US must prioritize higher education

Making college more affordable will help create a competitive U.S. workforce.

Listening to the leaders of our countryâÄôs most innovative companies, one of their biggest concerns about investing in America is whether our workforce has the education necessary to power their growth. They are finding it increasingly difficult to base all of their operations in the United States because of the lack of specialized high-education workers relative to China, India and others.

This shortfall isnâÄôt coincidental; it is the direct result of emerging economies making higher education a national priority. To compete in the 21st century, America must do the same.

But, even with tuition increasing by over 5 percent at University of Minnesota, Republicans in Congress have proposed a plan that would contain the largest cuts to college grants in history. It could make 1.7 million students ineligible for Pell Grants. Every year, 61,000 fewer students would obtain a bachelorâÄôs degree. In a century when our economic future will be defined by competition for new industries, the Congressional Republican plan would put us at a distinct disadvantage.

Instead, Congress should take action immediately to make college more affordable. Pell Grants should be protected from cuts, and innovative ideas like a plan to consolidate student loans for lower rates should be implemented without delay. Simple steps that make affording college even marginally easier will have a substantial long-term effect.

Thirty years from now, Americans will look back on this time in history. They could look across the Pacific with envy at a highly educated workforce that has monopolized high-growth industries of the future. Or they could look here at home with pride at a country that prioritized education and is home to the best jobs and most innovative companies. The stakes of our policy decisions have never been higher, and Congress needs to hear that from students.