Students weigh in on 2020 College Completion Goal

President Barack Obama and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan have an ambitious agenda to create a world class education system, and lead the world in college completion. Six million more Americans need to graduate from one, two, or four-year post-secondary education programs by 2020, as over the next decade, more than half of new jobs will require more than a high school degree.  Meeting the President’s 2020 College Completion Goal is essential for the long-term prosperity of today’s students—and for the health and competitiveness of America’s economy.  Secretary Duncan sees education as the civil rights issue of our generation, and as in all civil rights efforts, people directly affected by the problem are engaged to be a part of the solution.

In order to engage students, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) convened the National Youth Listening Tour (NYLT), which was a series of listening sessions with youth across the nation from July through November of 2010. The NYLT met with over 40 youth-serving institutions and over 1,800 middle and high school youth across 13 cities.  Youth were asked about the challenges they faced and solutions they envisioned from their communities, families and schools pertaining to the President’s 2020 College Completion Goal.

National themes were drawn from a pool of top themes from each tour stop. The top five key themes overall from the categories of school, family, and community were: effective teaching, college information gaps, parental involvement, community mentors, and school climate and discipline.  Complete results are available through ED’s National Youth Listening Tour: Summary of Findings

To close the tour, ED hosted “Voices in Action: National Youth Summit.”  More than 400 youth from 30 states gathered on February 26, 2011 at Howard University in Washington D.C. to discuss the issues that are most important to them. The purpose of the summit was to galvanize youth to shape strategies to provide pathways for all youth – those who are in middle and high school as well as those who are out of work or school – to be on track to achieve high school and postsecondary credentials. The summit shared what students have told ED to date, provided additional youth the opportunity to give input, provided opportunities to communicate their views and ideas directly to senior Obama administration officials, and allowed students to plan ongoing youth-led, youth-directed efforts which continued after the summit. The top 5 things ED heard at the National Youth Summit are available here.

Summit attendees were issued three action items: obtaining a copy of their transcript, holding a college related event at their school, and holding their own youth summit. The purpose of the assignments was to provide students with next steps for themselves, their schools, and their communities.  

ED is committed to promoting student achievement and strengthening youth engagement efforts. In order to continue substantial youth engagement, Secretary Duncan has been holding monthly student discussions with different youth groups on essential topics in education.  Read about one of these meetings through our blog “Giving Youth a Voice.”

ED believes that meeting the President’s 2020 College Completion Goal requires all stakeholders, including students who can be the most effective agents for reform, to accept responsibility for creating a world class education system. Meaningful youth engagement, service learning and youth development increases student achievement by engaging youth in positive leadership opportunities, building self-efficacy, and confidence.

For more information about youth outreach at the U.S. Department of Education, contact ED’s Higher Education and Youth Liaison, Robert Gomez at and track updates by joining our Facebook page, “ED Youth Voices.”

You can view the opening video from the National Youth Summit on FindYouthInfo’s YouTube Channel at: