In a joint statement from the US Department of Treasury shortly before a meeting with students and parents of Washington D.C.-based Woodrow Wilson High School, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Education Secretary Arne Duncan called attention to the estimated $18.2 billion in tax credit that is expected to benefit 9.4 million students in the country in 2011.

Speaking of steps taken by the Obama administration to make college education affordable for an increasing number of families, Geithner and Duncan referred to the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC) introduced in 2009 - a partially refundable credit of up to $2,500 a year for four years of college. The credit, initially created under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, was intended to be discontinued from the current year onwards, but it was decided last year that it would be extended till 2012 as part of the Tax Relief, Unemployment Reauthorization and Job Creation Act.

According to latest analyses by the Department of Treasury, the maximum available credit under AOTC in 2011 will cover about 80 percent of tuition and fees at the average two-year public institution and about one-third of tuition and fees at the average four-year public institution.

The statement also indicated that efforts were on to make this relief permanent so that students' families could be assured of getting $10000 in assistance over the four-year tenure. Later speaking with students at the D.C. school, Geithner reconfirmed such attempts and said that the case for making AOTC permanent was very strong, especially given the huge economic imperative.

The American administration has been audibly vocal about the absolute imperative of more among the nation's youth going through college to attain a degree with President Obama himself setting a target for colleges to graduate an additional 5 million students by 2020.

In August 2010, speaking at the University of Texas in Austin, the President reiterated his commitment saying, We've got to lift graduation rates. We've got to prepare our graduates to succeed in this economy. We've got to make college more affordable. That's how we'll put a higher education within reach for anybody who is willing to work for it. That's how we'll reach our goal of once again leading the world in college graduation rates by the end of this decade.

On Thursday, the Education Secretary emphasized the same goals, saying that unlike in the era of his youth, it was no longer possible to achieve the American Dream as a high school dropout. To illustrate his point he said that even as national unemployment raged at 9.5 percent, the economy actually had many vacancies that were not filled because of the lack of adequately educated and skilled personnel.