Sara Routhier, Managing Editor and Outreach Director, has professional experience as an educator, SEO specialist, and content marketer. She has over five years of experience in the insurance industry. As a researcher, data nerd, writer, and editor she strives to curate educational, enlightening articles that provide you with the must-know facts and best-kept secrets within the overwhelming world o...

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Joel Ohman is the CEO of a private equity-backed digital media company. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, author, angel investor, and serial entrepreneur who loves creating new things, whether books or businesses. He has also previously served as the founder and resident CFP® of a national insurance agency, Real Time Health Quotes. He also has an MBA from the University of South Florida. ...

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Reviewed by Joel Ohman
Founder, CFP®

UPDATED: Dec 28, 2011

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Arne Duncan, the U.S. Secretary of Education, gave a speech at the Fayetteville State University Winter Commencement about the importance of obtaining a college education in today’s economy and job market.


Using Michelle Obama as an example, he explained how she had people telling her “not to reach too high” due of the odds stacked against her: poor test scores, her gender, and because she was from the south side of Chicago.


But Duncan explained that despite the comments from those trying to persuade her otherwise, the First Lady refused to let their negativity impact her pursuit for obtaining an education and reaching for her dreams.


He then tackled the subject of student loan costs and the public’s negative outlook on financing a college education.


“Remember that, in the long run, a college degree is still the best investment you can make in your future,” Duncan said. “On average, students with bachelor degrees are projected to earn about one million dollars more over their lifetime than student with only a high school diploma.”


He offered encouraging news about helping students manage their student loan debt by explaining the Obama administration’s Pay as You Earn plan. “Our Pay as You Earn proposal would give 1.6 million students the ability to cap their loan payments at 10 percent of their discretionary income beginning later next year,” he told the student listeners.


Then as if sensing the fears many have about the future of America and its working force, he explained the goals and thought process of the Department of Education by saying, “We want people to be able to follow their heart and passion—and not just chase a big paycheck because they have to pay back loans. America can’t afford to lose that talent. Please think about public service, think about teaching, and think about the impact you can have in molding the lives of the next generation.”


To further push students into the public service sector, Duncan told the listeners about the 10 year student loan forgiveness program available to those employed as a teacher.

His speech ended with a word directly opposite from those the First Lady received when she was young: one of encouragement, as he expressed his and the college staff’s sense of pride seeing each of the students before him.