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In Address to Congress, President Obama Says Dropping Out of High School is “No Longer an Option”

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“Right now, three-quarters of the fastest-growing occupations require more than a high school diploma.”

In an address to a joint session of Congress on February 24, President Barack said that every American will need to get more than a high school diploma, adding that dropping out of high school is “no longer an option.”

“Right now, three-quarters of the fastest-growing occupations require more than a high school diploma,” Obama said. “And yet, just over half of our citizens have that level of education. We have one of the highest high school dropout rates of any industrialized nation. And half of the students who begin college never finish.”

The president said that lawmakers and educators were responsible for making America’s education system work, but noted that it was the responsibility of every citizen to participate in it. He called on every American to commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career training after high school, whether in community college, a four-year school, vocational training, or an apprenticeship. “Whatever the training may be, every American will need to get more than a high school diploma,” he said. “In a global economy where the most valuable skill you can sell is your knowledge, a good education is no longer just a pathway to opportunity – it is a pre-requisite.”

The president added that dropping out was “not just quitting on yourself, it’s quitting on your country—and this country needs and values the talents of every American.” Obama said that the nation would provide the support necessary for Americans to complete college, adding, “By 2020, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.”

In response to the president’s addressBob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia, stressed that “just as America needs its high school students not to quit on it, the nation’s high school students need America not to give up on them,” he said. “And as Congress wrestles with failing banks and a falling stock market, it needs to remember that five years worth of high school dropouts will cost the nation over $1.5 trillion.”

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