Obama Calls for 5M More College Grads

Updated at 4:30 pm ET.

President Obama announced a new initiative today asking every American to complete at least one year of higher education or vocational training.

In a speech in Michigan this afternoon, Mr. Obama said that his plan, entitled the "American Graduation Initiative," will help five million more Americans graduate from college within the next decade.

"In the coming years, jobs requiring at least an associate degree are projected to grow twice as fast as jobs requiring no college experience," the president said. "We will not fill those jobs – or keep those jobs on our shores – without the training offered by community colleges."

According to Mr. Obama, more than half of all students who enter community college intending to get an associate degree or transfer to a four year college don't achieve their goals.

Calling community colleges an "undervalued asset," Mr. Obama said that the program will not only promote enrollment, but completion as well.

"Let's figure out what's keeping students from crossing that finish line – and then put in place reforms that will remove those barriers," Mr. Obama said. "Because facing these impediments shouldn't prevent you from reaching your potential."

Mr. Obama puts an emphasis on the value of education and its influence on the economy.

"Time and again, when we have placed our bet for the future on education, we have prospered as a result" Mr. Obama said. "That is what happened when President Lincoln signed into law legislation creating the land grant colleges which not only transformed higher education, but also our economy."

Payment for the plan, which is expected to cost $12 billion, will come from the "wasteful subsidies" in the student loan program. This, Mr. Obama said, will save American students tens of billions of dollars over the next ten years.

"Instead of lining the pockets of special interests, it's time this money went toward the interest of higher education in America," Mr. Obama said.

Acknowledging job losses due to the bankruptcy of GM and Chrysler, the president said that some of those jobs "won't be coming back," citing them as "casualties of a changing economy."

"That only underscores the importance of generating new businesses and industries to replace the ones we've lost, and of preparing our workings to fill the jobs they create," Mr. Obama said.

The plan will also improve community college resources, increase the number of college graduates, modernize community college facilities and promote online skills.

The program will also coincide with the administration's agenda for higher education which expands grants and scholarships and reforms the student loan program.