(WASHINGTON) -- After falling dramatically behind other countries in college completion rates, President Obama is eager for the U.S. to catch up and reclaim the number one spot by adding an additional eight million college graduates in the next eight years. The White House unveiled new competitive grants Tuesday and a set of strategies, or “tools,” to help states reach the president’s 2020 deadline.
“Right now we’ve got an education system that works like a funnel when we need it to work like a pipeline,” Vice President Joe Biden said at a “Grad Nation” summit in Washington where he unveiled the “College Completion Tool Kit,” a 23-page document that offers seven strategies for boosting college completion.
The suggestions in the “tool kit” include aligning high school standards with college entrance requirements, making it easier for students to transfer between colleges, and targeting adults that have completed some college level courses, but never received a degree.
To implement these strategies, which Biden described as “no-cost and low-cost suggestions,” the administration is calling on all governors to hold college completion summits.
The administration is also offering a new “Comprehensive Grant Program,” which will provide $20 million to colleges to implement plans to increase graduation rates.
In addition, the administration proposed $173 million in competitive funds as part of its 2012 budget. The $123 million “First in the World” initiative would support programs that increase completion rates, hold down tuition and accelerate learning. States can also apply for the $50 million “College Completion Incentive Grants” which would reward states for reforms that produce more college graduates.
Currently, the U.S. ranks ninth in the world in a four-way tie for college completion and only 42 percent of young adults in the U.S., ages 25 to 34, have a college degree. To reach the president’s goal by 2020, 60 percent of young adults will need to complete college, meaning the U.S. will have to add an additional eight million college graduates in the next eight years.
Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio