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President Creates 'White House Rural Council' to Strengthen Rural Communities

Federal leaders hope to promote economic prosperity and quality of life in rural communities through a new White House Rural Council announced on Thursday.

President Obama signed an executive order creating the council, which will be chaired by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and include at least 25 members of executive branch departments, agencies, and offices. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is one of those members.

Although the council's work will focus on job creation and economic development, education is one of the 10 key factors it will discuss to accomplish that goal. Its education-related efforts will revolve around increasing post-secondary enrollment rates and completion for rural students.

"Increasing college and career training for rural students of all ages is a rural imperative and a national priority if we, as a nation, are to continue strengthening our economy in all communities," Duncan said in a statement. "Rural students are as smart, talented, and ambitious as children and adults anywhere in the world. We must work in a coordinated way to support rural schools, colleges, and career training organizations as they prepare the next generation of leaders who will stay to strengthen and in some cases reinvent their local economies."

The council's overall role will be to: make recommendations on streamlining and leveraging federal investments; coordinate and increase federal engagement with rural community leaders; coordinate federal efforts to develop rural and urban areas; and identify and facilitate rural economic opportunities.

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