Obama urges college students to graduate in back-to-school speech
September 28th, 2011
10:09 PM ET
11 years ago

Obama urges college students to graduate in back-to-school speech

Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama delivered his third annual back-to-school speech to high school students Wednesday, but college students may also want to take notes from his message.

"Just getting into college isn't enough," Obama said in his speech at Banneker High School. "You need to graduate."

Obama said the United States is ranked sixteenth in the world for the number of young people with college degrees. He urged students to continue their education after they graduate high school.

"The fact of the matter is that sixty percent of jobs in the next decade will require more than a high school diploma," he told the students. "That's the world you're walking into."

Banneker's principal Anita Berger enjoyed Obama's speech and agreed that college graduation is an important topic. According to Berger, Banneker High School currently has a 100 percent college acceptance rate. But the principal said just getting into college isn't enough.

"It's not only about being accepted to college, but being able to finish college," Berger said. "And we need to make sure that happens."

Most college dropouts leave school because of financial burdens. According to a report released by Public Agenda in 2009, having to work and make money while in school is the number one reason young adults leave colleges and universities. The second largest reason is that they can't afford tuition and fees.

Obama only mentioned his efforts at making college affordable one time during his speech. Instead of discussing students' financial obligations, Obama touched on students' academic responsibilities.

His speech focused on encouraging students to work hard, ask questions, take risks, and to persevere. Obama also told students that they should strive to be the best and not be embarrassed if they aren't good at something right away.

Obama admitted that he wasn't always the best student and that he wasn't too enamored by his ethics class. Kendra Hazel, a 17-year-old senior at Banneker, can relate.

"I kind of feel the same way about my math class," Hazel said.

Hazel is taking the SATs in November and plans to graduate high school this spring. She hopes to attend Temple University, Pennsylvania State University or St. John's University next year and go to medical school to become a pediatrician.

Hazel already feels the pressure of working while in school. She works part-time at the National Capital Coalition to Prevent Underage Drinking after school and on the weekends. She enjoys her job and says it is more for the experience than the money, but she admits it's hard to stay focused.

"But you gotta do what you gotta do," Hazel said.

Obama highlighted other students who, like Hazel, are taking the initiative to start making a difference in the world. He gave examples of students who are raising money for charity and even researching how to combat cancer cells.

"Nothing inspires me more than knowing young people are already making their marks," Obama said in his speech. "You don't have to wait to make a difference."

Filed under: Education • President Obama
soundoff (15 Responses)
  1. Showmeyerpapers

    All children left behind is more like it every fed program does the opposite of its title planned parenthood is actually an abortion clinic no surprise 24% of colorados GRADUATING class are proficient in math hey how is the lake of fire regulated? Well with volcanoes of course center of earth is hot molten iron ta ta to the nwo

    September 28, 2011 10:32 pm at 10:32 pm |
  2. jimbo

    Not only do you have to graduated from college but more importantly, you have to have to have the right major. What good will a degree in fields such as literature do for you in today's high technology era. Science, engineering, computer fields, nursing, medical, those are the types that survive in today's global economy.

    September 28, 2011 10:33 pm at 10:33 pm |
  3. Sagebrush Shorty

    I think it's obvious that he didn't like his Ethics class.

    September 28, 2011 10:45 pm at 10:45 pm |
  4. Rolin Malvall

    I agree with the President who encourages thehighschool students to go not only to college, bu. to also graduate from college.When I attended college.I had to have a full time job. I remember I took twenty credits while I had to work forty hours per week. I believe that life is discipline, sacrifice and effort. when I attended college I did not have my greencard I had to go to work to pay for my tuition. I would like to encourage our high school students to do their best so that they can graduate from college.

    September 28, 2011 10:54 pm at 10:54 pm |
  5. T'sah from Virginia

    ►"The fact of the matter is that sixty percent of jobs in the next decade will require more than a high school diploma," he told the students. "That's the world you're walking into."◄

    Now that's the truth and the REAL reason why jobs are NOT coming back in the capacity the way it used to be. We're going into a new futuristic phase that requires "creators" – "scientists" – and "technical" geniuses!! You can only get that with a college degree unless you’re Bill Gates – and we’ll take that too because you will allow “nothing” to stop you!!!

    Obama/Biden 2012!!

    September 28, 2011 10:55 pm at 10:55 pm |
  6. 1crusader

    Education for all is very important, especially now.I hope that the funding will be in place, in the form of student loans, for those who need it.

    September 28, 2011 11:37 pm at 11:37 pm |
  7. Ibrahim

    Thanks for your advice Mr President ! Cant wait to see the teapublikkklans demonize u even for giving such advice !! Lol ! An informed and well educated populace means their demise !!!!!!!!!! However the republican party is meant to disappear just like the dinosaurs

    September 29, 2011 12:36 am at 12:36 am |
  8. kat

    do they vote?... oh wait... this is the BHO administration... I'm sure they can get away with it. I guess the college students have figured it out.

    September 29, 2011 02:00 am at 2:00 am |
  9. Marry

    Here is my morning quiz question to you 🙂 – Who is addressing and encouraging students here?

    "Don't settle for anything less than what this great and almighty God has planned for you,"
    "We began weeping before the Lord," Bachmann said. "I was a sinner, and I had a heart that needed to be cleaned. And I thank God that the Holy Spirit put that call before me."

    "Just getting into college isn't enough," Obama said in his speech at Banneker High School. "You need to graduate."
    "The fact of the matter is that sixty percent of jobs in the next decade will require more than a high school diploma," he told the students. "That's the world you're walking into."

    September 29, 2011 02:00 am at 2:00 am |
  10. tamara reina

    This article can more direct in this person life. It really did not tell the just of what the writer was trying to come to the reader like myself

    September 29, 2011 04:32 am at 4:32 am |
  11. Margarat Fields

    Oooo how can conservatives find a way to fake rage about this? He.. he.. he.. how...dare he... he.. socialize kids.. n stuff!

    September 29, 2011 06:04 am at 6:04 am |
  12. enough of lies

    Graduate yes, but vote for you, NO. Simply put is that obama has created a dependent country, dependent on welfare, food stamps and government aid. If obama could do his job, we would have jobs but as the anti-christs bodonkey obama is destroying the country that gave him a chance and now his chance is over, we need a real man or woman to run America.

    September 29, 2011 06:06 am at 6:06 am |
  13. Marie MD

    Graduate then pick a college and stick with it. No running around all over the place, including Hawaii, so that it takes six years and five schools to receive (supposedly) a worthless degree with bad grades. We all know what happens when you don't get a real education. Think north to AK.

    September 29, 2011 06:22 am at 6:22 am |
  14. enough of lies

    Note to obama, you move by the NC Governor, and your administration to limit democracy shall backfire and you will start an internal revolution that you and your type cannot and will not win. Americans, Patriots it is time, start stock piling food, ammo, weapons, obama and the dems are going to do something to suspend the 2012 elections and put martial law in place so he can be called dictator. It is time that the people come together to stop this tyrant and his cronies, be prepared. It is coming, just wait and see.

    September 29, 2011 06:29 am at 6:29 am |
  15. diridi

    True, college education may not make you a millionaire, but your outlook, will change, the way you think will change, you will be perfect. To make money, you need not be very highly educated, You can open any inconvenience store, or gas station, You never have proper thinking, all you think is in terms of Money, and ultimately cheating government, and getting nabbed. But, Education is different, I urge every American Kid needs to be educated. Please Education is the very important thing in life. Do not ignore. I also urge, Universities, and Book sellers, not to be GREEDY in charging kids more. Do not let them have head-full of Loans. You are not doing kids favor, but making Banks rob them. God bless the kids of USA.

    September 29, 2011 07:38 am at 7:38 am |