Carper Joins Iowa Gov. Vilsack, Sen. Clinton in Offering Proposal To Increase Number of College Graduates

American Dream Initiative Would Produce One Million New Graduates a Year by 2015

WASHINGTON (July 19, 2006) – Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., vice-chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council, joined Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, chairman of the DLC, and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., today as they unveiled a new proposal designed to produce one million more college graduates each year by 2015. A college degree is the key to whether America will get ahead in a competitive global economy and whether we can expand and strengthen the middle class here at home. Yet only 30 percent of Americans have achieved the dream of a college degree. Although the U.S spends more on education than any other nation, and we have the finest colleges and universities on earth, America is losing the education race. The United States used to rank number one in the world when it came to the percentage of young people with college degrees but now ranks seventh. Nearly a third of Americans in their mid-twenties are college dropouts. In the meantime, college costs have skyrocketed. Over the past five years, the average tuition at a public university has gone up by more than 50 percent, which is forcing many students to drop out in order to make ends meet or simply not go to college at all. To raise college graduation rates and help more American families afford college, Sen. Carper, Gov. Vilsack and Sen. Clinton have offered a bold new strategy to make college affordable again, challenge every young person to attend college, and hold the university system accountable for producing more graduates. The proposal released today is one part of the American Dream Initiative, a year-long policy project to be fully unveiled at the DLC National Conversation in Denver, Colorado, held July 22nd through July 24th. The central pillars of the college education proposal include: The American Dream Grant. This is a performance-based grant that will be awarded to states annually based on the number of students who attend and graduate from their public colleges and universities. Over the next decade, this block grant will provide states $150 billion to make college more affordable and increase the number of college graduates. In return, states will agree to maintain current spending on higher education and not increase tuition more than overall inflation. A Single, Refundable $3,000 College Tuition Tax Credit. This will replace the HOPE tax credit, the Lifetime Learning Tax Credit, and the higher education deduction with a single, refundable $3,000 college tuition tax credit to help pay for up to 4 years of college, graduate school, and training for all families. Holding Colleges and Students Accountable for Results, and Helping Non-Traditional Students Succeed. In return for this unprecedented increase in college assistance, we must raise expectations for colleges and students alike. Colleges should provide truth-in-tuition by setting multi-year tuition and fee levels so that incoming freshmen know how much four years are going to cost. In addition, we must do more to help the growing number of non-traditional students – such as those who attend college part-time while raising a family or holding down a job. The college proposal is fully paid-for and will not raise the national debt. Sens. Carper and Clinton and Gov. Vilsack are proposing the creation of an independent commission to scrutinize government spending and propose $200 billion worth of savings to be voted on by Congress. Sen. Tom Carper: “America used to be number one when it came to the percentage of young people with a college degree. Now we’re seventh. In our global economy, when powerhouses like China and India are churning out engineers and doctors, we can’t afford to be second best, let alone seventh best. This proposal will help make college more affordable and encourage more students to graduate and live out the American Dream.” Gov. Tom Vilsack: “One of the most important things we need to do in order for America to remain competitive in the global era is to ensure higher education for as many young people as possible. Democrats are answering this call to leadership and this plan we’ve introduced today will help put America on the right track towards securing a brighter and more prosperous future for the country.” Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton: “At the dawn of a new century and an increasingly competitive global economy, the future of our children depends in large part on the quality of education they receive. I have heard too many students say they are overly burdened with the cost of tuition. This plan offers a comprehensive strategy on how to lessen that burden and takes the important step towards making the American Dream attainable for the next generation.”