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Michelle Obama Calls for Expanding Access to Postsecondary Education

First lady Michelle Obama, in a new Commentary published by Education Week, emphasizes the need to inspire more young people to "reach higher" with their academic aspirations. Whether it's a four-year or two-year college, a professional certificate or a degree, she is urging students to pursue their education after high school to help the country once again have the highest college graduation rate in the world.

She argues that success in this endeavor will take hard work from students, parents, educators, policymakers, and business leaders, among others.

"That means more parents pushing their kids and demanding more from their kids' schools. It means creating more partnerships between high schools, colleges, and businesses so that young people can learn the skills they'll need for their future careers," she writes. "It means cultivating a new generation of world-class teachers and school leaders. And, of course, it means young people stepping up to take responsibility for their futures as well."

The first lady also shares a little of her personal story as a first-generation college student and the difficult transition to life at Princeton University.

"It really was a culture shock for me," she explained. "When I first arrived at school, I didn't know anyone on campus except my brother. I didn't know how to pick the right classes or find the right buildings."

In her commentary, Obama also discusses her new Reach Higher Initiative. Her efforts are focusing on the importance of financial aid, college counseling, academic and summer planning, and college visits. The hope is to move from being a country ranked as 12th in the world in college attainment to first by 2020, something she refers to as the President's "North Star" goal.

The first lady's essay is one of six pieces in an Education Week collection of commentaries exploring how educators and policymakers can make higher education more attainable for more students, both academically and financially. Lindsey E. Malcom-Piqueux from George Washington University writes about the essential role that higher education can play in reaching out to students early with cost and financial aid information, for example. Karina Madrigal of South Texas College talks about the value of dual-enrollment programs in helping her realize college was possible.

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