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Secretary Spellings Speaks at FSA Conference
by Emily Zaborniak
At the 2006 Federal Student Aid (FSA) conference, U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings spoke to an audience of more than 3,000. The audience consisted of officials representing more than 2,000 colleges and postsecondary institutions, lenders, guaranty agencies, higher education associations, nonprofits, software developers, and others dedicated to helping students achieve their higher education goals. Spellings' speech was written with enthusiasm and the intention to ignite motivation to keep America focused on making higher education attainable. She began by citing a hard-hitting fact: 90% of flourishing jobs require postsecondary education. College degrees have become critical to advancing the careers of our country's young people.

The first area of concern Spellings touched upon was affordability. Secretary Spellings indicated how important federal student aid is to potential students. "More than 10 million Americans receive federal student aid each year—that's more than half of all postsecondary students. FSA oversees more than $80 billion in aid to help them finance their education. Administering this money and getting it to those who need it most is no small feat," she said.

The Secretary of Education thanked the attendees for their labors thus far, describing how the FSA banded together to assist in the recovery efforts after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Also, collective efforts ensured the implementation of the new Academic Competitiveness and SMART Grants. The grants provide supplementary aid for hundreds of thousands of low-income students who take demanding courses in high school and pursue studies in the fields of math and science. However, the necessary work is not close to being done.

Spellings contextualized America's higher education accomplishments by providing a global perspective: "Higher education has long been one of the undeniable strengths of our nation. In quality, diversity, and character, it's the envy of the world."

On her recent trip to Asia with university presidents, she learned that many international students have the drive and motivation to learn and compete in the global marketplace. However, Spellings expressed fears that this hunger is lacking domestically. She presented this anecdote to emphasize that America needs to create a culture that desires to learn instead of making college a financial burden.

"60% of Americans have no postsecondary credentials at all. Where we once were leaders, now other nations educate more of their young adults to more advanced levels than we do. And to reclaim the top spot, we need to help an additional 9 million Americans earn degrees."

In order to ensure her words would prompt action, Spellings announced a national public service campaign to spread the message that the FSA wants to help every qualified student who desires a degree to pursue that dream—regardless of race, background, or income level. "Over the last 25 years, college tuition has outpaced inflation, family income, even doubling the cost of healthcare. And in the past five years alone, tuition at four-year colleges has skyrocketed by 35%. As a one-third investor in higher education, the U.S. government has a major stake in keeping the system affordable," she said. FSA asked thousands of newspapers, magazines, and TV and radio stations to tell millions of Americans that "the most costly education is the one not begun."

Spellings closed her speech by outlining upcoming goals. "First," she said, "to expand access to higher education, we must better prepare our students—starting with high standards and accountability in our public schools." Her second point was that the U.S. needs to ensure the affordability of college by simplifying the complicated media maze of federal student aid resources. Also, need-based aid was discussed, as was the need to engage Congress on this issue.


Article Title : Secretary Spellings Speaks at FSA Conference
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Education is one of the most basic right of any human, but with the increase in prices and the costs involved in education this has made these rights turn into a privilege which very few can enjoy. Any normal person today in the whole of United States has to take an education loan at one point of time to pay for their education fees.

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