy and policy center, that Maryland is completely onboard with the drive to increase college completion rates in our country. We consider this not only to be something good for our state, we consider this to be something essential for our country and we thank you all for your leadership and being here today.

 


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