US: American students must be fully funded

In July, President Barack Obama's Council of Economic Advisers reported that new job growth in the coming decade would be highest in occupations that require a postsecondary education, outpacing those that require just a high school diploma by a two-to-one margin, writes Joseph McGowan, president of Bellarmine University and chairman of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, for Forbes. Yet as the nation's need for highly educated workers grows even more critical, it's becoming even harder to pay for college.

The economic downturn has sent applications for federal student aid skyrocketing by 20% for fall 2009 enrolment, compared with the previous year. Even before the economy sunk into recession, the congressionally-established Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance reported that financial barriers would result in 1.4 million to 2.4 million lost bachelor degrees this decade, as academically qualified students put aside their dreams because of unmet financial need - need which amounted to an accumulative $5 billion in the 2003-2004 academic year alone.

There's much at risk if policymakers don't fully reinvest in federal student aid programmes. According to the Inter-American Development Bank, each additional year of average education in a nation increases its economic output by a margin as little as 5% to as much as 20%. Additional research estimates that the US will need 12 million more people with some postsecondary education over the next 20 years to perform increasingly complex and technical jobs. This is a message that has been heard by leaders in India and China, the two nations best poised to challenge America's global economic leadership.
Full commentary on the Forbes site