The American Graduation Initiative

Obama, during his speech at Macomb Community College in Warren, Michigan yesterday, revealed his plan to dramatically increase community college graduation rates.

But today I’m announcing the most significant down payment yet on reaching the goal of having the highest college graduation rate of any nation in the world. We’re going to achieve this in the next 10 years. (Applause.) And it’s called the American Graduation Initiative. It will reform and strengthen community colleges like this one from coast to coast so they get the resources that students and schools need — and the results workers and businesses demand. Through this plan, we seek to help an additional 5 million Americans earn degrees and certificates in the next decade — 5 million. (Applause.)

This kind of an initiative is long overdue. One tactic Obama uses is to associate this initiative with the green movement as he has done so effectively with other issues throughout the duration of his campaign and presidency.

This is training to install solar panels and build those wind turbines we were talking about and develop a smarter electricity grid.

In addition to money for renovations and increased financial aid, Obama’s plan sets up something we don’t see often enough with these kind of government solutions: accountability. Obama ran on the promise of accountability and it looks like he aims to keep his promise:

We’ll also create a new research center with a simple mission: to measure what works and what doesn’t. All too often, we don’t know what happens when somebody walks out of a classroom and onto the factory floor or into the library or — the laboratory or the office.

All the details are not yet out on what this “research center” will actually do. But one can assume that a randomized study of students at community colleges, tracking them as they progress from students to graduates, measuring their success rate on a number of variables, would be an effective way to start. This will give us the ability to see, as different colleges use the money differently, what really works.

Essentially, this money can be used as a great test of higher education. With the moeny to experiment, a large enough data set(there are around 1100 community colleges in the US), and the right number crunching, we have the opportunity to gain some real insight into which methods of higher education give us results, and which don’t.