President Barack Obama visited Northern Virginia Community College. He rolled up his sleeves and tooled around under the hood of a hybrid car that students were learning to repair. Later, he gave a speech on the importance of more Americans gaining access to higher education—not just at four-year universities but at community colleges and occupational training programs too.
“The goal isn’t just making sure that somebody has got a certificate or a diploma,” Obama said. “The goal is to make sure your degree helps you to get a promotion or a raise or a job. And that’s especially important right now.”
The president’s remarks departed significantly from the “college for all” rhetoric that frequently dominates the education policy debate. That conversation burst open in February, when the Harvard Graduate School of Education released a report called “Pathways to Prosperity.” The report noted that of the 47 million American jobs expected to be created between now and 2018, about two-thi...